Politics

Romney warns of Trump’s return; criticizes American ‘denial’

"A return of Donald Trump would feed the sickness, probably rendering it incurable."

Mitt Romney wrote that he believes the root of America's current problems is widespread denial. Al Drago/Pool Photo via AP

On Independence Day, as protesters gathered in Philadelphia to oppose the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and a mass shooter sprayed bullets into an unsuspecting parade crowd near Chicago, Massachusetts’ former governor published an essay identifying what he believes to be at the root of America’s current problems: denial. 

Mitt Romney, who now serves as a Republican senator from Utah, critiqued both political parties and warned of the dangers former President Donald Trump still poses to American democracy.

The essay, published in The Atlantic, centers on Romney’s view that too many Americans are engaged in wishful thinking that is bolstered by “the carefully constructed, prejudice-confirming arguments from the usual gang of sophists, grifters, and truth-deniers.”

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One of these truth-deniers, Romney wrote, is Trump.

“A return of Donald Trump would feed the sickness, probably rendering it incurable,” he wrote. 

Trump’s denial of the 2020 election results, claiming that he “won in a landslide,” is an example of a powerful inclination to “believe what we hope to be the case,” Romney wrote. Variations on this type of delusion, believing that one will win simply because they really want to win, is commonplace – just look to those that feed money into slot machines, he wrote. 

But Americans must not stick their heads in the sand, he continued.

“During the past half century, we Americans have lived in a very forgiving time, and seeing the world through rose-colored glasses had limited consequences,” Romney wrote. “The climate was stable, our economy dwarfed the competition, democracy was on the rise, and our military strength made the U.S. the sole global hyperpower. Today, every one of those things has changed. If we continue to ignore the real threats we face, America will inevitably suffer serious consequences.”

Leadership is the solution to this denial, according to Romney. He referenced Winston Churchill rallying Britain and the world to confront Nazi Germany, as well as Abraham Lincoln holding the country together through the Civil War, and Ronald Reagan, who “shook us from our malaise.”

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What of America’s current leadership? President Biden, Romney wrote, is a “genuinely good man,” but so far he has not shown the ability to cure the American sickness of denial, deceit, and distrust. Congress, he wrote, is too frequently guilty of backing down in the face of serious threats to the country. 

“Too often, Washington demonstrates the maxim that for evil to thrive only requires good men to do nothing,” Romney wrote.

As for the future, Romney hopes for a president who can unite America “behind the truth.” Many potential candidates, who go unnamed in the essay, have the requisite experience and intelligence for the job.

What remains to be seen, he added, is whether or not they possess the “character and ability” to unite the country and confront reality, instead of continuing the national culture of denial. 

Ultimately, Romney wrote, everyday Americans must be willing to step into the void created by ineffective leadership.

“While we wait, leadership must come from fathers and mothers, teachers and nurses, priests and rabbis, businessmen and businesswomen, journalists and pundits,” he wrote. “That will require us all to rise above ourselves—above our grievances and resentments—and grasp the mantle of leadership our country so badly needs.”

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Romney has been an outspoken critic of the Republican base since Trump was elected in 2016. In 2020, he became the first senator in history who voted to convict a president of their own party in an impeachment trial. After Jan. 6, Romney was one of seven Republican senators to vote in favor of convicting Trump during his second impeachment trial. This spring, Romney was one of just three Republicans who voted to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. 

Last year, he equated Trump’s rallies to professional wrestling, telling CNN that the events are based on entertainment, not truth. 

Romney’s political future remains murky. In April, he told The Hill that he had not decided yet whether to run for a second term in Utah. He could face tough competition from candidates like state Attorney General Sean Reyes, who have stood with Trump through controversy. 

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