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Want evidence Americans’ resolve to follow Constitution is wavering? Mitt Romney says look at Jan. 6

Utah GOP senator says freedom in the balance as commitment to democracy wanes

SHARE Want evidence Americans’ resolve to follow Constitution is wavering? Mitt Romney says look at Jan. 6
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks during a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks during a Senate Budget Committee hearing to discuss President Joe Biden’s budget request for fiscal year 2022 on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Shawn Thew, Associated Press

Autocratic governments, led by China, are becoming stronger, while Americans’ resolve to follow the Constitution is wavering, Sen. Mitt Romney said Friday.

“No more stunning evidence of this was the attempt to prevent the lawful and constitutional transfer of power on Jan. 6th,” the Utah Republican said.

“It followed from the president of the United States claiming that the election had been stolen from him,” he said. “His purported evidence spun from pillar to post, from counterfeit ballots imported from China, to stuffed ballot boxes, to dead voters, to voting machines manipulated from afar.”

Romney blamed Donald Trump for the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol as Congress attempted to certify the 2020 presidential election this past January.

Romney gave a Constitution Day speech Friday hosted by the Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University, his alma mater. Sept. 17 is the day in 1787 that delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in Philadelphia.

In his remarks, Romney criticized Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s recent trip to Hungary where he met with authoritarian leader Viktor Orban. Carlson praised Hungary as a “small country with a lot of lessons for the rest of us.”

Orban censors the media, ignores the will of the people in elections, and amasses wealth and power for himself and his cronies, Romney said. Hungary is ranked as one of the least free, least democratic countries in the developed world.

“Hungary, a model for America?” Romney said.

As he was running for the Senate, a woman asked him if he would vote to remove NBC, CBS and ABC from the air. He said he replied no, and presumed she wanted to make a point about something he had said, but she only wanted to say the networks put out things that were wrong and should be shut down.

“I have since learned that her perspective is not as singular as I had imagined,” the first-term senator said.   

Constitutional and institutional guardrails are under less obvious but just as real challenges elsewhere, Romney said. Politicians, he said, clamor to eliminate the Electoral College, do away with 60-vote rule in the Senate and want to pack the Supreme Court.

“With the economic and military power of autocratic China and Russia increasing and American resolve to avoid authoritarianism and pure democracy declining, freedom itself — the right of every person to enjoy life liberty and the pursuit of happiness — is in the balance,” he said.

Romney said the U.S. must take action to prevent China from building its economic might through predatory means, modernize its military, make business more competitive and invest in emerging technology.

Joseph Smith, the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is purported to have said that the Constitution would someday hang by a thread and the elders of the church would save it.

“They didn’t have tape recorders back then or smartphones, and I’m not sure at all that he actually said that,” Romney said. “But if you will allow me some literary license, I’d suggest that this sentiment may apply to all of us, not just to a few Latter-day Saint elders.”

Everyone, he said, can help “thread the needle” between authoritarianism and democracy by exercising what the nation’s founders called public virtues.

Those, according to Romney, include listening respectfully to the opinions of others, expanding our sources of information beyond those with which we agree, defending the entire Constitution rather than just the parts we like, voting for men and women of character, and acknowledging there are a lot of things we don’t know.

“The founders gave us a republic,” he said. “As Benjamin Franklin said, it’s up to us to keep it. I sure hope we will.”

The founders worked assiduously to escape the perilous attraction of authoritarianism while at the same time fearing pure democracy, Romney said.

“The founders’ task and brilliance was crafting a system of government that would thread the needle between the two perils that had doomed every human civilization for 4,000 years, autocracy on one side and pure, runaway democracy on the other,” he said.

What they came up with, he said, was a “radical departure” from history. The founders did not craft a perfect union. Instead, Romney said, they made a way for Americans to build a “more perfect union.”