Earlier today, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced that he will not be seeking re-election in 2018.
For months, there has been speculation about whether Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator in United States history, would run for an eighth term. With an overwhelming majority of Utahns wanting Hatch to retire, it seemed to be the right time for the Senate President pro tempore to bow out. Hatch said in April that he would retire if former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney decided that he wanted to run, but Donald Trump urged Hatch not to retire, likely out of fear of Senator Mitt Romney, who has been critical of Trump since the 2016 primary.
Now that Hatch has officially announced his retirement, it is almost guaranteed that Mitt Romney will be Utah’s next United States Senator. The most recent poll by Dan Jones & Associates shows Romney beating likely Democratic candidate Jenny Wilson with 72% of the vote. Wilson polled neck-in-neck against other Republican candidates, but should Romney enter the race, as confidants have said he has desperately wanted to for months, he will likely glide to victory in the Republican primary with ease.
Some Democrats are excited by the prospect of a Senator Mitt Romney. Joe Biden personally encouraged Romney to run. There is a sense among many Democrats that Romney, unlike the Republicans currently serving in the Senate, is a politician of principle who will be unafraid to stand up to Donald Trump. Romney embodies the Democratic fantasy of the good Republican, a Never Trumper uninterested in sucking up to the illegitimate president. This cannot be said of Orrin Hatch, who made sure to lavish ridiculous praise upon Donald Trump in his retirement announcement.
Unfortunately, the image of Mitt Romney as a genuine figure of resistance to Donald Trump is little more than a desperate pipe dream of Democrats who still don’t understand that there is no conservative resistance to Trump. Sure, Romney has criticized some of Trump’s most egregious statements, such as his sympathy for the neo-Nazis who killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville and his bragging about sexual assault in the Access Hollywood tape. Romney has even held his party accountable by denouncing Roy Moore, unapologetically standing with Roy Moore’s victims. But in terms of policy, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. Does anyone really think that Mitt Romney, a rich white man, would vote against the tax bill? Would Mitt Romney really stand up for working Americans by rejecting the Republican caucus and voting against Obamacare repeal? Would he work to block Trump’s bigoted and unqualified judicial nominees? I think not.
Democrats are desperate to see some integrity on the right. That’s why there’s been so much praise for Senate Republicans like Jeff Flake, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins, who cast a few votes against Trump and occasionally speak out against him but still vote with him over 80% of the time and are unwilling to address how Trump is a natural product of the Republican Party, not an aberration. And that is the fundamental problem. Trump may be more vulgar and explicitly bigoted than your typical Republican, but he is otherwise your typical Republican – a rich white person who votes to advance the interests of rich white people. And when it comes down to that, Mitt Romney is no different.