Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, took the Senate floor hours before senators voted to render a final verdict on the two impeachment articles levied against President Trump

Aware that his Republican colleagues had already announced their intentions to vote for the president’s acquittal on both charges, Romney took to the Senate floor to speak on his intentions for the upcoming vote.

“In the last several weeks, I’ve received numerous calls and texts,” Romney said. “Many demanded, in their words, that I ‘stand with the team.’ I can assure you that that thought has been very much on my mind … The grave question the Constitution tasked 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.”

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Romney would be the first senator in U.S. history to vote to remove a president of his own party. 

By announcing his intentions to vote for the president’s removal, on the first article of impeachment, Romney knew he was bound to face the wrath of the president and his supporters. 

Immediately following Romney’s announcement, the backlash began. Donald Trump Jr. took to Twitter to call for Romney’s expulsion from the Republican Party. Later, the president himself posted a video on his Twitter account accusing Romney of being an undercover Democrat asset. 

So what was the significance of Romney’s decision to vote for the removal of the president? Was there any significance?

Romney’s vote wasn’t a strike of revenge at the president for not being offered a cabinet position, despite what many Republicans would like to believe. Romney’s vote wasn’t only a brave act of patriotism and moral courage as many Democrats would like to believe. It was a wake-up call to the hibernating conservatives whose name was once synonymous with the Republican Party before the election of Trump. 

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The idea of being conservative had always been synonymous with the Republican Party. Being a conservative means you hold specific principled views, including the belief in limited government, personal responsibility, free markets and strong national defense. 

Before Trump, the Republican Party led the surge for the implementation of conservative policy across our nation. In the state of Wisconsin, we saw prominent political stars born from the conservative movement.

Gov. Scott Walker served in his role from 2011 until 2019. His administration is remembered for their sweeping cuts to labor unions, which ultimately lead to an increase in worker freedom across the state. This was a conservative policy, implemented by a Republican governor. 

State Rep. Paul Ryan served as the U.S. Representative of Wisconsin’s Congressional District 1 from 1999 until 2019. An accomplished politician, Ryan joined Romney on the presidential ticket in 2012 as Romney’s vice president. In 2015, Ryan became speaker of the house, following his predecessor’s retirement. Ryan was famous for leading the charge on entitlement reform and rewriting the U.S. tax code. These were conservative policies, implemented by a Republican congressman. 

Reince Priebus held various positions in the Republican Party throughout his political career. In 2007, he was elected as the chair for the Wisconsin Republican Party. Four years later, he was elected as the chair of the Republican National Committee. During his tenure at the RNC, he oversaw the failed presidential election of Romney and the successful election of Trump. He was a conservative, working for the Republican Party. 

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Other than the fact that these three politicians are from Wisconsin, they all share another common feature. They are conservatives before they are Republicans.

Conservatism is the ideology — the Republican Party is the medium through which this ideology is put into effect. The election of Trump brought this distinction to life. We are almost four years removed from the presidential election of 2016. All three of the conservative politicians mentioned prior, no longer work in government. Trump-ism has purged many conservatives from the party.  

When did trade wars and increased government spending become the position of the Republican Party? When did the Republican Party’s foreign policy shift to isolationism? 

The president has governed conservatively on the issues of school choice, tax cuts and immigration. But he is not a conservative.

As conservatives, we could very well still end up voting for this president come November, because it is still preferable to the alternative. 

But let Romney’s vote remind us, this president is not a part of the conservative movement that has been embraced for decades. He is not a part of the conservative movement that created Scott Walker, Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus. He is an opportunist who is making conservatives defend polices and actions in the name of the Republican Party. 

Let us not forget — conservatism comes before being a Republican.

Tripp Grebe ([email protected]) is a freshman studying political science.