In more than 55 years of covering presidential elections and other political activity, which included seven as a political operative for the GOP, I have never seen so many members of one party publicly renounce their incumbent president and declare they will vote for the candidate of the opposing party.
Olivia Troye, former special advisor for homeland security, coronavirus and counter terrorism for vice president Mike Pence, announced today is voting for Democrat Joe Biden because of president Donald Trump’s “flat out disregard for humane life” during the pandemic that has now killed more than 200,000 American residents.
“The president’s rhetoric and his own attacks against people in his administration trying to do the work, as well as the promulgation of false narratives and incorrect information of the virus have made this ongoing response a failure,” Troye told The Washington Post in an interview.
She joins a growing list of former Trump officials, including national security advisor John Bolton and former secretary of defense Jim Mattis, who declared Trump “unfit to be president.”
That list is part of an expanding group of Republicans who are working to defeat Trump in the election on Nov. 3, including The Lincoln Project, founded by GOP strategist Steven Schmidt and prominent Washington lawyer George Conway, husband of now former Trump campaign manager and administration advisor KellyAnne Conway, who have both left their jobs to work with family and reconcile their marriages.
Josh Venable, former chief of staff to Trump’s education secretary, Betsy Devos, is now server as an advisor to the Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform (REPAIR), founded by former Homeland Security official Miles Taylor and other former administration appointees.
“We are interested in promoting ideas. We are committed to founding principles. And we are eager to outline a more hopeful vision of America’s future,” Taylor says in a statement.
At the Democratic presidential nominating convention this year, it seemed like more Republicans spoke than Democrats. Why? Because they have put America above party and decided that Trump is a danger to the nation, to democracy and mankind.
“Weak leaders, nationwide discord and a confluence of crises are threatening our country’s greatness,” said Sarah Longwell, the executive director of Defending Democracy Together, a separate group that is backing the efforts by REPAIR. “Now is the time to speak up. REPAIR will promote authoritative voices and shape the debate about America’s direction.”
Former Homeland Security Official Taylor says Trump “has governed by whim, calculation and self-interests.”
The president has tried to turn DHS, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, into a tool used for his political benefit. He insisted on a near-total focus on issues that he said were central to his reelection — in particular building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. Though he was often talked out of bad ideas at the last moment, the president would make obviously partisan requests of DHS, including when he told us to close the California-Mexico border during a March 28, 2019, Oval Office meeting — it would be better for him politically, he said, than closing long stretches of the Texas or Arizona border — or to “dump” illegal immigrants in Democratic-leaning sanctuary cities and states to overload their authorities, as he insisted on several times.
Trump’s indiscipline was also a constant source of frustration. One day in February 2019, when congressional leaders were waiting for an answer from the White House on a pending deal to avoid a second government shutdown, the president demanded a DHS phone briefing to discuss the color of the wall. He was particularly interested in the merits of using spray paint and how the steel structure should be coated. Episodes like this occurred almost weekly.
Top DHS officials were regularly diverted from dealing with genuine security threats by the chore of responding to these inappropriate and often absurd executive requests, at all hours of the day and night. One morning it might be a demand to shut off congressionally appropriated funds to a foreign ally that had angered him, and that evening it might be a request to sharpen the spikes atop the border wall so they’d be more damaging to human flesh (“How much would that cost us?”). Meanwhile, Trump showed vanishingly little interest in subjects of vital national security interest, including cybersecurity, domestic terrorism and malicious foreign interference in U.S. affairs.
“It is more than a little ironic that Trump is campaigning for a second term as a law-and-order president,” Taylor says. “His first term has been dangerously chaotic. Four more years of this are unthinkable.”