San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Mitt Romney’s impending retirement and the decline of the American moderate

Romney’s departure from Senate anticipates bleak future for American moderates
Emily Petsch
Illustration by Emily Petsch

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney announced Sept. 13 that he will not be seeking reelection in 2024. Citing his age and a need for change in the Senate, Romney affirmed what many young people have been saying for years: “it’s time for a new generation of leaders.

My initial thoughts about his departure from the Senate? Great. His proclaimed reasoning? Even better.

Do I believe his reasoning? Not completely.

The campaign for reelection in Utah would have been much harder for Romney than in previous years. This proclamation in favor of youth in office isn’t a demonstration of Romney’s wish for change; He is simply trying to save face in a political climate that no longer has time for moderate candidates.

However, when we talk about American “moderates,” we must consider this in context of global politics. The American idea of a “moderate ideology” falls a little to the right of center on the global political spectrum. The American moderate is best described with American political terms; a center-leaning republican.

Romney defiantly acts as an American moderate, and has been a prominent figure in Republican opposition to former president Donald Trump. After making a historical vote to remove Trump from office, the Utah senator has faced significant backlash from other GOP members.

Now, Romney has been slipping from relevance since his loss to Obama in the 2012 presidential election. His middle-ground policies and “soft” politics have aged him out of the current political landscape, and his support is dwindling.

Former Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney’s loss to a Trump-backed candidate last August indicates that Romney would have faced similar challenges in 2024. It will take more than just an incumbency advantage for a moderate republican congressman to secure the popular vote.

Cheney’s inability to regain her seat in Congress suggests a difficult future for Republicans who do not surrender to the former president’s chokehold on the party.

In the next Utah election, Romney would have faced avid Trump-supporter and Riverton Mayor, Trent Staggs. Running on the classic republican “America First” platform, Staggs would be only one of many challengers with beliefs explicitly more conservative than that of Romney.

He may have also been opposed by State House Speaker Brad Wilson, another candidate with strong support from Utah conservatives. Both Staggs and Wilson boast endorsements from established right-wing politicians and organizations, establishing themselves as strongly conservative candidates and categorizing Romney as a simple moderate in comparison.

In a deeply red state, Romney’s critiques of the former president have isolated him from the far-right voter base. If he were to run again, Romney would face the almost impossible challenge of winning over a significant number of pro-Trump Utah voters — a factor he likely considered in his decision to retire from the Senate.

As Republicans shift further right, there becomes little room for a more socially liberal candidate. Instead, it seems that a viable republican must favor traditional conservative values and toe the line on wedge issues. If not, they stand to be labeled as a liberal masquerading as a republican.

However, this issue does not only reside on the right side of the aisle. As young people lean increasingly left, the tolerance for moderate, “liberal” democrats is steadily declining as well.

The topic of division in American politics is mundane. A statement simply about the political divide in America isn’t particularly unique or insightful. Instead, we have complacently watched the crevice between the parties become a sinkhole. It seems that all we can agree on is that we disagree.

The nationwide acceptance of this political polarization is equally detrimental. No longer are voters on either side willing to settle, and the result is a decreasing ability for the American moderate to appease a broader audience.

But if a moderate can no longer be successful, what does that mean for the future of American politics?

The threat of government shutdown gives us a look into what may ensue if we cannot compromise. If the majority party in the house can no longer agree on budgets, then the divide within parties indicates potential for major gridlock in American politics. This doesn’t even consider the divide between the parties, which has become increasingly hostile in recent years.

Of course politicians will always disagree. It’s a necessary part of the political process. But there is a point when this inability to compromise becomes a fault. And right now, we are watching that play out in front of us.