When Senator Bernie Sanders dropped out of the 2020 United States Presidential Race on April 8, the fallout was palpable, especially among those who identify as independent. Many of Sanders’ supporters felt his chances at the presidency had been smeared and interfered with by liberal media and fellow former Democratic presidential candidates. Sanders had been pegged by many Democratic voters as too socialist, loud and abrasive, along with many other words. Sanders suspending his campaign additionally meant Joe Biden would be the Democratic candidate for the 2020 election—though not officially, as Sanders is still on the primary ballots, but is unlikely to secure votes.
In the wake of sexual assault allegations against Biden by former aide Tara Reade, many on the left rallied against Biden being the Democratic candidate. After Sanders’ suspension, online forums and social media exploded with political disagreement. With the 2020 election, we have begun to see more than two parties. We no longer have left and right, blue and red, Democrats and conservatives, but rather three parties, with progressives and socialists forming their own sphere.
When many people expressed distaste toward voting for Biden over Trump, choosing instead to withhold their vote or vote third party, they were met with a barrage of Democratic supporters repeating the same phrase: Vote blue no matter who. When voters in 2016 were surveyed on why they supported their specific candidate, Clinton or Trump, most responded with the same answer: “I don’t like either, but I’m voting for the lesser evil.”
There is something inherently problematic about voting for a candidate that doesn’t back policies you support, expresses behavior that you find inappropriate or undesirable and may not even support your existence solely because of the party they belong to. The concept of a bipartisan system is flawed. The spectrum of political opinions is far too diverse and wide-ranging to be isolated to two groups that essentially represent the same issues, goals and policies.
Bernie Sanders was a Democrat in name only. He didn’t represent the ideologies and policies of the Democratic party, but rather pushed an agenda that aligned with the Green Party’s socialist and lower-class-first initiative. If he didn’t belong in the Democratic race, then why was he there? Because people won’t vote for the third party. Progressives and independents are told a vote for the third party is a vote for Trump, or any other Republican or majority candidate.
Voting has become a toxic act where people are told, “if you don’t vote for our candidate, you don’t belong to our party.” Why should people have to vote for someone they don’t believe in and don’t support? Why should they have to vote for anyone? Is voting worth trading your moral or ethical stance for? There’s a reason why more and more people have shifted over to being registered as an independent voter in the wake of the last several elections. A wave of disappointment washed over democratic voters after Al Gore won the candidacy in 2000, and again in 2016 with Clinton, and it’s happening again with Biden this year.
There’s multiple benefits to being registered as an independent. First off, you don’t have to be pressured by one party or another to vote a specific way. You can feel free to vote for a third-party candidate without the guilt of betraying your party. You can feel free to have your own political opinions and views that aren’t dictated and determined by a conglomerate of politicians. You don’t have to receive junk mail. When the holidays roll around and your relatives ask who you voted for, you can smugly say “I voted green,” or something along those lines, and watch their jaws hit the floor.
The concept that not voting is a vote for the other candidate is largely untrue. Statistically, it doesn’t even make sense. Politics is more than just beating the other candidate. It’s about making change. People looked up to Sanders because he advocated change. You shouldn’t be goaded into voting for someone who you don’t believe supports your politics. Politics are not black and white—elections shouldn’t just be about blue versus red, left versus right, Democrats versus Republicans—but about how much we as people are willing to put forward change in this country. While it’s true change happens slowly, we can make that change by being willing to stand up for the working lower class.
You can vote for whoever you want to. Nobody’s stopping you. But you can also vote for nobody, because, again, nobody’s stopping you. Politics is about choice, change and personal opinion. It shouldn’t be about party allegiance. You might find your opinions were a lot different than you thought, or that maybe, you just don’t care as much as you felt you needed to.