Why this South Carolina voter isn't casting his ballot for Joe Biden or Donald Trump

Chris Riotta

Polarized is a weekly series featuring Americans from all 50 states sharing their views on the 2020 elections. Click here if you would like to be a part of this project

Gavin Kidder is fed up.

The 24-year-old South Carolina voter says in a recent interview with The Independent that he stopped considering himself a Democrat after the 2016 election — and has been frustrated with the party ever since.

“I didn’t really feel good about the choices I had” in the 2016 general election, Kidder explains. “Both of the platforms seemed to be getting money from the same place, and arguing semantics over who controls the status quo.”

Kidder has been “slowly losing respect for the Democratic Party” since Donald Trump’s election, and says he’s “losing the feeling that they’re representing my best interests”.

And yet, he still went on to “reluctantly” vote for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“I wasn’t excited for it, but I did it to keep [Trump] from getting into office,” he adds.

Kidder, who works in the hotel industry in downtown Charleston and has been furloughed amid the coronavirus pandemic, said recent events like Covid-19 and nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd made it all the more obvious how America is sorely lacking in its healthcare and criminal justice systems.

(Photo courtesy Gavin Kidder)

“I firmly believe in universal healthcare, and I want to see more criminal justice reform — especially with the protests,” he says, adding: “I’m definitely not a fan of the way the police operates right now.”

But Kidder also says he’s supportive of “policies that appeal to both independents and progressives,” like a wealth tax.

“I just don’t believe there should be billionaires in our country,” he says.

He’s not wrong, according to data: a recent Reuters poll showed the majority of Americans favor a wealth tax on the nation’s super-rich.

While Kidder was excited to vote for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primaries, he said he was “a little bit less so” in 2020, citing the senator’s frequent caucusing with the party despite considering himself an independent.

“He sort of plays ball with the Democrats more than I would like,” Kidder says.

Now that Sanders has dropped out of the race and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination, Kidder says he is left with no choice.

The former vice president is “not at all” aligned with his values, Kidder says, adding that Biden’s record on issues like the 1994 Crime Bill make him “uncomfortable.”

“I consider him to be part of the establishment, a part of that top 1 percent,” Kidder says. “I feel like if he was elected, he’d put in a couple of measures to make it seem like he was trying to implement change in our country, but not go all the way to ensure positive change was actually happening.”

On top of that, Kidder says he believes the sexual assault accusations leveled against Biden by a former staffer, Tara Reade, who worked for the former vice president when he served in the Senate.

Click here to read more of The Independent’s series, Polarized: Voices From Across America

There’s certainly no way Kidder is voting for Trump, either.

“The last four years have been a battle to maintain the freedoms” many people his age have become accustomed to, Kidder says.

Still, in his words, Kidder is “beyond being influenced to vote for Joe Biden at this point.”

So, what’s he going to do?

“I’m fed up with the two-party system. I’m fed up with the status quo,” he says. “Even though my vote may be seen as a throwaway for some people, I still stick to the belief that, as an American, it’s my right to vote, and I should cast it for what I believe in. I don’t believe in either of these two parties, I don’t believe they have our best interests in mind, and I would much rather cast a protest vote to get some attention to some independent candidates, or to get some attention from the Democratic Party.”

Kidder says that — regardless of his vote — he thinks Trump is going to win a second term in office.

“As it is, the Democratic Party hasn’t learned anything in four years,” he continues. “They tried with Hillary, and now they’re trying with Biden. But he’s a weak candidate, and I don’t think he has what it takes to win.”

The issue with this mentality, Kidder notes, is that an independent candidate has not been able to upend the two-party system in modern American politics — and there don't seem to be any rebrand politicians stepping forward to take on both the presumptive Republican and Democratic nominees.

I ask Kidder, then, what his worst and best-case scenario would be on Election Day.

“Worst-case scenario is Trump wins re-election, and the Democratic Party learns nothing,” he says, without a moment of hesitancy. “The best-case scenario is that Biden wins, and I’m wrong about him.”

Kidder then pauses, before adding: “In my dream-case scenario, an independent comes along that I and the rest of the country believe in, and we end the two-party system, adding new thoughts to our political discussion. I see that as very far away, so my fallback is that Biden turns out not to be who I think he is, and actually does some good for this country.”