Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is the only Republican in the Senate and one of the few in Congress as a whole to emerge from the Trump era with his spine, his ethical compass and his dignity intact. He voted for President Trump’s removal after overwhelming evidence was presented in an impeachment trial last winter. Romney swiftly recognized President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 race.

So why is Romney still a Republican, if his party supports a putsch to overturn the election?

Romney relayed his thinking on Sunday in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Host Jake Tapper asked about a White House meeting on Friday with former national security adviser Michael Flynn and lawyer Sidney Powell, reported by the New York Times, in which “martial law” and new elections were discussed. Romney lambasted the president for “leaving Washington with a whole series of conspiracy theories and things that are so nutty and loopy that people are shaking their head, wondering, what in the world has gotten into this man?” And Romney ridiculed the effort to deflect blame from Russia for the extraordinary cyberattack on U.S. government agencies (“the president has a blind spot when it comes to Russia. And so you can expect that that’s the response that he would have.”).

Given all of this anti-democratic and “loopy” conduct why is Romney a Republican?

Well, the party has taken a different course than, obviously, the one that I knew as a younger person.
And, I mean, the party that I knew is one that was very concerned about Russia and Putin and Kim Jong Un and North Korea. We pushed back aggressively against them. We were a party concerned about balancing the budget. We believed in trade with other nations. We were happy to play a leadership role on the world stage, because we felt that made us safer and more prosperous. And we believed that character was essential in the leaders that we chose.
We have strayed from that. I don’t see us returning to that for a long time. As I look at the 2024 contenders, most of them are trying to become as much like Donald Trump as they can be, although I must admit that his style and shtick, if you will, is difficult to duplicate. …
I think I’m more effective in the Republican Party, continuing to battle for the things I believe in.
And I think, ultimately, the Republican Party will return to the roots that have been formed over the — well, the century. So, we will get back at some point. And, hopefully, people will recognize we need to take a different course than the one we’re on right now.

Romney clearly recognizes that the Republican Party has walked away from the ideals he believed in, and he knows it is not coming back for a long time. So why not leave the party and create something that does represent those ideals?

The Fix’s Aaron Blake analyzes how the dynamic between President-elect Joe Biden and congressional Republicans could play out in 2021. (The Washington Post)

Certainly, that would be a difficult road, but it is the very one Abraham Lincoln took in forging the party dedicated to abolishing slavery. Moreover, without such a shock to the system, the current Republican Party may never get its act together and may remain a bastion of racism, authoritarianism and conspiracy-mongering. It would seem a better course, if not a moral necessity, to disarm it and work assiduously for a party to compete with the dumpster fire his party has become.

As a practical matter, I do not see Romney having an effect on his own party. Decent, patriotic Republicans such as former senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) have left politics. As respectable Republicans have departed, the party has only worsened. One need only look to the 126 House members who signed on to a seditious lawsuit to throw out the 2020 presidential election results to see that the party is at a whole other level of crazy.

With a few other, saner Republicans, Romney might decide not to caucus with Republicans or to caucus with Republicans under certain circumstances — e.g., insisting on an up-or-down vote for nominees, a stimulus bill, a Voting Rights Act amendment and an infrastructure bill. That would have a tremendous impact on the party and save the country from four years of utter dysfunction.

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Moreover, former Republicans or Republicans whom the party has abandoned should consider challenging MAGA Republicans in the primaries or running under a new banner. The Lincoln Party has a nice ring to it.

Romney’s courage and conscience are worthy of admiration and imitation. However, I would encourage him to think more creatively and boldly about how to stop the anti-American, anti-democracy party that now bears the Republican name. It is not simply a matter of trying to get the party’s attention and force its reinvention; it is a matter of preserving democratic ideals of self-government.

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