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Where can you find political courage in the face of a self-proclaimed law and order President?
In 1963, Michigan’s Republican Governor surprised my hometown of Grosse Pointe when he appeared with black leaders and civil rights activists to march in protest of housing segregation. The Governor spoke to the gathered crowd and promised to establish a civil rights commission to help eliminate “human inequality and discrimination.” When asked, he said he had chosen to get involved in the march because the issues involved were “so fundamental that they are above the partisan level.”
Our Governor would go on to serve several productive terms as Michigan’s Governor. In 1968, he would run for the Republican nomination as President, beginning the race as the Party’s front runner only to lose to Richard Nixon.
He continued to support civil rights and fight extremism throughout his career, which made him unpopular with many in his church and put him at odds with the Republican Party and his President. When he served as Nixon’s head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he directed the Department to reject projects from States that promoted segregated housing. The President shut down his program and refused to meet with him. Unable to be effective in the position, our Governor resigned.
His son would inherit his father’s interest in politics and his sense of duty. In 2012, he would even carry the Republican Party’s standard as its Presidential nominee. Later, serving as a freshman Senator from Utah, he would have his own moral reckoning on a national stage.
President Donald Trump had been Impeached by the House of Representatives for withholding Congressionally directed aid to Ukraine to force its leaders to start a dubious investigation into Trump’s likely opponent in the upcoming Presidential election. The evidence was overwhelming - a transcript of the call in question had been made - but the Republican Representatives did everything in their power to discredit the proceedings.
When the proceedings reached the Senate for the required trial, the Republican majority fell in line with the President’s direction and refused to even hear testimony. Making short order of the proceedings, some would say a mockery, a vote was called that declined to convict the President. The vote was on Party lines. The minority Democrats voted almost unanimously to convict while the majority Republicans voted to exonerate.
One Republican Senator, however, broke with his party to vote his conscious and to convict the President on the evidence. And, yes, he was the son of our principled Michigan Governor and the standard bearer for his Party in 2012.
Senator Mitt Romney, in placing his vote to convict, stated in his floor remarks that “Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.”
He added, “I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me.”
Like father, like son. George Romney, the Michigan Governor and head of Nixon’s Department of Housing and Urban Development who fought for civil justice even when his Party and President disagreed because it he believed civil just to be “so fundamental” as to be “above the partisan level” would have been proud of his son’s actions.
And, when protests erupted over George Floyd's untimely death at the hands of Minneapolis police, who would be the only Republican Senator marching with the crowds to show his support for civil justice and human rights? You, guessed it. Mitt Romney.
It makes you wonder how much of Abraham Lincoln's values survive in today's Republican Party.
For the Romneys at least, principle, civil justice, and country rise above Republican Party politics.
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Travel, business and history with original photos.
Clinton Richardson - author, photographer, business advisor and traveler.
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