OP-ED: Joe Biden: A sinner who can be reasoned with
When I ran for elected office my very first time, it was 1994, and it was a great year for Republicans: The Newt Gingrich revolution was occurring at the national level and conservative Delegate Ellen Sauerbrey had defeated moderate Rep. Helen Delich Bentley for the GOP gubernatorial nomination of Maryland.
Those were heady days for a 39-year old Republican like me. I was running for the Maryland State Senate. So there I was standing in the Walkersville Voluntary Fire Hall watching the returns come in Legislative District Four. Most of my constituents were from Frederick County, yet I lived in Carroll County, where only 25% of the electorate lived. The first two waves of returns showed me losing — the only GOP candidate losing that night, by the way. But, the third wave of announced returns included Carroll County, and it put me over the top for victory.
I'll never forget what a friend of mine whispered in my ear as the third wave of returns came in. He was a licensed minister visiting from Colorado and he leaned in and said, "Remember Tim, only two kinds of people are attracted to politics — sinners and Pharisees. Stay close to the sinners — because you can always reason with them."
He was right. In the next eight years of serving two terms in the Senate — I had more problems and dysfunction with my own Republican Party than I ever did with Democrats.
I was born and raised a blue-collar Irish Democrat in my youth, but I turned to the GOP over two issues: abortion and gun rights. A lot of people did the same in the early 1970s. But, after losing a GOP primary in 2002 for a third term, I thought deeply about the turn of events taking place in our nation and decided to reregister as a Democrat around 2006. It was not a knee-jerk reaction to my loss at the GOP polls. I saw the trends taking place in the GOP.
Changing your party affiliation is as sacred as changing your religion; it's very personal, and nobody should ever impugn the character of someone who does either. I still love rank-and-file Republican voters, but I saw firsthand what the leadership of the GOP was made of decades ago. I knew before my first term was up that I was not going to last very long in the GOP — that sooner or later I was going to vote on an issue in accordance with my constitutional oath and pay the price in a primary election. And I did just that.
I'm sure the same dynamic exists with the Democratic Party today, so, I'm not saying that only the GOP suffers from this dysfunction. I do believe that there are more moderate Democrats in elected office, however, than moderate Republicans.
Today at the age of 65, I am seeing the "chickens coming home to roost" in the GOP with the dysfunctional leadership of President Donald Trump and the way he has caused needless troubles at the national and international level, because Republican leadership doesn't know how to handle him — the way Barry Goldwater handled Richard Nixon in the Watergate era. The GOP leadership told President Nixon he did not have their support in Congress. The father of Maryland's current Republican governor, Rep. Larry Hogan Sr., was the first public GOP vote against President Nixon. It was a profile in courage, but necessary for our nation, for the Republicans to police their own.
I also believe the Democratic Party has learned from its dysfunctional handling of the Clinton era, and will never again enable such embarrassing behavior from a Democrat as an occupant of the White House. Both parties enable bad behavior.
Finally, I was one of those registered Democrats that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 because I simply couldn't stand the thought of the Clintons being back in the White House; it would have been more dysfunction. So, I took a chance on President Trump because I liked what he spoke — even if I didn't like the way he spoke it.
I said all of that to say this: I like Joe Biden because he knows he's a sinner — he can be reasonable.
— Tim Ferguson was a Maryland state senator representing Frederick and Carroll counties from January 1995 to January 2003.