Orin Hatch is retiring from the United States Senate. Mirabile dictu, Mitt Romney’s Twitter account moved him instantly to Holladay, Utah, from Massachusetts, signaling that the Utah Senate seat will remain in the hands of a sober Mormon family man.
If you’re feeling elated by that, you’re probably out of step.
For all that he is upright and decent and loves his country, Romney was also part of #HowYouGotTrump, and what he might have to offer today depends to some extent on whether he realizes it, and whether he’s learned anything from his presidential defeat and the weirdness that’s engulfed his party since.
Romney’s direct role in Trump’s ascent was modest but telling. He didn’t just accept the Trump imprimatur in his campaign against Barack Obama; he flew to Las Vegas to have the endorsement bestowed upon him, issued some flattering words about his endorser’s awesome business acumen and essentially averted his eyes from the conspiracy theories about President Obama’s origins that Trump was then enthusiastically peddling.
Like most prominent Republicans at the time, Romney no doubt assumed that the fever swamp stuff didn’t need to be attacked, that it would evaporate once the G.O.P. won back the White House. But instead the fever swamp stuff helped hand the G.O.P. to Trump himself, and the birther’s grip-and-grin with an uncomfortable Romney was a small but notable milestone on that path.
[T]he men who imagine themselves the party’s stewards or its conscience have learned little from the way [Trump] beat them and then beat the Democrats. They are still suffering from what Pete Spiliakos, in a withering column for First Things last month, called “The Romney Disease” — a condition that combines admirable personal probity and decency with an abiding commitment to unpopular economic policies:
The best of the current Republicans (the Paul Ryans, the Ben Sasses, the Mitt Romneys) have certain common features that should be appealing to the electorate. They seem to have the home life of the family man. They have the discipline and diligence of the organization kid. They have the looks of the pretty boy. Yet the public still rejects them, because the voters find their ideas even more unpleasant than Donald Trump’s odious personality.
* * * * *
“No man hath a velvet cross.” (Samuel Rutherford, 17th century Scotland)