When Daphne Jenkins Goggins met Donald Trump in 2016 in North Philadelphia, she reportedly told him: “I don’t do handshakes. I do hugs.”
Then the North Philly ward leader reached out and hugged the then-presidential candidate. She told me that story several times over the years. Goggins loved herself some Trump and wasn’t shy about it. Goggins was a GOPer through and through. During the last presidential election, the single mother campaigned for Trump by going door-to-door and even traveled to the White House to participate in a BLEXIT Back the Blue event, featuring African American Republicans.
After President-elect Joe Biden’s win, I sent Goggins a photo of herself standing outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center holding a giant bullhorn. I could only imagine what she might have been saying. Goggins responded by sending back three laughing emojis.
She believed in Trump and his administration to a fault and I can’t help wondering if she wound up paying for it with her life last month after becoming ill with COVID-19 in November. I doubt she would have had access to the same experimental drugs that Trump and some of his associates got after contracting COVID.
Maybe Goggins and so many others would still be alive if Trump had done a better job of handling the pandemic and warning Americans to protect themselves from it, instead of likening it to the flu.
I first heard about Goggins in 2016 when I was writing a column about African Americans who planned to vote for Trump. Afterward, we stayed in touch through social media. We didn’t agree on much. She called me “sweetie” and once told me I had a “cranky” writing style. We were cordial — most of the time. Once, when I objected to her calling the media fake news on social media, she shot back: “If it doesn’t apply let it fly.”
When Goggins became the GOP mayoral candidate in 2019, I went to her house in North Philly. We sat in her dining room and chatted for hours about her personal struggles, her sons, and her love for the Republican Party. Although I left unconvinced that she was the right person for the job, I respected her for stepping up and trying.
After the GOP decided to back another candidate, she reached out to complain about how she had been treated. I felt sorry for her. She’d been so excited about making history as the first Black female to run on the Philly mayoral GOP ticket.
“Not bragging but I am the only Black Republican who is capable of helping them to reach out into the minority community,” she wrote me on Facebook Messenger back in 2019.
Goggins was a character. She loved a good conspiracy theory and would share them often. She had a sense of humor and a kind way about her. She also was sincere about providing for the kids in her neighborhood and helping underserved communities. I was sad when a reader informed me that she had died on Dec. 30. She was only 57. It’s a huge loss.
The more I thought about it, though, I started getting mad. Not just about her but about this whole mess that we’re in. So many people — more than 350,000 — have died from COVID-19 and the United States is averaging 2,000 to 3,000 more deaths each day. People are trapped in their homes, trying to avoid becoming infected. Businesses are shuttered, many to never reopen. The vaccine rollout is moving much too slowly. We’re far behind in getting people vaccinated. Meanwhile, intensive care units across the country are struggling to keep up.