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In our opinion: Romney and the paradox of political courage

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Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, right, departs after the impeachment acquittal of President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday.

Alex Brandon, Associated Press

The fallout after Sen. Mitt Romney’s vote on Wednesday to convict the president on the charge he abused his power in the Ukraine scandal uncovered a disappointing political paradox: An electorate that craves political courage is frustrated by politicians who exhibit just that.

When asked what’s wrong with Washington, 72% of Americans — in equal amounts of Democrats and Republicans — say politicians are more concerned with reelection than they are with making the best decisions, according to a recent Public Affairs Council poll.

We’re certain Romney was not banking on reelection when he became the only senator in U.S. history to vote to convict a president of his own party. Romney’s choice evidently sprang from a mixture of personal study and spiritual conviction. He told Deseret News reporter Matthew Brown that swearing an oath before God to “do impartial justice” is something he takes “very seriously.”

In the end, his convictions led him to make “the most difficult decision” that he has faced across his years in government.

That sort of courage deserves recognition, if for no other reason than its apparent rarity in today’s political arena. Standing on principle shouldn’t be so scarce it becomes something to laud, but history proves our Congress is subject to ethical deficiency from time to time, and it needs validation for its occasional fortitude.

In that vein, Utah’s senior senator, Mike Lee, also deserves recognition. He showed no less conviction than his junior counterpart, although he came to a separate conclusion. He spoke in his floor speech like the constitutional scholar he is, arguing his justifications with reason and logic.

Therein lies a more valuable paradox for voters to wrestle with: Utah’s Republican senators did nothing wrong in disagreeing with one another. Dissent does not mean division. They each stood by their principles and conveyed their convictions with clarity. Each still supports the administration — Lee votes with Trump 74% of the time, and Romney stands by the president 80% of the time —  yet, allowing for differences keeps the nation’s work from falling prey to vacant debate and blindfolded votes. 

Americans should be thankful there’s still room to disagree.