What would America do without Mitt Romney? The failed GOP presidential candidate from 2012 made himself the top story on CNN yesterday by voting to convict President Trump in the impeachment trial. What bravery. What dignity. We can now replace the term Never Trump with the term Romneyism.
Romney envisions some episode of “Fantasy Island” where Air Force One is coming in and Bill Kristol says, “The plane, boss, the plane.” He clearly hopes for Trump to be defeated in November — he cast his vote Wednesday. But what exactly is he voting for?
Romneyism all but begs for the mythical Republicans who don’t support Donald Trump to vote for whatever white guy the Democrats throw up in November. Socialism? Fine. Whatever it takes. Romney might as well strap the dog on the roof and drive to Queens to protest new jobs with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
But in all seriousness, Romney has now made himself the crown prince of the clown car that was Never Trump. The Romneyites, all 12 of them, will flock to him and rain down praise on Twitter and MSNBC. They will await his coming after the fall of Trump. With solemnity and gifts he will apologize to the triumphant Democrats and beg them our forgiveness.
No, thanks. Let’s be clear about exactly what happened here. Romney voted to remove the sitting Republican president of the United States from office for delaying and then releasing military aid to Ukraine that his Democratic predecessor wouldn’t even give. And let’s face it, Romney probably wouldn’t have given it either. Why make trouble?
And what is Romneyism after all? What does he stand for? From his flopped presidential campaign we gather it is some pastiche of tired neoliberal globalism. A warmed-over post-Cold War vision of status quo and mediocrity. That is Romney, champion of meh.
There are no close calls when removing a president. If it’s a close call, you don’t remove him. If it’s a slam-dunk? Maybe. But Romney thinks otherwise. Somehow he, like the Democrats, found his way to deciding that the president’s approach to Ukraine was enough to overturn an election.
In a way, all of this is perfect. Never Trump was always an assemblage of Romney acolytes. He was the big hot air balloon in their parade, the Northeastish moderate Republican who can very nicely tell us all what to do. The boss who seems friendly and fine.
There is this weird backward-looking group of used-to-be conservatives who actually think we are going to return to the days of constant apology. That is not going to happen. Romney cast his grave vote — and yes, I mean it both ways — on the day Trump hit 49 percent approval in the Gallup poll. His highest ever. But obviously Romney knows better than the American people.
House Democrats made an explicit pitch to Republicans like Romney. Promising them a storied place in history if they dared defy their president and party. I don’t have a crystal ball, but it’s not what it looks like to me. Romney just made himself the most popular politician in the tiniest constituency in America. He took it over.
I’ll say this for Romneyism. There will be very lovely cocktail parties. Get your tuxedo pressed. You can have a 12-year-old Scotch with one of those big ice balls in it and bemoan with your buddy that the Democrats are running the country badly. But hey, you’re a millionaire so who cares.
This truly is the coda of the old conservative movement. It did its time, not particularly well. And it dies with Romney. Frankly, he should probably switch parties. If he is not with conservatives in the fight to maintain a duly elected president, what is he with us on?
Along with Bill Weld and Joe Walsh, Romney now represents the 3 percent of Iowa Republicans who voted against Trump on Monday. It is a constituency of affluence but not of power. And it is a retirement from influence.
The father of Obamacare may now be cast in bronze as the symbol of the old Republican Party and conservative movement. The one that loses yet still surrenders. The jubilant Trump who rocked the State of the Union address should pay little mind to Mitt. His footnote in history is out of step with the future.