Roar writer Ishaan Rahman on the Republicans breaking party lines to support Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 US Election.
In the final weeks of the 2020 US Election, Democratic Party candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden is making an appeal to moderate and conservative voters across the table – Republicans. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the same pitch in 2016 with little success; 92% of Republican-affiliated voters cast their vote for Donald Trump.
Biden now has a near-double-digit lead over Trump nationally and is consistently ahead in the Republican-leaning states of Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia and Iowa. A group called Republican Voters against Trump has run an advertising campaign targeting swing voters in key states, including many of those already mentioned. As of now, the group has garnered 500 testimonials from Republicans and ex-Trump supporters who are now switching their vote to the Democrats and Biden.
So, who are some of the key Republicans lending their support to Biden – or refusing the support the President?
Cindy McCain: businesswoman & widow of 2008 Presidential Candidate John McCain
Former US Senator from Arizona and 2008 Presidential Candidate John McCain was one of Trump’s most ardent conservative critics. A veteran of the Vietnam War, he was criticised by Trump, who said: “[John McCain] was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured… I don’t like losers.” Sen. McCain was also instrumental in defeating the President’s healthcare bill in 2017. On the other side of the table, Sen. McCain and Biden frequently clashed in the US Senate, though remained close friends. Despite this, he resisted endorsing Clinton in the 2016 Election.
Cindy McCain, the Senator’s widow, is now campaigning alongside Biden in her home state of Arizona. In an interview with NBC News, she said “Joe Biden represents the kinds of values in integrity and courage that we want in a President”, having known him personally for years. Cindy explicitly cited Trump’s alleged yet controversial references to dead veterans, including her late husband, being “losers” and “suckers” as a reason she opposes his re-election.
Despite having voted for the Republican candidate for President since 1996, Trump now trails Biden in the McCains’ home state of Arizona. The crucial Senate Election in the state is also likely to be won by the Democrats.
John Kasich: former Ohio Governor and 2016 Presidential Candidate
Ohio Governor John Kasich ran in the contentious 2016 Republican Presidential Primaries, coming in fourth place. He supported the impeachment of President Trump last year. As a staunch conservative who opposes abortion rights, climate action and gun control, Kasich’s endorsement of Biden was particularly surprising.
Kasich gave a brief speech via video at the Democratic National Convention, in which he said that Trump had “belied” the Republican Party’s “founding principles of unity and a higher purpose”. He also sought to reassure moderate voters that Biden would not be influenced by left-wing forces within the Democratic Party, such as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Colin Powell: former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush
Colin Powell is a prominent moderate Republican who made history as the first African-American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US military’s top general. Powell stands apart from most of his party as a supporter of some gun control and abortion rights. He also endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
In his address to the Democratic National Convention, he drew parallels between the values of his immigrant parents and those of Biden. Most importantly, Powell also emphasised that the former Vice President would stand up to America’s enemies abroad: “[Joe Biden] will trust our diplomats and intelligence community, not the flattery of dictators.”
Trump has long been criticised for praising foreign dictators and, earlier this year, for lauding Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s “transparency” regarding the Coronavirus. Powell joins roughly 500 Generals and former national security officials and seventy Republican security advisors in opposing President Trump’s re-election. Trump’s own former National Security Advisor, John Bolton, has referred to his boss as “not competent”, though stopped short of endorsing Biden.
John Bolton: former National Security Advisor to President Trump
Aforementioned former National Security Advisor Bolton has also said he will not vote for Trump, though he has not supported Biden publicly. Having served in the Bush Administration, Bolton has earned a reputation as a staunch militarist, advocating for regime changes in the Middle East and Latin America. He was fiercely critical of Trump’s deals with Iran and the Taliban, as well as his closeness with foreign dictators.
While working in the Trump administration, Bolton oversaw the withdrawal from the Obama-era Iran Nuclear Deal, which was met with opposition from European leaders. He was also pessimistic about the administration’s efforts to negotiate with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, despite the President’s hope that a deal could be reached between the democratic South and communist North.
After losing confidence in the President’s foreign policy, Bolton wrote a book entitled The Room Where it Happened in which he claimed Trump had insufficient knowledge of foreign policy and offered favours to dictators. Insisting Democrats should have expanded their impeachment investigation, Bolton now believes that America is “not safer” today than it was before the Trump Presidency, undercutting the President’s claim of success in fighting terrorism.
He joins three other former administration officials in opposition of President Trump: Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, and Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.
Carly Fiorina: former Hewlett-Packard CEO and 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate
Another Republican contender from 2016, Fiorina garnered attention when Trump attacked her physical appearance at a campaign rally. She also served as Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s Vice Presidential Candidate for a brief period.
On the 2020 race, she said: “I don’t always agree with Joe Biden’s policies, but I do think character counts. I think leadership matters.” She believes Biden to be better equipped to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic, and she is not alone. Currently, close to 60% of Americans disapprove of the President’s handling of the pandemic.
Another former HP CEO and Republican, Meg Whitman, has also endorsed Biden for President.
Jeff Flake: Former Republican Senator from Arizona
Former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake has been a long-time critic of the President. Upon the release of the Hollywood Access Tape in which Trump was heard bragging about sexually assaulting women, Flake called on the then-Republican nominee to withdraw from the Presidential race. He also condemned the President’s comments, telling four progressive Congresswomen to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came”.
Those still on the fence or not supporting Trump
In addition to those who have already endorsed Biden, there are many Republicans who are either remaining neutral in the election or are undecided. Among them are two current Republican Senators: Utah Senator and 2012 Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, who voted to impeach the President last year, and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska. Republican Governor of Vermont Phil Scott has followed suit, slamming Trump for not saying that he would accept the eventual election result.
According to the New York Times The Bush family, which once dominated GOP politics, are also reported to vote against Trump, though they have made no formal statement to that effect. Former President George W. Bush launched a veiled attack on Trump back in 2017 when he said: “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism. Forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.”
His brother, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican Primaries, is also believed to not be supporting the President.
The question is whether these endorsements will translate into greater support for Biden from moderate and conservative voters. Their votes are likely helping the Democratic candidate compensate for less enthusiastic backing from staunch progressives and racial minorities – though a growing socialist wing of the Democratic Party could scare away some potential Republican support. Regardless, the fact remains that, in the last stretch of the campaign, Biden holds commanding leads in key Republican states that could help hand him an electoral landslide.
Further articles written in collaboration with the Boston Political Review can be found on our website.