Heretofore I would never have called Mitt Romney particularly courageous. He was pro-choice before he was pro-life; he helped created our MA health care law before disavowing the Affordable Care Act which was modeled on his own work; he praised Trump, then excoriated him; then seemed to hit him up for a job.
But in voting to convict the President, Romney has committed an act of actual political courage, and I think one that has real political meaning, even if it doesn’t change the immediate result. He deprived the President of a 100% party-line acquittal, which — whether justified or not — will change how it’s perceived both now and historically.
In his remarks, Romney repeatedly brings up his religious faith — that he himself stands in judgement by God for his actions. A lot of us are habitually repelled by public piety, because it is almost always hypocritical, self-aggrandizing and -justifying; God as a sock puppet to justify one’s priors. This is the shape of most right-wing fundamentalist religion in the US — it’s become an arm of a political movement/cultural identification, as opposed to the other way around.
But I’d suggest that there’s something quite real in Romney’s statement: fear and trembling, not before the judgment of his party; but before God’s. This is quite rare in American society, much less politics. Adam Schiff talked about moral courage in making his impeachment case; maybe it got through to Romney. Whatever the evidence, it is hard to break with one’s party; with one’s friends; with one’s own voters in Utah.
But it is just at this point that we realize that the fool cannot be saved by education. What he needs is redemption. There is nothing else for it. Until then it is no earthly good trying to convince him by rational argument. In this state of affairs we can well understand why it is no use trying to find out what ‘the people’ really think, and why this question is also so superfluous for the man who thinks and acts responsibly. As the Bible says, ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’. In other words, the only cure for folly is spiritual redemption, for that alone can enable a man to live as a responsible person in the sight of God.
For the genuinely religious person, there is an external vantage point; an omniscience; a standard against which one is measured. No amount of rationalization will do; it’s not yours to make in any event. Indeed, we all need BS detectors, be they internal, external or eternal.
This time, Romney chose redemption over folly. May others follow his example.