As a citizen of Massachusetts and someone who pays attention to politics in the Commonwealth, I’ve had my eyes on Mitt Romney for a long time. After his turn in the private sector and his work with the Salt Lake City Olympics, he had a moderately successful term as governor of Massachusetts in the early 2000s. He was a classic New England Republican, focusing on balancing the budget, enacting what were then thought of as Republican ideas for achieving universal healthcare coverage in the Commonwealth (the basic idea later became known as Obamacare and therefore became anathema to the Republican Party), and appointing technocrats rather than ideologues to head the departments of government. Later, his national political ambitions got the better of him, and he became infinitely malleable in the way that presidential candidates often do. Yes he was a little odd—he would talk about how much he loved “sport,” he took a cross-country trip with the loyal family dog riding in a carrier on top of the car, and he once said, “I’m not suggesting for a moment you don’t have a wonderful and warm relationship with your family and your grandchildren in these open-space areas” that, as Jon Stewart said, ordinary human beings call “parks.” And he was no match for the deeply thoughtful and eloquent Barack Obama in the 2012 election. But no one ever doubted that he was a fundamentally decent and public-spirited person and a good family man.1
The Republican majority in the Senate, and the GOP generally, has been circling the moral drain for three years now, mostly out of a mixture of greed and terror, afraid of getting on the wrong side of the forces they have spent the last decade unleashing. This is as true of Sen. Susan Collins or Sen. Lisa Murkowski as it is of Sen. Lindsay Graham or Sen. Ted Cruz. And so it gave me a lot of hope for the country to hear Sen. Romney condemn what every sane Republican condemned until 2016. It’s possible to show political courage! It’s possible to buck your party to do what’s right! And who would have thought that Mitt Romney would be the one to teach that lesson. A few days ago I wrote that apparently every Republican senator was going to endorse the abyss and excuse what just a few years ago they all would have said was inexcusable. Not so, thanks to Senator Willard Mitt Romney.