Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/AP Images; Samir Hussein/WireImage
Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican who was the party's nominee for president in 2012, has written an essay about Americans' political habit of blaming others while ignoring growing crises.
Citing the consequences of climate change, inflation and Donald Trump's false but insistent claims of a stolen election in 2020 as examples, Romney, 75, wrote for The Atlantic, "What accounts for the blithe dismissal of potentially cataclysmic threats? The left thinks the right is at fault for ignoring climate change and the attacks on our political system. The right thinks the left is the problem for ignoring illegal immigration and the national debt. But wishful thinking happens across the political spectrum. More and more, we are a nation in denial."
"Perhaps this is a branch of the same delusion that leads people to feed money into slot machines: Because I really want to win, I believe that I will win," he added.
Romney, who was one of seven Republican senators to vote "guilty" at Trump's second impeachment trial after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the only one to do the same in his first, also criticized members of Congress and President Biden in his essay.
"President Joe Biden is a genuinely good man, but he has yet been unable to break through our national malady of denial, deceit, and distrust," he wrote. "A return of Donald Trump would feed the sickness, probably rendering it incurable."
He continued: "Congress is particularly disappointing: Our elected officials put a finger in the wind more frequently than they show backbone against it. Too often, Washington demonstrates the maxim that for evil to thrive only requires good men to do nothing."
Drew Angerer/Getty Images Donald Trump and Sen. Mitt Romney in November 2016
Looking to the past, Romney warned that "when entire countries fail to confront serious challenges, it doesn't end well," before adding, "If we continue to ignore the real threats we face, America will inevitably suffer serious consequences."
Crises like 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, he said, "can shake the public consciousness," though he worries that "a crisis may come too late for a course correction that can prevent tragedy."
"The only cure for wishful thinking is leadership," Romney said, pointing to Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Volodymyr Zelenskyy as examples of leaders who "showed us what real character looks like."
In closing, the senator expressed his "hope for a president who can rise above the din to unite us behind the truth."
"Several contenders with experience and smarts stand in the wings; we intently watch to see if they also possess the requisite character and ability to bring the nation together in confronting our common reality," he wrote, before adding a plea for those who don't hold an elected office or might not consider themselves political to confront the dangerous denialism he sees as a "cataclysmic" threat to the country.
"While we wait, leadership must come from fathers and mothers, teachers and nurses, priests and rabbis, businessmen and businesswomen, journalists and pundits," Romney wrote. "That will require us all to rise above ourselves — above our grievances and resentments — and grasp the mantle of leadership our country so badly needs."