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I was a loyal, lifelong Black Republican until Trump | COMMENTARY

The late Herman Cain and supporters of President Donald Trump "Black Voices" listen to him speak during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The late Herman Cain and supporters of President Donald Trump "Black Voices" listen to him speak during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

I’m a 45-year-old African American man, and, for most of my life, I’ve been a registered Republican. Like millions of Americans right now, I am struggling to find work. I am also mourning the loss of my older sister to COVID-19.

I didn’t live through the Great Depression or the civil rights movement. But right now, I feel like I’m living in both at the same time. In this time of chaos, tumult and uncertainty, we need people of vision, empathy and competence to assume the responsibility of leadership. President Donald Trump and the Republican Party have failed to live up to these expectations.

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I was a member of the College Republicans, I worked on campaigns (two state legislative, one congressional and a presidential race), and I even had an opportunity to intern in the U.S. Senate office of Ohio Republican Mike DeWine. I was able to get to know people who are of good will, dedicated to electing individuals they believed could be leaders and effective legislators.

But I also met people who are dyed-in-the-wool ideologues and intense partisans, not interested in reaching out to the other side. After the 2012 election, the party leadership laid out a plan to grow the Republican Party by appealing to minorities and immigrants. These ideologues used Donald Trump as a vessel to control the party and turn it inward, focusing only on the so-called “base.” In my eyes, these ideologues drove the party off a cliff, both in its policy ideas and its values.

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Filling the Republican National Convention with the party’s few elected legislators of color hasn’t fooled me. The Republican Party, my party, is no longer interested in doing the hard and thankless work of governing. The Democratic Party is imperfect. Joe Biden is the living embodiment of its strengths and weaknesses. A long-serving member of the U.S. Senate from Delaware, and later vice president of the United States, Mr. Biden has been in the rooms where decisions and policy making happen. His institutional knowledge and longevity served him very well in the primaries, where his name brand among African American and mainstream voters revived his campaign in a Lazarus-like fashion.

Mr. Biden’s empathy has been on full display over the last several years, starting with dealing in public and in private with the loss of his son Beau, giving a eulogy for a political rival and close friend, the late Republican Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, mourning alongside thousands of Americans who lost loved ones to COVID-19, and with the family of George Floyd, the man killed by police in Minnesota.

His competence has been on full display in his recommendations for combating COVID-19, magnified by President Trump’s lack thereof. Mr. Trump is showing that he’s not up to the job of being a leader in a difficult time. His tools of the trade — name calling and lying — are grossly insufficient, even harmful. In moments like these, our strengths should come to the fore and subsume our weaknesses. For President Trump, his weaknesses only exaggerate additional weaknesses. We are adrift, aggrieved, fearful and losing hope. Joe Biden may not be Ronald Reagan, but he’s a solid, experienced, empathetic leader in a crisis.

America is staring at a fork in the road, deciding which way to go. Will we go backward? Or will we be bold, courageous, innovative in moving forward? Our situation internally is in need of repair, and our standing in the world is in need of restoration. Mr. Trump’s pugnacious qualities are inadequate to meet this challenge. But Mr. Biden’s virtues — empathy, competence, honor, integrity, patriotism — are more than adequate, and that’s why I, a lifelong Republican, am supporting him in his run for the presidency of the United States of America.

We need a steady hand at the till, and his hand is steady enough to steer it.

Serge Thomas (sergethomas850@gmail.com) is a resident of Silver Spring. He is a volunteer for the Biden campaign in Montgomery County.

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