Though James Naylor doesn’t believe his politics have changed, his voting habits are about to.
The self-identified “gun-owning Republican” voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, but in November, he plans to cast his vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
“He’s moderate enough for me to feel like he’ll bring us back from the brink of being the laughingstock of the international world,” Naylor said. He hopes Biden can encourage the legislative branch to work in a more bipartisan manner, and “maybe, get America back on track.”
Naylor said voting for Trump is one of the biggest regrets of his life.
Naylor, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, shared his story through the Republican Voters Against Trump campaign in which Americans explain through confessional-style videos if their politics have changes over the past few years, who they voted for and why in 2016, and who they plan to support in 2020.
The video was shared more than 400 times on Facebook and retweeted almost 5,000 times on Twitter as of Friday.
In addition to confessing that he plans to vote for a Democrat, Naylor expressed concern about the Republican party.
“I think that the party has changed. I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it move too far to the right,” Naylor said. “I think that people have by and large treated our party or treated parties like sports teams, and they want to win no matter what they see.”
In an interview with The Capital, he said he doesn’t think Trump or his followers are Republicans, at least not the type of Republican Naylor was raised to be.
“It’s this weird sect that has grown out of the Republican party that’s more cult-like than political-ideological,” he said.
Chair of the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee James Appel disagrees with Naylor’s viewpoint and said he’s planning on doing everything he can to ensure Trump wins the county.
Still, he said, “Everyone is entitled to an opinion and can vote for whoever they want. I think people should vote for who they believe in, not just because they are part of a particular party.”
He believes Naylor has a minority Republican opinion, noting that everyone he works with on the committee and other Republicans he knows locally are in full support of the president’s reelection.
Naylor outlined many of the issues he’s had with the president since before he even cast his ballot. He said he should have taken it as a warning sign when, in 2015, Trump said of former U.S. Senator John McCain, R-Arizona: “He’s not a war hero... He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
As a veteran, Naylor said the comments hurt. He was on the fence, he said, but when the ballot was in front of him, he still voted for Trump.
Then, less than eight months after he was inaugurated, when a counter-protester was killed at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Trump described demonstrators on both sides as “very fine people,” Naylor knew it would be hard for him to ever again support the president.
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Most recently, Naylor said he’s been disappointed in the president’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the national uprising for racial justice.
In the face of a crisis like the pandemic, Naylor said he would have liked to see Trump step up, take responsibility, and lead the nation’s governors through the storm. Instead, he feels as though Trump has largely hidden from it.
“It feels like he has, by and large, failed every step of the way,” Naylor said. “Think about all the lives that could have been saved.”
Appel defended the president’s actions from the early days of the pandemic, noting that different states and even different parts of each state have different needs for combating the virus. Not all the responsibility should be on the president, he said, but on local leaders.