Sen. Mitt Romney’s courageous vote to convict President Donald Trump on the impeachment charge of the abuse of power, a valiant effort to protect American constitutionalism against the entrenchment of an authoritarian in the White House, ensured his legacy as a man of conscience and historic standing.

David Adler

David Adler

History will remember Sen. Romney as the first senator in the history of the nation to vote to convict the president of his own party on an article of impeachment, an act vindicating the founders’ hope that senate jurors might rise above partisan passion and the pressure of party loyalty. It will record, moreover, that he stood alone among Senate members of the GOP willing to answer Benjamin Franklin’s trumpet call, so familiar, but little understood, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Sen. Romney spoke truth to power. President Trump’s unseemly use of the full weight and force of the U.S. government to pressure Ukraine’s President Zelensky into announcing an investigation into “the Bidens,” in return for a White House visit and the release of $400 million in military aid authorized by Congress in the name of American taxpayers and our national security interests was, in the words of Romney, “an appalling abuse of public trust.”

For Romney, a man of “profound” religious faith, which defines him, the thought of bowing to pressure to “stand with the team,” in the face of Trump’s “flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and fundamental values,” was beyond the pale. “Were I to ignore the evidence, for the sake of partisan end would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.”

Romney will pay a political price for his bravery and act of conscience. Trump will smear and demean him; other Republican partisans, like the president’s son, will accuse him of being an asset of the Democratic Party. But there are worse things in life than to be Trump’s target of vulgarity and vitriol, just as there are worse things in the life of a politician than to lose an election.

Romney’s vote and words place him in the small class of historic figures deserving of a chapter in any author’s “Profiles in Courage.” His vote and words will be vindicated by history, for there can be no doubt that Trump will again abuse the power of his office for corrupt purposes. Indeed, he has said he would again seek foreign governmental intervention in American elections.

Sen. Romney will be fine. The same may not be said of Idaho’s U.S. Senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, who voted to acquit Trump on both articles of impeachment. They voted against hearing testimony from Trump’s former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, who offered to testify in the impeachment trial if subpoenaed, which meant they voted against hearing facts and evidence that would have condemned Trump for his extortion of Ukranian aid for his own self-benefit and political gain.

Sens. Risch and Crapo will be haunted by their votes in the impeachment trial. They will own Trump’s future acts of abuse of power because they had the opportunity to stop him, and they chose to abdicate, rather than exercise their constitutional powers and responsibilities.

Today, Americans face a challenge unlike any other in the course of American history. The United States has never been forced to endure an authoritarian president, one who has asserted unlimited authority and claimed that under Article II of the Constitution, he “can do anything he wants to do.” That, fellow citizens, is not the voice of the framers of the Constitution, or that of any previous president. It is, rather, the voice of the man in the White House who, upon acquittal by party loyalists, likely feels he is bulletproof and unconstrained in the pursuit of his agenda.

Remember Ben Franklin’s words, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Sen. Romney did, but among his colleagues in the GOP, he stood alone.

Adler is president of The Alturas Institute, created to advance American democracy by promoting the Constitution, civic education, equal protection and gender equality. He has lectured nationally and internationally on the Constitution and presidential power.