Former RNC Chair Says Trump Seeks the 'Favor of Thugs' Instead of Standing Up to World's Dictators, Endorses Biden

In endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden for president, Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), criticized President Donald Trump for his "outdated" economic policies and approach toward the "world's dictators."

Steele, an adviser to the Lincoln Project, a Republican PAC dedicated to defeating Trump, formally endorsed Biden on Tuesday. Trump is facing a tough re-election bid as he trails Biden in the polls just weeks before Election Day, and Steele's endorsement is just the latest from a Republican breaking with Trump to support his challenger.

Ahead of the election, America is struggling with a health crisis and its economic fallout, as well as civil unrest over police brutality. But instead of "binding up the nation's wounds," Steele wrote in an NBC News op-ed, Trump "exacerbates division."

"Rather than standing up to the world's dictators, Trump cravenly seeks the favor of thugs," the former RNC chairman wrote. "Rather than fostering free enterprise, Trump embraces economic principles not only outdated in Lincoln's time, but made even worse today by a leader who lost close to a billion dollars in a single year running a casino."

donald trump michael steele rnc biden election
President Donald Trump returns to the White House Monday after multiple campaign stops over the weekend. On Tuesday, Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, formally endorsed Joe Biden. Samuel Corum/Getty

Steele, who ran the RNC from 2009 to 2011, acknowledged that some of Trump's grievances are "legitimate." He agreed with the president that "coastal elites" look at Middle America with a "mixture of condescension and contempt," that there are educational disparities in rural and low-income communities, and that economic mobility is "impeded by a wide range of factors, especially race." These should be addressed, Steele said, but he urged that it should be done "responsibly, not demagogically."

Newsweek reached out to the Trump campaign for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

A self-described "American, conservative and Republican, in that order," Steele wrote that conservative principles like individual initiative and free enterprise are still the "most effective means of empowering people to achieve the American Dream." At "its best," Steele said, the Republican Party has championed freedom both within America's borders and abroad, winning the Cold War "and toppling murderous regimes that denied basic freedoms to their oppressed people."

Trump, however, hasn't been building on the "legacy of the Republican Party's founders," instead using the party as a "celebration of him," Steele said.

Steele is the second former chairman of the RNC to endorse Biden. In September, former Montana Governor Marc Racicot told Yellowstone Public Radio he would be voting for Biden because he had "even more grave doubts than I did in 2016." He added that he wouldn't "march lockstep with him" or the administration but said the content of Biden's character was more important "than any other issue that I have to consider as a matter of conscience."

Steele echoed Racicot's sentiments in his own endorsement of Biden. He said that he disagrees with the Democratic nominee on policy but noted that the 2020 election isn't about issues or policies.

"Rather, it is about the course of a nation and the character of her people reflected in the leader they choose," Steele said. "I cannot be silent, and I hope neither can you, because we know a vote for Joe Biden is what is best for our country—because America matters."