COLUMBIA — A Republican former member of Congress from South Carolina and longtime critic of President Donald Trump endorsed Joe Biden for president Monday, arguing the Democratic nominee will help stabilize American politics and restore the country's institutions.
Bob Inglis, who represented the Upstate's 4th Congressional District for six terms before losing to Trey Gowdy in a 2010 GOP primary, told The Post and Courier he was encouraged to see Biden reaching out to disaffected Republicans who believe Trump's character contradicts the party's historic values.
"Joe Biden, because of his life experiences, is a fella who's empathetic and knows about bringing people together and could serve very well in this time when we really need to bring the country together," Inglis said. "We need to stop this nonsense and complete polarization."
While Inglis said he still considers himself a Republican, he said Trump had led the party astray from traditional conservatism, criticizing the president for running up the federal deficit, isolating from ally countries and not doing enough to "provide opportunity for everyone."
"This is dangerous, populist nationalism. It is not conservatism," Inglis said. "I want my party back, and Joe Biden is actually closer to that than Donald Trump."
Inglis, who has emerged as a climate change activist in recent years and was one of two South Carolina voters who sued the state GOP last year for cancelling their presidential primary, was among 27 Republican former members of Congress backing Biden.
While Inglis is not the only Republican former member of Congress from South Carolina to say he won't support Trump, he is the first to publicly back Biden.
Mark Sanford, who lost his GOP primary in 2018 and briefly challenged Trump for the Republican presidential nomination last year, told The Post and Courier last week he will not vote for Trump but has not decided if he'll back Biden, Libertarian nominee Jo Jorgensen or someone else.
"There's a lot of time between November and now to figure out what I'll do," Sanford said.
In a Fox News op-ed Monday, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham brushed off the concerns of anti-Trump Republicans, writing that "most Republicans will enthusiastically support President Trump because he has delivered on policies and priorities that matter to them and their loved ones."
Polls suggest the vast majority of Republican-identifying voters still support Trump.
"The fact is, they were outliers," Graham wrote of anti-Trump Republicans who spoke at last week's Democratic National Convention, including former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. "President Trump enjoys overwhelming support among the Republican faithful."
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said the president has deep support among "real Republican voters and is also making strong inroads in Biden’s core Democrat constituencies, like Black Americans, Latinos, and union members."
"Joe Biden has been a failure in the Washington Swamp for a half century, so no one should be surprised when Swamp creatures gather to protect one of their own," Murtaugh said.
Still, Inglis said he remains hopeful the GOP will return to some semblance of its pre-Trump identity if the president loses his reelection bid in November. He pushed back at anyone questioning his Republican credentials, noting he spent decades helping flip South Carolina from blue to red.
"What I say to anybody who calls me a RINO is maybe you're the Republican In Name Only," Inglis said.