It is the hardest moments of life that truly test faith, and I lost nearly all of mine that remained in politics after President Trump’s State of the Union Address. No, it wasn’t because of the President’s message — regardless of whether his address was exaggerated, misleading, or wholly accurate.
Even the disrespect that members of the Republican Party showed throughout the impeachment trial — a constitutional process — hadn’t made me a full-fledged pessimist. I was all but convinced that partisanship had fully supplanted the Constitution in priority when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) defended his vote not to call witnesses in favor of maintaining some semblance of national unity. He claimed the prospect of unearthing new evidence “would just pour gasoline on cultural fires that are burning out there.”
Similarly, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) argued that he both respected the impeachment process and condemned the actions of President Trump. Yet, he voted against the motion to subpoena witnesses and documents, as well as voting to acquit the President.
Long gone, it seemed, were the days when legislators universally respected one paramount document before all else: the Constitution. But no, even the actions of these senators and others during the impeachment process hadn’t stripped me of all my optimism.
What transpired on Feb. 4, however, withered my confidence and respect for our political processes to a pile of dust. Immediately after Trump finished his address, while the cameras were still rolling, I watched Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) tear apart four sections of a copy of Trump’s speech.
At first, I laughed.
I laughed the same way I had when Trump used to ridicule his political opponents at the Republican debates in 2016 and the same way I do when he makes a base-pleasing crude comment or espouses his signature political incorrectness.
I laughed for a moment, and then felt the same way I did after each of such episodes: shameful of the actions our public servants conducted in an office that used to mean something.
I neither admire nor support Pelosi’s decision. When asked why she ripped up the speech, Pelosi responded, “because it was the courteous thing to do considering the alternatives.”
While I can acknowledge the frustration and anger she must feel toward Trump, it diminished my faith in Democratic leadership as a voter. In that moment, premeditated or not, Speaker Pelosi acted like the very person she’d been determined to remove from the American political scene. She stooped to the level of her enemy, and in turn, damaged the optics of the party to moderates and strengthened bitter partisanship in a conflict that seems to normalize unhealthy, unproductive dissent and tribalism more by the day.
As with all things in life, though, the pendulum always swings to the other side. This time, the pendulum came in the form of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). I listened to Sen. Romney speak for eight minutes on why he would vote to convict President Trump on the charge of abuse of power, the only Republican to breach partisan walls.
In his speech, as well as in a hand-signed note that contained excerpts from the speech and was delivered to his Republican colleagues, Sen. Romney took a stand. And I was reminded why I haven’t become entirely exhausted and disgusted by politics.
Sen. Romney declared a sentiment so fundamental yet so entirely missed by modern politicians: that he was duty-bound — and more personally, faith-driven through his oath to God — to “exercise ‘impartial justice’” and to defend “the foundation of our Republic’s success,” the Constitution. After an emotional 10 second pause only a minute into his speech, Sen. Romney vocalized the internal dilemma he faced of being tasked with objectively examining a President of his own party and pronounced the decision “the most difficult I have ever faced.”
In the ensuing minutes of his speech, Sen. Romney outlined his reasons with trepidation but also calm logic. He argued against the three points of the President’s defense, reaffirmed the nature of the impeachment process outlined by the founding fathers, and described the obfuscation that the President’s defense had created with this process. He discussed how his decision to convict would in all likelihood not remove the President from office, would almost certainly create anger within his party, and could influence his reelection bid.
Toward the conclusion of his speech, Sen. Romney remarked, “We have come to different conclusions, fellow senators, but I trust we have all followed the dictates of our conscience.”
I, however, do not believe the majority of Republican senators followed their individual consciences. They acted throughout much of the impeachment process in a partisan-first, power-hungry behavior masqueraded as a desire to maintain stability in the U.S. and tackle other, more meaningful issues as opposed to this alleged waste of time. While I do admit that Democrats too are sometimes guilty of partisanship to the same degree, it was in this episode that the Republicans failed to rise above it. Through Sen. Romney’s outspoken defiance to his own party, he demonstrated a trait I had believed to be extinct in the brains and vocabularies of lawmakers until now: integrity.
Sen. Romney earned my respect, but more importantly, he demonstrated nobility in the job of public service. He was governed by the single most important interest, the Constitution. Of course, it didn’t take long for critics to blast him for his utterly traitorous decision. Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted that Romney was simply “bitter that he will never be POTUS” and that he is “officially a member of the resistance & should be expelled from the @GOP,” while also calling him a p***y in an Instagram post.
Regardless of your politics, Sen. Romney affirmed an ideal upon which every American can agree. His bravery — as painful as having to call something like this as “brave” when it in fact should be the norm — is both refreshing and hopeful. He has reminded me of what being a politician truly means, about the honor with which one should execute their job in the United States government, and about the sanctity of the Constitution and the processes it has established.
As a Politics major at the University, I sincerely thank you, Mitt Romney. You have rightfully represented our nation.
Arman Badrei is a sophomore from Houston, Tex. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.