Facing a Dilemma? Ask Yourself This Question
Imagining future conversations with your loved ones provides a startling amount of clarity
In the January/February 2022 issue of The Atlantic, Tim Alberta profiles Peter Meijer, a freshman congressman from Michigan and one of only ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year after the January 6th insurrection. The article describes how Meijer consulted several other congresspeople whom he considered “like-minded” in advance of the impeachment vote. During Meijer’s conversation with Congressman Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), Gonzalez reportedly went from indecision to absolute certainty that Trump must be impeached. His reasoning was as follows: “I can convince myself not to vote for impeachment. But if my son asks me in 20 years why I didn’t vote for impeachment, I couldn’t convince him.”
Similarly, in Senator Mitt Romney’s speech explaining his first vote to convict Trump, in February 2020, he described the importance of having a clear conscience before his family as a major motivation for his marked dissent from the Republican party: “My vote will likely be in the minority in the Senate, but irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability believing that my country expected it of me.”
Gonzalez was one of only 10 House Republicans who dared to vote against the party line in Trump’s 2021 impeachment hearing. The year before, Romney was the only Republican in the House or Senate to vote against Trump. The professional and personal consequences of their actions have been steep. Gonzalez was censured by his state’s Republican party, and ultimately decided to retire from Congress due in large part to threats against himself and his family stemming from his impeachment vote. Although an effort to censure Romney failed at Utah’s GOP convention last spring, Romney was nevertheless heckled and booed at the convention, and has often faced significant harassment since his original vote to convict Trump.
Most of us do not have to consider the judgment of history when making a difficult decision. However, even for those who will be so judged, it is striking how powerfully the future judgment of their own families figures into their…