Sen. Mitt Romney announced last week that he will not be seeking re-election in 2024. Romney’s decision marks the voluntary conclusion of a prominent political career that includes the governorship of Massachusetts and a run as the 2012 GOP presidential nominee.
Despite these credentials, Romney has come to be known first and foremost as Donald Trump’s most high-profile foil, and accordingly, something of an outlier in the modern GOP.
“Over the last couple decades, people of my age – the boomers – have done pretty well for ourselves,” Romney said in a video statement. “And we voted for all sorts of benefits and programs for us and we’ve paid for them and think some of the people coming along next want to have a say in how we leave the Earth and how they prepare for the future.”
Romney continued, explaining the motivations behind his retirement. “I have spent my last 25 years in public service of one kind or another. At the end of another term, I’d be in my mid-eighties. Frankly, it’s time for a new generation of leaders. They’re the ones that need to make the decisions that will shape the world they will be living in.”
Mitt Romney’s Real Legacy: His Attacks on Donald Trump?
As Romney steps down, he does so without the widespread approval he once enjoyed among right-wing Americans. Romney has been one of the most prominent conservatives in the country for decades, and for much of that time, he enjoyed the general approval of his conservative constituency. But in the last eight or nine years, Romney has fallen out of lock-step with the rest of his party, causing friction and resentment where there was once cohesion and respect.
What caused the Romney-GOP discord? Did Romney change? Or did the GOP that Romney represented shift under his very feet? In my view, the primary culprit is the latter. Romney began criticizing Trump early in Trump’s first campaign for president, suggesting that the real estate mogul was not fit for the land’s highest office. Romney, to his credit, never stopped criticizing Trump. Even after most of the party had capitulated to Trump’s bullying, adhering to his demands for loyalty, Romney remained a Trump critic, offering something of a high-road option within the GOP. In effect, Romney fell out of sync with his party — and with his constituents. Questions have even begun to rise over whether Romney would be able to win another primary. Those questions won’t need answering now that Romney has decided to step away.
“There’s no question that the Republican Party today is in the shadow of Donald Trump,” Romney said. “Look, my wing of the party talks about policy, and about issues that will make a difference to the lives of the American people. The Trump wing of the party talks about resentments of various kinds and getting even and settling scores and revisiting the 2020 election.”
A Notable Departure
I’m not necessarily a Mitt Romney fan. I don’t align with his worldview. And even with respect to Romney’s efforts to foil Trump, I don’t always agree. Romney’s vote to impeach Trump for Russiagate, for example, was a vote made in service of a pernicious conspiracy. But I do appreciate that Romney had some gumption. He wasn’t just a cloying sycophant. And he never descended into the abyss of virile grievance along with the rest of his party. In contrast to the GOP mean, Romney was respectful, elegant, and optimistic. And although Mitt Romney didn’t speak for my perspective, I worry about who will rise to replace him.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.