Over the weekend, Mitt Romney -- current US Senator, former governor, and 2012 standard-bearer of the Republican Party -- embraced a slogan that many on the Right have shied away from over the years, for various reasons. Here's Romney's social media post, as well as his straightforward explanation for why he decided to march alongside approximately 1,000 evangelical Christians on Sunday:
Black Lives Matter. pic.twitter.com/JpXUFlxH2J— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) June 7, 2020
After a Washington Post reporter asked him why he was protesting, Romney said, "to make sure that people understand that black lives matter." He was walking with a group of nearly 1,000 Christians to the White House, according to the tweet. Romney's appearance in the protest was a rare public display of support for the Black Lives Matter movement by any sitting Republican in Congress. Texas Republican Congressman Will Hurd, who isn't seeking reelection, shared a video himself participating in the protest in Houston earlier this week.
Hurd's post included a thoughtful video:
I'm in Houston marching in solidarity with George Floyd's family. We are showing you can be outraged by a black man getting murdered in police custody, thankful for our First Amendment rights and angered that people are looting and rioting, which goes against our American values. pic.twitter.com/1ZLv4Ebupn— Rep. Will Hurd (@HurdOnTheHill) June 2, 2020
A few thoughts: (1) Many of Romney's conservative critics, and some of his newfound admirers, seem to be conflating the message that "black lives matter" with the activist organization Black Lives Matter. They are not one in the same, as neatly illustrated by this recent dust-up. The former is unobjectionable and correct, in my view. The latter is strikingly radical and deeply objectionable. It seems clear that Romney (who has condemned rioting) is affirming the message, not the group.
(2) It is incredible that Democrats demonized this man the way they did eight years ago. Ripping apart a good person with a sustained attack on his character, of all things, paved the way for Republican voters to nominate Donald Trump four years hence. The thinking went, if the Left could successfully transform Romney into history's greatest monster, we might as well hire someone who will fight back hard and dirty. Democrats falsely tied Romney to a woman's cancer death. Joe Biden told a black audience that Romney and Paul Ryan wanted to put "y'all back in chains." Harry Reid lied openly and brazenly on the Senate floor, baselessly accusing Romney of crimes. It was disgraceful, but they got their win and kept their power. Then they got Trump. Hope it was worth it, everyone.
(3) This is how Trump is trolling Romney, which is rooted in longstanding tensions and certainly this vote:
Tremendous sincerity, what a guy. Hard to believe, with this kind of political talent, his numbers would “tank” so badly in Utah! https://t.co/KqHsHmSRKo— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 8, 2020
The "numbers" barb is no longer applicable:
A new UtahPolicy.com/KUTV 2News survey shows 56% of Utah voters either “strongly” or “somewhat” approve of Romney’s job performance. 42% say they disapprove. Romney is in a strong political position right now with a net positive approval of +14...That’s a massive reversal from our previous survey in March when just 36 percent of Utahns approved of Romney’s job performance, while 49% disapproved.
The strongest Republicans still give him low marks, while moderate GOP voters, independents and many Democrats approve of his performance. Why the dramatic overall reversal? This analysis unpacks the dynamics pretty well. I'll leave you with a reminder of why the sentiment 'black lives matter' may strike Romney as not only morally right, but also personally relevant:
On Christmas Eve, Mitt Romney posted a family picture on Twitter of him and his wife Ann, along with their grandchildren. In the post, Romney wished all a Merry Christmas. But what MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry drew attention to was the fact that sitting on Romney's knee was one African-American grandchild, Kieran James, the adopted son of Mitt's son Ben, which she pointed out during a segment on Sunday. Harris-Perry asked guests on the show for a caption to go along with the family photo to which actress Pia Glenn responded, "One of these is not like the others. One of these things just isn't the same." Since Harris-Perry's segment, many have accused the host of going too far with her racist remarks, and on Tuesday morning she released an apology on Twitter. "I am sorry. Without reservation or qualification. I apologize to the Romney family. #MHPapology," Melissa Harris-Perry tweeted.