Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s decision to run for the U.S. Senate in Utah should be a welcome one for all who decry the tone and tenor coming out of Washington of late.

Regardless of whether one usually — or ever — agreed with him politically, it’s hard to argue that Romney hasn’t conducted himself in a responsible way as both an officeholder and as a candidate. The addition of Romney to the Senate could provide, if nothing else, a morale boost to the dwindling number of reasonable people in Congress — in both parties.

Romney’s long-rumored re-entry into public life is unusual, if not totally unexpected. Unsuccessful former presidential candidates usually quietly retire and fade from view, earning a role as a sort of elder statesmen in their party. We’ve seen this from individuals ranging from Bob Dole to Jimmy Carter in previous years. This has changed slightly in recent years, as John McCain and John Kerry both remained in the Senate after losing their races, with Kerry becoming secretary of state.

Romney did not have the option of immediately going back to the Senate after losing, so he did assume the elder statesman role briefly, if not exactly quietly. Two years ago, he considered running for president again, and was harshly critical of Donald Trump during the primaries. He’s often been outspoken in criticizing Trump even since the election, such as after Trump’s reaction to the marches and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

However, if Trump’s opponents think that Romney will become some sort of conservative leader of The Resistance, they can expect to be highly disappointed.

It may sound obvious, but as a U.S. senator from Utah, Romney’s job would be to represent the people of Utah, not any sort of special interest of any kind. While Utah has been deeply skeptical of Trump — he only carried the state with a plurality, not a majority — it’s also a deeply conservative state. So one can’t expect that Romney will be opposing Trump at every possible opportunity.

Instead, he’ll be supporting Trump when he thinks he’s right and saying so when he thinks he’s wrong. This is the right thing for every member of Congress — in either party — to do: work with Trump when he’s right and criticize him when he’s wrong.

Here in Maine, we’ve seen Susan Collins take exactly this approach with the Trump administration, just as she did with the Obama administration before that. That infuriates those all over the political spectrum who for whatever reason believe Trump isn’t a legitimate president, and should be stymied at every turn.

On the flip side, it also angers those who believe that Republican members of Congress should blindly support Trump in everything, no matter what.

Still, Collins wisely recognizes that she has to represent the entire state, not just her own party, and so she continues to do what she thinks is best. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do.

We need more leaders of principle, both Democrats and Republicans, who are willing to step up and do what they think is right, not just follow along with others. We need leadership like this at the state, local and national levels, in every office.

It’s time we start rejecting the sort of petty partisanship that is overtaking so much of the country. That means having elected officials who are not just good at making great speeches and saying the right thing, but who are actually willing to do the right thing as well.

That means that, instead of choosing not to run for re-election in a grandiose gesture that gets you applause from the media, you stick around and fight for what’s right. Whether you win or lose, it’s worth having the fight, instead of ignoring it. That’s why it’s good to see real, principled leaders choosing to run for Congress, instead of walking away from the job.

None of this is easy. It’s a heck of a lot easier to just go blindly along with your own party, or to choose not to run for re-election when the going gets tough. That’s not real leadership, though.

Real leadership is standing on your principles all the time, not only when it’s politically convenient to do so. If more people in D.C. do that, perhaps we’ll have better luck doing what’s right for the country for a change.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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