In the name of stopping Donald Trump, will Mitt Romney formally endorse Hillary Clinton?

The prospect of a Romney endorsement of the Democratic nominee should not be considered far-fetched. The 2012 Republican nominee surely must know that it might not be sufficient for him to denounce the Donald; if he seriously wants to convince those on the fence that Trump should not become the 45th president, he may find the urge to pull a Colin Powell (or a Meg Whitman) irresistible.

A Romney endorsement of Clinton would be one of the more shocking moments in recent American political history. On some level, it would represent Romney’s unofficial apology for palling around with the prejudiced agitator in 2012. Romney may be too proud to acknowledge openly that he was wrong to beg for Trump’s approval four years ago, but if he were to endorse Clinton, many Americans disgusted with the Donald would forgive Romney’s past transgressions.

A Romney endorsement of Clinton would also reaffirm the point President Obama made in his speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention: that Clinton, not Trump, is closest to the mainstream of American politics and culture, that Clinton, not Trump, embodies our country’s best values, that Clinton, not Trump, will make America even greater than it is today.

In her review of Obama’s outstanding speech, Heather Digby Parton observed:

There is evidence that [the 2016] election may end up finally dislodging the white, college educated demographic from the GOP, which has won them since the time polling first began.  Many of them can see that Trump is dangerous. Last night was an invitation from the Democratic party for them to leave the dark side and come into the light…

If Romney endorsed Clinton, it would signal that it would be OK for Republicans to accept the Democratic party’s invitation, at least this year, at least this time. Remember the key argument Obama made in his speech:

What we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican – and it sure wasn’t conservative. What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world. There were no serious solutions to pressing problems – just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate. And that is not the America I know.

To be fair, Romney has fanned “resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate” himself over the years. He has also done his fair share of Clinton-bashing. However, as former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested at the Democratic convention, one doesn’t have to like everything about Clinton, or Democrats, to recognize the difference, in terms of qualifications, between Clinton and Trump.

Of course, Romney may endorse Clinton with ulterior motives. He may want her to win now just to see her lose in 2020. He may enjoy condemning her over the course of the next four years, going on and on about how she has disappointed him, nitpicking every last decision she makes to grease the skids for a more palatable Republican candidate to take the oath on January 20, 2021. To paraphrase Nick Nolte’s famous line from 48 Hrs., even if Romney endorses Clinton, they won’t be partners and they won’t be friends.

However, they won’t need to be. A Romney endorsement of Clinton would benefit both individuals. It would allow Romney to redeem his legacy, to confirm himself in history as a man who recognized the danger of extremism in a time of consequence and stood against it. In addition, it would allow Clinton to make further inroads into the voting demographics she needs to offset the damage done by the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act, which may reduce the number of Democratic-leaning voters who are able to cast a ballot for her (the recent positive voting-rights rulings in Texas, Wisconsin, North Dakota and North Carolina notwithstanding).

One can easily envision a commercial in which Romney holds his grandson Kieran, stating that Trump’s explicitly racist views will create a world in which his grandchild’s life will not matter, a world in which hate will be honored and love will be loathed, a world that would produce pain and poverty for the public, a world that offends the values of his faith. In that commercial, he could state that his differences with Clinton pale in comparison to his issues with Trump, and that making sure the bigoted billionaire doesn’t win is a moral obligation.

It would be powerful stuff. The only question is, would it be enough?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.