Among politicians from out of state, Idaho long has had an unusual and close relationship with Mitt Romney.
Though he grew up in Michigan and lived much of his adult life in Massachusetts, he and especially his family have had some Idaho connections. One relative (George Romney, not the Michigan governor) was, a century ago, president of the school now called Brigham Young University-Idaho. Another relative lived and was locally prominent in Bloomington, near Bear Lake. And there was more to it than that, because the links between people in eastern Idaho and northern Utah for generations have been strong.
Other parts of the connection were geographical and religious. Mitt Romney, like a large percentage of Idahoans is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and his Republican politics long have matched well with that of many Idahoans. He became something of a regional hero, not only in Utah, but beyond as well, for his restorative work at Salt Lake City for the 2002 Olympics. When he ran for president a decade after that, Idaho gave him 64.5% of its vote, and when he was elected a senator from Utah in 2018, many Idahoans probably thought of him as something close to an honorary semi-representative from Idaho too.
He long has been more than just popular in the Gem State.
His status now in Idaho, as the sole Republican in Congress voting to oust fellow Republican Donald Trump from the presidency, will be something interesting to watch.
His demeanor - you can see it on videos widely posted on the net - was humble, but his words were firm and decisive:
“The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the President committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a ‘high crime and misdemeanor.’ Yes, he did. The President asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival. The President withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so. The President delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders. The President’s purpose was personal and political. Accordingly, the President is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.”
Of the politics of the matter, Romney said, “I am aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision, and in some quarters, I will be vehemently denounced. I am sure to hear abuse from the President and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?”
It didn’t take much of a prophet to see the response from fellow Republicans, and Romney began to experience it almost immediately, especially all over the internet. Representative Adam Schiff’s metaphorical reference to a “head on a pike” for Republicans who break from the fold was not, we can now see - check out Twitter if you doubt this - a far reach.
Idaho’s two senators, of course, voted to acquit. Their statements on the decision didn’t make a reference to Romney. It’s not hard to see why: What would they say?
In fact, what will Idaho think? Romney, a man much admired across much of the state, said that his vote was a deeply felt matter of conscience, a cry of the heart; the statements from the Idahoans read more like cold quasi legal-political statements. The contrast is striking.
Romney’s vote did not slow or halt the Senate majority’s drive to acquit. But it might cause some people, somewhere, in places like Idaho, to pause and reflect.