More Republicans than in previous years, particularly young Republicans, are planning to vote across the aisle this year.
While most Republicans are ride-or-die passengers on the Trump train, GOP defectors are growing in number — and more Republicans than ever before have declared their intention to vote for Democratic nominee Joe Biden this November.
Exit polls reveal that 8% of registered Republicans and 16% of self-described conservatives voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, and 6% of Republicans and 17% of self-described conservatives voted for former President Barack Obama in 2012. But the data suggests more Republicans are voting across party lines in 2020 than in either of the two previous elections.
A Hill-HarrisX national survey conducted in mid-August indicates that this year, 11% of Republicans are bucking GOP protocol and throwing their hat in the ring with Joe Biden.
Those percentages are even higher among Generation Z voters born between 1996 and 2002.
Research from CIRCLE, a Tufts University-based initiative, found that, of voters in this age group who cast a ballot for Republican candidates in the 2018 midterms, 20% now plan to vote for Biden. For many of these young disaffected Republicans, their libertarian economic principles often come second to their concern for social issues such as LGBTQ rights and racial justice, among other things.
"Young Americans, including those who identify as Republicans or conservatives, are concerned about climate change, student debt, and the health of their loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic," said Brent Cohen, executive director of Generation Progress Action.
He added that young voters are also concerned about their own financial futures due to the recession in the wake of the pandemic.
"Young people are less likely to vote based on a particular candidate or party and more likely to vote based on the issues that are important to them," Cohen said. "If they are choosing to vote for a candidate of a different party, it's likely because they feel that candidate will better address the issues that matter to them."
Unrest in the GOP ranks more broadly is growing. Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania governor and first secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, wrote an op-ed Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer endorsing Joe Biden and condemning Trump.
"For me, voting is not just a privilege, but a responsibility. And this year, I believe the responsible vote is for Joe Biden," he wrote. "It's a vote for decency. A vote for the rule of law. And a vote for honest and earnest leadership. It's time to put country over party. It's time to dismiss Donald Trump."
A week earlier, the late-Sen. John McCain's widow Cindy McCain joined the ranks of former McCain staffers endorsing Biden.
"My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There's only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is @JoeBiden," McCain tweeted.
Biden tweeted in reply: "Cindy — I'm deeply honored to have your support and your friendship. This election is bigger than any one political party. It requires all of us to come together as one America to restore the soul of the nation. Together, we'll get it done."
Former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich and former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, as well as Trump's former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, have all announced their intent to vote for Biden.
"I'm sure there are Republicans and independents who couldn't imagine crossing over to support a Democrat,” Kasich told the New York Times in August. "They fear Joe may turn sharp left and leave them behind. I don't believe that. Because I know the measure of the man — reasonable, faithful, respectful. And you know, no one pushes Joe around."
Scaramucci has been a bit harsher in his criticism of Trump. "Orange spray paint to orange jump suit soon," Scaramucci tweeted about the White House occupant after Tuesday night's debate, during which Trump repeatedly interrupted and insulted Biden and his family.
The insurrection is real, and disaffected Republicans are taking a stand.
At least 70 former Republican national security officials have also endorsed Biden thus far, as well as six members of George W. Bush's Cabinet, seven former Republican governors, five former Republican senators, and two dozen former Republican congressmen.
While it's true a handful of Republican officials endorsed Clinton in 2016 and Obama in 2012, the defection was never to this scale — and the trend of "Never Trumper" Republicans seems poised to stay.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.