The Democrats are correct to celebrate Romney’s vote as an act of conscience. But this ignores one fact and obscures a second: First, Romney’s conscience not only led him to vote to convict on the abuse-of-power charge, it also led him to reject the impeachment article based on obstruction of Congress. That second article was deeply flawed. Yet, no Democrat joined Romney in that vote of good conscience.
More importantly, Romney’s willingness to depart from the party line was no more evident among his Democratic colleagues than it was among his fellow Republicans. Indeed, even though Democratic members such as Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.) indicated that it was a struggle to understand the basis for the obstruction allegation, all stuck with the party line. Not exactly a Romney-esque profile in courage.
At the same time, the media does not celebrate defections from the Democratic ranks the way it did for Romney’s declaration of independence. I do not recall seeing the same kind of adoring coverage showered on Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), who voted “present” on both articles of impeachment, or on Reps. Collin C. Peterson (Minn.) and Jeff Van Drew (N.J.), both of whom voted against impeachment. Rep. Jared Golden (Maine) cast the same split vote in the House as Romney did in the Senate, but received either criticism or crickets in the media.