The Return of Romney. Illustration by Greg Groesch/ the Washington Times, November 12, 2018
I did something this weekend that would have been unthinkable in my previous life as a radical left wing social justice activist. I allowed for one of my essays to run exclusively in the ultra conservative (extreme is more like it) Washington Times. Located on 3600 New York Avenue in Washington D.C., the Times is one of the major newspapers coming out of our nation’s capital.
For many reasons I would not want to be affiliated with the Washington Times. On too many issues, they are on the wrong side of ethics, morality, and basic human goodness. Certainly, the paper does not align with my own views on world politics.
But, fundamentally, what is the alternative for someone who actually has a desire to connect with readers from different ideological backgrounds? It’s fine and good to write when the readership is completely familiar and safe. More intriguing is when an independent writer communicates beyond their comfort zone to transcend their choir-like audience.
The Washington Times is not my audience. That’s the whole point.
Think what you will about the merit of the piece itself, but it now has a chance to be read by thousands of people in D.C., people who possess enormous institutional power. Possibly, Romney will read it. Why not?
Republican Senators may see the essay in their inboxes and pass it along to others in their circles of influence. While Trump is far from a voracious reader, the Washington Times — for 30 years viewed as a counter narrative to the left leaning Washington Post — is considered important news for the POTUS, and the article could enter his bubble even if just a sound bite from his advisors.
In fact, my article may be totally ignored — more likely than not — but just being in this paper creates the chance these individuals will encounter my ideas.
Overall, there are obvious risks in publishing. I may come across as endorsing a newspaper I don’t agree with — a perfectly rational response to seeing my article featured in their Sunday online platform and Monday’s print. For me to say I am not guilty of endorsing their enterprise on some level would be foolish.
But the truth is I do not endorse anything but my own work. As long as the original material is not compromised or distorted, then I am open to using the platform as a way to reach people. Pure and simple.
What I know is that the Washington Times has a circulation of nearly 60,000 daily, mainly inside the Beltway. If I am a Trojan Horse with this one, I have to accept the repercussions of going into hostile territory.
Interestingly, MLK once gave an interview in 1965 to Playboy magazine. Did King the Baptist minister approve of Playboy‘s views on marriage, sex and drugs? I doubt it. He did see Playboy as an opportunity to reach a new audience, one that would be surprised and edified to hear what he had to say about civil rights. It doesn’t really matter that King justified the interview by collaborating with Alex Haley.
Without question, what King did was not easy. He knew that he would get backlash from people in his own organization, members of the clergy, women supporters across the political spectrum, and others. But King was a messenger first and foremost.
As writers, we should not fear the spirit of courageous sharing. When given the opportunity to convey a message, we cannot fail to take advantage of the invitation as long as the invitation is genuine and purposeful.
A Big Night for the ‘Progressives:’ How Mitt Romney became a change maker in the midterms
Oh what a night. History was made on a number of fronts. Rashida Tlain in the 13th Congressional District of Michigan is set to become one of the first Muslim congresswomen in history. Ilhan Omar, who won Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, will become the first Somali-American in Congress. Jared Polis will be the first openly gay governor in our nation’s history. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would be the youngest congresswoman ever.
Also, Ayanna Pressley the first black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress, Sharice Davids one of the first Native American women in Congress after winning Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar the first Latina congresswomen in Texas. A whopping total of 270 women ran for the House. Now, for the first time, more than 100 women are slated to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
It was also a night when Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas and Kansas all turned purple, Floridians voted to restore the voting rights of more than 1 million felons, and Michigan legalized cannabis. When the dust settled, Democrats regained the House and it looks very much like Nancy Pelosi will lead the charge. It was a great night for “progressives.”
Ironically, one of the most historic events from a historic evening was the election of Mitt Romney as senator of Utah. No vanquished presidential nominee in modern history has run for Congress after losing a race for the White House. In fact, Mr. Romney became the first U.S. politician in 173 years to serve as governor of one state and senator from another. (Sam Houston was the last. He was governor of Tennessee and in 1846 and elected to the Senate in Texas.)
Not only did Mr. Romney run for Orrin Hatch’s open seat, he coasted to one of the easiest victories of the night. Mr. Romney claimed 61.2 percent of the Utah electorate, and Salt Lake City councilwoman Jenny Wilson took 33.1 percent. Pundits knew for months that this one was going to be a landslide. Mr. Romney himself stopped campaigning on his own behalf and went on the trail for his fellow Republicans. Is there a clearer sign of presidential ambition than that?
The truth is, Mr. Romney’s victory may not get the same attention as the other historic winners last Tuesday, but in the short term there is no question that his achievement will be more problematic for the Trump agenda than any of the names previously mentioned.
This is an irony because Mr. Romney could not be less energized by the needs of today’s youth, or the love of diversity that motivated so many young and impassioned Democrats to run for office. He is rich. He is white. He hails from a political family. He is Mormon. He is the epitome of an elitist insider. He was the president and CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Politically, Mr. Romney is also a man who does not feel indebted to President Trump. When one surveys the Republican landscape in the Senate, what they will find is a field of Trump cheerleaders, cronies and chumps. Mr. Romney is different. With the departure of independent Republican voices such as John McCain, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, Mr. Romney’s ability to challenge the president becomes absolutely crucial.
And challenge the president he will. In a high profile op-ed, Mr. Romney wrote, “no American president has ever before vilified the American press or one of its professional outlets as an ‘enemy of the people.’”
Recently, the chief architect of the “Never Trump” movement said, “I will not be opposed to condemning instances of racism, sexism, and bigotry.”
On every issue from immigration reform (especially legal protection for “Dreamers”) to sanctioning the culprits of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, Mr. Romney has questioned both President Trump’s policies and competence. It should come as no surprise that Mr. Trump lobbied Sen. Orrin Hatch to remain in office, the sole reason being that he did not want Mr. Romney to take his seat.
Mr. Romney can’t be bribed or persuaded by other means to go along for the joyride. Mr. Romney now becomes the only voice within the Republican Party that will not become neutered at the altar of Mr. Trump’s ego.
The history Mitt Romney made is not one that most progressive liberals care to recognize or applaud. But in the next 6-12 months, there will be nothing more important than a voice like Mr. Romney’s in the Senate.
• George Cassidy Payne is a SUNY adjunct professor of philosophy, writer and social worker from Rochester, N.Y.