Republicans might not want to admit it, but there’s a growing divide in the GOP.
On one side sits Steve Bannon and the politicians he props up. These politicians — including Donald Trump and Roy Moore — tend to have a history of moral deviancy and seem to delight in controversy.
On the other side are those who oppose Bannon’s crew. Examples include Mitt Romney, who wrote that “no vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity,” Jeff Flake, who has spoken against Trump and sent a check to Roy Moore’s opponent, and Evan McMullin, who spearheaded $500,000 in ads against Bannon’s chosen candidate. Each of these leaders puts principle above party.
And then there’s Sen. Orrin Hatch.
Hatch has spent the past two years pandering to both sides of this divide. He has manufactured statements about the moral repugnancy of Trump and Moore while also “totally” endorsing Trump and claiming that Trump had to endorse Moore “so [Trump] can get his agenda through.”
By pandering to both sides, Hatch has embarrassingly shown that he values party above principles. He has essentially said, “Let’s stand for something — unless it’s inconvenient for our team.” But that’s not how virtue works.
Fortunately, Utah has a chance to set things right.
Over the next few weeks, Hatch says he’ll decide whether to continue his 40-year reign as a career politician. At the same time, rumor has it that Mitt Romney has privately expressed interest in running for this seat but only if Hatch retires.
Utahns should collectively urge Hatch to retire so Romney will run. This way, we’ll signal a changing tide in the GOP, making it harder for unprincipled politicians to hijack the country.
When it comes to Trump, the difference between Hatch and Romney is vast. Whereas Hatch continued to endorse Trump even after he was caught boasting about sexual misconduct, Romney openly said he would not vote for Trump. Whereas Hatch absurdly declared that Trump "doesn't have a racist bone in his body," Romney said that “[Trump’s] comments time and again appeal to the racist tendency that exists in some people.” Whereas Hatch claimed that Trump “says the right things” when it comes to party politics, Romney noted that Trump’s “trickle-down racism and trickle-down bigotry and trickle-down misogyny are extraordinarily dangerous to the heart and character of America.”
What’s more, almost no Republican has been as bold in condemning Trump as Romney has. So it’s no wonder why Donald Trump has repeatedly said he hopes Orrin Hatch will run again. Hatch shares Trump’s win-at-all costs worldview while Romney stands by principles.
Because of this, Utah should stand for something and urge Hatch to retire. Call his office, write him letters, message him on social media, and create petitions. Let’s send a signal to the nation that we’re firmly united around virtue.
Jon Ogden is the author of "When Mormons Doubt: A Way to Save Relationships and Seek a Quality Life."