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Mitt Romney advocates for civility in politics during a talk at FSU

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets supporters Tuesday in Milwaukee.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets supporters Tuesday in Milwaukee.

Republican U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah discussed national issues and political discourse during a virtual seminar with Florida State University's Institute of Politics.

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney spoke about national issues and the state of political discourse on Monday as part of a series on democracy at Florida State University’s Institute of Politics.

“It’s critically important that opinion leaders from around the country gather in institutes, such as the Institute of Politics that you’ve created, to discuss the issues of the day, and decide how we’re going to deal with them.”

The talk was part of the institute’s Strengthening American Democracy Series.

Romney was initially scheduled to speak days after the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Then about 1,500 people had signed up to attend the virtual talk. Romney was injured after slipping on ice, and had to postpone until November. About 250 people attended Monday’s virtual talk.

A call for civility in politics was an underlying theme. “The cameras go on, and there are a few people that are very caustic and very extreme and that gets excitement from the base,” Romney said.

The institute’s Al Cardenas asked Romney a series of questions about national issues. The first was about how to address “the inability for us to have in many instances a civilized discourse.” Cardenas said that’s something he thinks has changed since Romney ran for president in 2012.

“There are a lot of people who are concerned with the growing anger and crude nature of comments that are leveled back and forth between politicians these days and frankly between people,” Romney said. “I think a lot of that starts at the top.”


Romney explained he’s not sure where the heightened level of incivility ends. He says he’s encouraged by President Joe Biden’s leadership, but he’s unsure about whether Biden alone can bring people together.

“As long as we continue to have people who are making political hay out of drawing on the base levels of humanity, we’re going to continue to be highly divided.”

The discussion provided Romney an opportunity to touch on some of the top issues facing the country, including U.S.-China relations, cybersecurity and the national budget.

“The biggest challenge that our country faces is the emergence of China as the world’s leader: economic leader, military leader, geopolitical leader.”

Romney says China continues unfair trade practices, such as subsidizing goods. Because China’s economy is so massive, the U.S. needs the help of its allies to sway the country’s leaders, Romney said.

“Play the game they way they are or get them to play by the rules,” Romney said. “We’re doing none.”

Romney also highlighted the need for Congress to address the rising costs of Medicaid, Medicare and social security.

“The only way we’re going to get a balanced budget, we need to look at these entitlement programs and bring them into balance,” Romney explained he’s filed a bill to address that issue. “We’re not going to cut benefits for seniors or for people about to become seniors. But we want to make sure that the promises we’re making to young people are promises we can keep down the road.”

Romney didn’t discuss climate change, but noted that it was an important topic that is often neglected in national political discourse.

“Our politics today is mired in social issues and cultural issues and small-bore policy issues as opposed to the big issues that we face.”

Copyright 2021 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Valerie Crowder is a freelance reporter based in Panama City, Florida. Before moving to Florida, she covered politics and education for Public Radio East in New Bern, North Carolina. While at PRE, she was also a fill-in host during All Things Considered. She got her start in public radio at WAER-FM in Syracuse, New York, where she was a part-time reporter, assistant producer and host. She has a B.A. in newspaper online journalism and political science from Syracuse University. When she’s not reporting the news, she enjoys reading classic fiction and thrillers, hiking with members of the Florida Trail Association and doing yoga.