Guest Columnist

Republicans for Biden are making a difficult switch

A supporter waiting to hear former second lady Jill Biden speak during a drive-in rally at Kirkwood Community College in
A supporter waiting to hear former second lady Jill Biden speak during a drive-in rally at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Switching political parties is not easy for anyone. It’s like a divorce you never imagined. You don’t want to discuss it, but you can’t just shrug and pretend things aren’t different. This year the political secret is out; a trial separation, if not a divorce, is in.

Many non-switch Republicans are taking a smaller step and a temporary one: they will vote for Joe Biden, but likely for a Republican next time. Their basic allegiance remains where it was. If, as they hope, their party returns, so will they.

Republicans who now intend to vote Biden are very different in geography, age, gender, and lifestyle, but those I have talked to describe virtually the same struggle: a moment comes when they cannot deny what Donald Trump is, says, and does. They all expect to remain Republicans, as loyal as ever to their beliefs.

One described a painful process. “you have struggled within yourself, and for more than a moment. You have had to explain your change of heart to your spouse and children. People at work wonder why you have gone mute on a subject you often talked about. Your friends at your Republican ward club wonder at your absence.”

It is even harder for Republicans who have held public office. They have to explain their switch to incredulous donors who have given them substantial amounts of money, possibly over many years. They have to explain to thousands of party regulars who have voted for them. Journalists who have recorded their partisan words need a large eraser and strong hands to rub out yesterday.

After the debate, Republican Marc Raciot, a two-term former governor of Montana, announced he would be voting for Joe Biden. He joined John Kasich of Ohio and Tom Ridge, not only former governor of Pennsylvania, but also the first Secretary of Homeland Security under President George Bush. At least four other Republican cabinet Secretaries, including Colin Powell, are now Biden supporters.

They are not alone. Former governors of New Jersey and Michigan will not vote for Donald Trump. And dismayed former senators, John Warner of Virginia, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire, and David Durenberger of Minnesota have chosen to speak out in a way never seen before.

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No wall can keep fleeing Republicans in the conservative camp. The Lincoln Project, for example, is the home of over 100 political activists, including people who have run Republican political campaigns, done the polling, written platforms and speeches. They are so troubled by Donald Trump’s abuse of power that they jeopardize careers rather than remain silent.

Over 140 former John McCain and Mitt Romney workers have indicated that they will not vote for Donald Trump. (Neither will Cindy McCain, Sen. John McCain’s widow. She is a member of the Biden transition team, an entity set up by federal law every four years.)

Breaking away from the Republican Party long enough to vote for a Democrat for president was not easy for any of them. But not voting for Donald Trump is. They see him as neither a Republican nor a Democrat, but a threat to both parties and the despoiler of a party they have long embraced.

David Durenberger, a Republican senator from Minnesota for 17 years, says unambiguously, “Elections in the United States are not rigged. They are won or lost. It’s called democracy. Donald Trump obviously doesn’t believe it.”

Durenberger lauded his Republican colleagues who are speaking out and deplored the silence of those who know the truth about Donald Trump, but do not speak

The election will be here soon. People are already voting. For more and more voters there is only a choice of one.

Norman Sherman of Coralville has worked extensively in politics, including as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary, and authored a memoir “From Nowhere to Somewhere.”

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