BYU political science students, faculty react to Mitt Romney statement

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Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee business meeting Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in Washington. Romney recently sparked widespread debate after calling the current state of American politics “vile” and “hate-filled” on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, made headlines Oct.13 after calling the current state of American politics “a vile, vituperative, hate-filled morass that is unbecoming of any free nation.”

Romney, in a statement released via Twitter, called out leaders from both sides of the political spectrum, writing, “it is time to lower the heat.” Romney’s statement has since garnered over 61,000 likes and 32,000 comments on Twitter as of Thursday afternoon and sparked much debate from people of all political affiliations eager to weigh in.

Members of the BYU political science community added their voices to the discussion and further examined the timing and motives of Romney’s comments.

“I do think that the world of politics is very divisive,” BYU College Republicans president Sam Crofts said. “There has been a lot of emotion dragged into the political climate from both sides and that can lead to an ‘us vs. them’ mentality.”

“But I don’t think that this is really anything new,” Crofts added. “I think that’s been going on in American politics since the very beginning. So, I do find his timing just a little bit suspect. I think Sen. Romney can sometimes be opportunistic with the timing of his statements.”

BYU College Democrats co-president Abigail Ryan agreed, pointing out that election day remains just weeks away. Ryan sees the statement as a potential “last-minute push” to convince any swing voters to vote Democratic, or at least not for President Trump.

“While he does call out certain Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi, at the same time he consistently condemns Trump,” Ryan said. “So, he’s definitely trying to reach Republicans who feel frustrated by what they’re seeing on the left, but equally frustrated with what they’re seeing within their own party.”

Ryan feels Romney, who has not given his presidential endorsement to Trump nor Joe Biden, is far from the only prominent Republican leader annoyed with the president’s behavior. Although Romney has been more outspoken towards Trump than most, Ryan believes Romney is trying to make clear his empathy for other leaders who share similar feelings.

With regard to Romney’s comments on the increased sense of political polarization, Ryan feels he “hit the nail on the head.”

Richard Davis, a BYU political science professor who specializes in American politics, believes Romney calling out both Democratic and Republican representatives was a “much-needed move.”

“Politicians have been quick to criticize the other party for uncivil behavior, but not people within their own,” Davis said. “Sen. Romney rightly pointed out that President Trump has been a highly negative force of incivility since he first ran in 2016. He has coarsened political discourse and divided the nation.”

While Davis acknowledged Romney may have put together the statement in hopes of influencing the upcoming election, he also wonders if Romney might have just been pushed past his breaking point.

“He may just be fed up with incivility,” Davis said. “He may have watched General Conference (of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and decided he needed to stand up.”

Crofts hopes the statement can have some effect on tempering the political climate and help both sides of the spectrum to see the importance of working together. He feels in order for anyone to be willing to listen, Romney must show his own willingness to work with those around him.

“No matter where you look in the political world, people have the same end goal,” Crofts said. “They just have different ways of getting there. So, I don’t know whether or not Romney’s statement will necessarily help bring people together. But it is important to call out divisiveness if you can be an example of bringing people together yourself.”

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