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Politics & Government

What Makes A Moderate Republican? It’s Complicated And No One Agrees.

Mitt Romney 2021 Utah GOP Republican Convention EM
Emily Means
/
KUER
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT, was booed for more than a minute when he took the stage at the Utah GOP convention earlier this month.

Some Republicans say the party is having an “identity struggle” right now. Wrapped up in that is defining who’s a moderate and who’s a conservative — and what those terms even mean.

For example, some voters call Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT, a moderate or even a liberal Republican even though he voted with former President Donald Trump 75% of the time.

Congressional voting records aren’t the only thing Republicans take into account when placing party members on a political spectrum. Rhetoric, character and loyalty also play a role.

After being booed at the Utah GOP convention earlier this month, Romney told the crowd he was an old fashioned Republican.

That rings true to Riverton Republican Shelly Cluff. She said being a conservative is partially how you vote in Washington D.C., but also how you live your life.

“I try to be very responsible with our finances,” Cluff said. “I am being a careful steward of my resources and in Trump's life you don't see any of that: avoidance of waste or fiscal caution or fiscal restraint. You see excess everywhere.”

“I try to be very responsible with our finances,” Cluff said. “I am being a careful steward of my resources and in Trump's life you don't see any of that: avoidance of waste or fiscal caution or fiscal restraint. You see excess everywhere.”
Shelly Cluff

On the other hand, Romney, she said, isn’t flashy with his wealth like Trump is.

Cluff also said that while Romney has a conservative ideology, he acts like a moderate. She pointed to the fact that he’s willing to compromise with Democrats and doesn’t take part in culture wars as much.

But Larry Meyers — a Republican from Washington County — said he doesn’t define Romney as a moderate. He defines him as liberal-leaning member of the GOP.

Meyers said looking at vote averages doesn’t tell the whole story. Some votes, like impeachment, are far more important.

“If you look at his overall history, combined with his votes with the Democrats in the impeachment, combined with his opposition to the president's agenda as a leader of the Republican Party, I think it's fair to say that a lot of people think that he's just a Republican in name only,” Meyers said.

Some voters are incorrectly conflating partisanship for ideology, according to Weber State University political scientist Leah Murray.

That happens, she said, because political leaders use “conservative” and “liberal” as easy-to-understand terms to mobilize voters. It’s useful here because Romney’s political position is really complicated.

“They use another word to explain him in an effort to kind of explain his lack of falling into line with the Republican position of backing their president,” Murray said.

Right now, she said, the GOP is trying to decide what makes someone a good, conservative member of their party.

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