It scarcely drew the attention of the media last month when Mitt Romney revealed in an Atlantic article — based on a forthcoming book about the senator — that a number of his fellow Republicans would have voted for Donald Trump’s second impeachment had it not been for fear of physical attack to themselves and their families.
Some of the reluctance to hold Trump accountable was a function of the same old perverse political incentives — elected Republicans feared a backlash from their base. But after January 6, a more existential brand of cowardice emerged. One Republican congressman confided to Romney that he wanted to vote for Trump’s second impeachment, but chose not to out of fear for his family’s safety. The congressman reasoned that Trump would be impeached by House Democrats with or without him — why put his wife and children at risk if it wouldn’t change the outcome?
Later, during the Senate trial, Romney heard the same calculation while talking with a small group of Republican colleagues. When one senator, a member of leadership, said he was leaning toward voting to convict, the others urged him to reconsider. You can’t do that, Romney recalled someone saying. Think of your personal safety, said another. Think of your children. The senator eventually decided they were right.
As dismayed as Romney was by this line of thinking, he understood it. Most members of Congress don’t have security details. Their addresses are publicly available online. Romney himself had been shelling out $5,000 a day since the riot to cover private security for his family — an expense he knew most of his colleagues couldn’t afford. [Continue reading…]