Just over a year after she lost the 2016 presidential election through the operation of an archaic quirk in our elitist Constitution to the least qualified candidate in our history, Hillary Clinton was the butt of a joke in Vanity Fair magazine suggesting that she take up knitting. They suffered substantial backlash and apologized, but the incident was still an interesting case study in the rampant sexism that pervades life in the United States.
Comes now another failed presidential candidate, who has bounced back and won election to a different office, and his pontifications get everyone excited. Why?
Mitt Romney, who lost to Barack Obama in 2012, won the Senate seat from Utah as a Republican (!). He will take office when Congress convenes later this week. He recently published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post criticizing Donald Trump, pointing out that Trump has not risen to the office he holds. Of course he is right.
But what is interesting about this is how eagerly so many people have snatched up Romney’s op-ed and all but chosen to retroactively credit him with having won in 2012. One can understand how encouraging it is to see someone saying what we all know about Trump (except that, if we all know it already, why do we need to have someone famous validate our perceptions?)
But this smacks of giving an automatic pass to a rich, old guy just because he is a rich, old guy. He’s a rich, old guy who will soon be a sitting Republican Senator, but we have had more than one sitting Republican Senator criticize Trump, and so far, not one of them has actually had any impact on how Trump behaves. That Trump is too stupid to listen to wise counsel is not their fault, but repeatedly voting to confirm Trump’s dubious judicial nominees, even as they point out what a horrible president he is, is their fault. They could have showed some intestinal fortitude, bucked their Party, and helped prevent Trump from perverting the federal judiciary with unqualified, ideological judges. But no. They have consistently voted for Trump nominees.
Richard Nixon announced his resignation from the presidency the day after he got a visit from a Republican Senator from a western state who had run for president against a popular, sitting Democrat and lost, Barry Goldwater. But Goldwater was a statesman of the first order, a man who, while cantankerous, had a well deserved reputation for standing on principle, a man of unimpeachable (!) integrity.
Romney is no slouch. He is certainly miles better than Trump. He lost in 2012 partly because he failed to deploy the Nixon strategy of invoking dog whistle racism, despite having the best target for the device one could imagine. But he now stands tainted by having remained a Republican after the Party saddled the republic with far and away its worst president ever. Sniping from the sidelines as Trump burns the country to the ground is not a good look.
Before we crown Romney the new homecoming king, let’s see what he actually does in the Senate. But let’s not get our hopes too high.