Democrats and Republicans both feel disillusioned with party’s choice for president

Voters plan to defy party affiliations in favor of voting their conscience.

After Vermont senator Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race on April 8, former Vice President Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee to face President Trump in November.

On the day the Sanders dropped out, the hashtag #NeverBidenNeverTrump trended on Twitter.

Despite the mantra “blue no matter who,” many who supported Sanders are refusing to vote for Biden.

“I think a lot of people don’t trust Biden as much as they’d like to,” Burbank resident Aaron Tozier said. “Biden represents the status quo candidate.”

Tozier supported Sanders both in 2016 and this year. He said in a phone interview the senator represents what the Democratic Party should focus on: single-payer healthcare and more accessible education. Tozier said despite not wanting to see Trump re-elected, he is unsure if he is voting for Biden.

“A lot of people recognize that Donald Trump is someone who we don’t want to re-elect for president, however, is Biden who we want?” he said.

David Stone graduated from USC in computer engineering and computer science in 2019. The main reason he supported Sanders was because of his climate plan. He initially supported Andrew Yang, but once Sunrise Movement, the grassroots climate change organization he is a part of, endorsed Sanders, he followed suit. But even after Sanders dropped out of the race, Biden did not have his vote.

One of the reasons Stone doesn’t want to back Biden is because of his voting record in the U.S. Senate.

“He has [many] years of doing all the things I oppose,” he said. “Even if he tries to be progressive now, I don’t believe it.”

In May 2019, Biden claimed during debates that he had been a staunch liberal while serving in the Senate. While Biden was more liberal than three-quarters of the Senate overall, he stood at almost the centerline of the Democratic party when considering his voting record against other Democratic senators at the time, according to PolitiFact.

Recent allegations of sexual assault made by Biden’s former staffer, Tara Reade, also make Stone hesitant to support him in the upcoming election.

“I’m really furious at the mainstream media for not giving it the coverage it deserves,” he said.

In a radio interview with Katie Halper on March 25, Reade claimed Biden assaulted her when she was a staff assistant in his Senate office in 1993. She claimed the then-senator had in 1993 made an unwanted advance in a building on Capitol Hill and penetrated her with his fingers.

While The Intercept covered the story late March, Stone said he thought more prominent publications should have been running the story as well. Stone said this statement before the New York Times published its story examining Reade’s allegation.

Biden has denied Reade’s claims.

Last summer, eight women came forward to complain that Biden had inappropriately touched them. They said the acts, which included shoulder rubs and invasion of personal space, made them uncomfortable, but did not amount to sexual assault. Reade was one of those women but did not accuse Biden of assault at the time.

It’s not yet clear if Reade coming forward will influence the outcome of the November election, but several people interviewed for this story brought up the claim when discussing their feelings about Biden.

Stone said he plans on voting for a third-party candidate in November. He said there is probably nothing Biden could do to win his vote, but choosing a progressive vice presidential running mate might help.

For Samantha Gilchirst, a law student at Arizona State University, Biden committing to choosing a woman as his running mate is a “prop,” and does not entice her to vote for him.

She initially supported Sanders not only for his policies, but his morals.

“Sanders is not willing to sacrifice his morals just to get money,” she said, in response to his refusal to accept corporate contributions toward his campaign.

Gilchrist will not support Biden because she views him as “literally a Republican” because of his previous policy decisions.

She cited Biden’s opposition to gay marriage until 2012, the 1994 crime bill he helped to write with support from the GOP and his support of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions in most cases, until last year as factors that make her consider him the same as a Republican.

She also takes the allegation of sexual assault against the former vice president seriously, and thinks Democrats are hypocritically turning a blind-eye to it. She doesn’t believe voters should support Biden in light of the allegation simply because he is not Trump.

Gilchrist said the Sanders endorsement of Biden does not affect her vote.

Gilchirst said she is voting for Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins. She said the argument that not voting for Biden is a vote for Trump is “a false dichotomy” and a “guilt-tripping mechanism.”

Alan Jeffs, who lives outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, also believes not voting for Biden is far from voting for Trump.

“I don’t believe it’s a binary choice,” he said. “The only way I believe someone votes for Trump is if they go into the voting booth and pull the lever for him.”

Jeffs, who considers himself “far-left”, plans on voting for the Green Party or another third party in November.

He supports Medicare-for-all, free college, universal basic income and housing as a human right. He, like Stone, sees almost no way for Biden to gain his support and would rather have Biden drop out and give his delegates to someone even farther left than Sanders.

“I’m not going to suck it up anymore,” Jeffs said. “I’m fed up with the Democrats forcing centrist candidates upon us.”

A Washington Post investigation, published three months after this article, raised questions about Jeffs’ true identity and home address.

While some Sanders supporters feel disenfranchised by the Democratic Party, some Republicans feel the same way about where Trump has taken the GOP.

“I feel distanced and left behind by what this Republican Party is,” said Kipp Brown, a biologist from Chillicothe, Ohio.

Although a Republican, Brown said he voted for President Obama’s re-election in 2012 and plans on voting for Biden. He said the way Obama and Biden led drew him to support the former vice president.

“Biden was what a vice president should be,” he said.

Brown considers himself a middle-of-the-aisle voter, looking at the success and failures of both parties. He said that while he supports some of Trump’s policies, Brown does not support all of them and values conscience over party.

Brown said he supports the president’s actions on gun rights and the military, but “it is not enough.” He has a laundry list of disagreements with things the president has done, such as Trump’s gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency, his attacks on the press and claiming “total” authority during the coronavirus outbreak.

“I can’t ignore the things I think he’s done that I think have done a grave disservice to this country,” he said.

Diane Eldredge, a personal trainer in Rancho Cucamonga, California, said she was so “disgusted” with Trump’s character in 2016 that she voted for someone other than a Republican for the first time in over 40 years: Independent candidate Evan McMullin. She wrote McMullin in since he wasn’t on the ballot in California.

Eldredge said the president has ruined the nation’s character by lying. She believes Trump has lied about revealing his tax returns and his dealings with Russia and Ukraine.

She classifies herself as a “Reagan Republican” and said that Reagan’s presidency was the height of the nation and the reason she’s been a member of the party for so long.

“Our country went through the most beautiful and optimistic time when Reagan was president,” she said.

Eldredge supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in 2016. This primary season, she decided to support a Democrat: Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Despite Klobuchar dropping out before California’s primary, Eldrigde switched her party registration from Republican to Democrat to vote for Biden. She plans on voting for Biden in November, as well.

For her to change her registration back to the GOP, Eldredge said the party would have to rebuild itself. It might take a loss in November for that to happen, she predicted.

“I hope that the Republican Party takes a beating because they need a wake up call,” Eldredge said. “If [they] have to lose badly in November to right this ship, then that’s what I’m hoping.”

Pranav Thummalapalli, a sophomore computer science student at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, is also voting for Biden, despite the fact that he is ideologically a Republican and does not agree with the presumptive Democratic nominee on policy. Thummalapalli said he supports free trade, low taxes and a strong diplomatic presence around the globe, but thinks Trump has ruined the party.

“I used to think that the Republian Party was something else until [Trump] won,” Thummalapalli said. “The party is unrecognizable now.”

For example, he thinks Trump’s “America First” policy-making led to the U.S withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, tariffs on aluminum and steel and a trade war with China. Thummalapalli said he wants the Republican Party to re-embrace free trade, one of the economic positions of the party that drew him to the GOP.

Thummalapalli does not want to vote for a third-party candidate because Biden is a more realistic option. He thinks voting for him might save the Republican Party.

“I don’t support Biden or any of his policies, but I think the way to get the GOP back is to say ‘We can't let Trump win another general [election],’” Thummalapalli said.

Recent polls have Biden leading Trump by eight percentage points, and Trump’s approval rating currently sits at 43%.

Despite the unpopularity of the current president, incumbent presidents have recently had the advantage when seeking re-election. All except three presidents have won re-election in the past 100 years.

Story updated July 7, 2020: This story has been updated to reflect that there have been questions raised about the identity of Alan Jeffs, a source quoted for this piece.