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Uninviting Romney to CPAC both hurts the image of the Repub­lican party and sows division. I Wiki­media Commons

In a scene rem­i­niscent of a toddler dis­inviting one of his friends from a birthday party, chairman of the Con­ser­v­ative Political Action Con­ference Matt Schlapp took to Twitter to announce that Sen. Mitt Romney, R‑Utah, was “for­mally NOT invited” to the Feb­ruary con­ference.

Schlapp dis­in­vited Romney because the senator voted to hear from more wit­nesses during a pre­lim­inary hearing of the Senate impeachment trial — some­thing Schlapp frowned upon. But calling addi­tional wit­nesses would have been a way to ensure that the truth came out during the trial, and it could have helped reveal Democrats’ political moti­va­tions for impeachment.

The dis­in­vi­tation is a divisive move for con­ser­v­a­tives. It’s a bad look for Schlapp and con­ser­v­a­tives alike.

Romney spoke at CPAC in 2013 after his 2012 pres­i­dential run. Since 2017, however, Trump has dom­i­nated the event, speaking three years suc­ces­sively. He is expected to speak again this year.

The Democrats have been looking for their chance to impeach Trump since Hillary Clinton lost the election in 2016, and a trial without the right wit­nesses gave them more ammu­nition. Paul Thornton of the Los Angeles Times wrote that “the Democrats… know they cannot defeat Trump with their current set of primary can­di­dates, so they must go with their only hope: a mean­ingless impeachment process.” 

Trump isn’t a squeaky-clean political can­didate, but he has taken the Democrats’ heat well. Neither his tax returns nor his involvement in Ukraine have been suitable points of attack for the Democrats. The best the Mueller report could do was “not exon­erate” the pres­ident.  

Repub­licans should want the November nar­rative to focus on what has gone right during the current pres­i­dency. Pub­licly throwing Romney under the bus just rein­forces the Demo­c­ratic picture of a Repub­lican party full of radical Trump sup­porters thinking about which rebel flag to put on their truck, instead of trusting the justice system to exon­erate the pres­ident. 

Romney is no friend of Trump, but he is a con­ser­v­ative, and his track record backs this up. 

During a Con­gres­sional Series event hosted by the Sutherland Institute in August, Romney said  “the per­spective of con­ser­v­a­tives is based on keeping America strong — pro­viding for a bright and pros­perous future for all of our people — not just now, but long term.” 

Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown told Politico in October 2019 that “when it comes to his support of the state party, there’s no doubt that he is a team player.” 

Though Romney had an unpopular opinion among Repub­licans regarding impeachment, he remains loyal to con­ser­v­a­tives and the GOP — which would be hard for Trump to say, as he changed his party many times throughout his life before finally landing in the Repub­lican pack prior to his election.

The dis­taste­fully extreme form of the Repub­lican party has been on full display, and the Democrats now have an angle to write off their colossal failure as a valiant effort that was denied by Senate Repub­licans. 

This is not good for Trump’s presence in the media, which is what the impeachment has been all about in the first place: hurting Trump’s public per­ception so that former Vice Pres­ident Joe Biden or Sen. Bernie Sanders, I‑Vermont, will have a better chance in November.

CPAC has essen­tially turned into a Repub­lican war rally for Trump in recent years. Matthew Yglesias of Vox said the con­ference has devolved to a “gath­ering of con­ser­v­ative movement activists and loy­alists that’s also a hub for people who are much more enter­tainers and entre­pre­neurs than they are ide­o­logues or policy wonks.” Molly Jong-Fast of the Bulwark described the event as “a magical place where college dropouts lecture college stu­dents, where mil­lion­aires beg for prayers for their success, where soda-bans are likened to the Red Purges.”

Banning the obvi­ously-con­ser­v­ative Romney from what is rapidly becoming a badly-dis­guised Trump rally does not help the state of CPAC or the state of the Repub­lican party. 

Schlapp’s decision focuses on division where it should focus on ide­ology. It also turns the mul­ti­tudes of college stu­dents in atten­dance into Trump’s per­sonal army rather than free-thinking Amer­icans.

With the deep political divide between Democrats and Repub­licans today, Repub­licans simply do not need division within their own party. 

Though some may say that Romney started the division by voting to hear from more wit­nesses, throwing him out into the cold and then closing ranks is much worse.

Now, every major news outlet is running a story about the cleft in the Repub­lican party, and Romney is stuck in no man’s land.

 

Quin Calhour is a freshman studying rhetoric and public address.