Why this Minnesota voter feels the same way he did when Hillary beat Bernie in 2016

‘I don’t really think we even have a healthcare system. All it takes is one accident or sickness and people are out on the street’

In a divided time, The Independent is highlighting unique voters every week from all 50 states - featuring a nation of different voices.
In a divided time, The Independent is highlighting unique voters every week from all 50 states - featuring a nation of different voices.

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

Like countless other couples across the country, Bryce LeBrun and his fiancée were forced to cancel their upcoming wedding.

“We were going to get married in September,” he tells The Independent in a recent interview. “We’re probably just going to get an officiant and go to a courthouse for now.”

LeBrun, a 25-year-old voter, works for the local engineering department in Hastings, Minnesota, a city just south of Minneapolis. His soon-to-be wife works as a nurse for a major hospital in Minneapolis, “where there are a lot of Covid patients,” he notes.

“She could catch it in August, and we’d be screwed and not able to have any family members come to the wedding,” he says. “It wasn’t worth trying to commit to that.”

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the United States and forces society to virtually shutdown for the foreseeable future, Minnesota’s governor Tim Walz is relaxing some restrictions while keeping his stay-at-home orders in place. His office has said the governor is taking “cautious, strategic steps towards getting people safely back to work”.

(Photo courtesy Bryce LeBrun

And yet many other states have already begun far broader reopening strategies of their own – potentially causing a spike in new Covid-19 cases over the weeks and months to come, health officials have warned.

LeBrun believes the outbreak has revealed that the US lacks a functional healthcare system, and will “hopefully” encourage more people to support demands for universal coverage in the November election.

“I don’t really think we even have a healthcare system,” he says. “All it takes is one accident or sickness, and people are out on the street.”

Meanwhile, LeBrun’s fiancé – who is working on the front lines of the pandemic – is nearly six figures in student debt. LeBrun notes that, while both of his parents worked and saved for him to go to college, he still worked two jobs during the summers while studying engineering and yet managed to graduate “tens of thousands” of dollars in debt.

“It’s almost becoming – or already is – a class issue,” he says about accessing things like healthcare and an education in the US. “You look at it and if you’re not already privileged or one of the lucky few who receives a scholarship, that’s basically it. Over these next five to ten years, students will not be able to get an education, or they will but be tied down for decades with student debt.”

LeBrun doesn’t consider himself a Democrat, though he largely votes for the party’s candidates. He also votes in-line with the local Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, which is associated with the national Democratic Party.

If there was a label to best describe LeBrun, it may be progressive – “or a socialist,” he says, “though there isn’t much of a home for that.”

He supported Vermont senator Bernie Sanders’s bid for the Democratic nomination before the senator suspended his campaign and endorsed former vice president Joe Biden, the now-presumptive Democratic nominee. LeBrun was inspired by Sanders’s support for universal coverage, saying the issue of healthcare was a top priority for he and his fiancé as she works in the field.

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

“Our thing was Medicare-for-All, big time,” he says. “The employer-tied healthcare is not great for obvious reasons.”

LeBrun says he wishes the US implemented “actual support for people” amid the pandemic: “A guarantee they’d get care if they tested positive so they would stay out of society for however long it took for them to get better. Testing, contact tracing, the whole nine yards.”

“But all we got was a precursory check,” he adds, referring to the relief payments taxpayers earning up to $75,000 (£60,500) received as part of the sweeping $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) act.

When I ask LeBrun about Biden, he lets out a big sigh.

“I struggle to find any real support for the guy other than opposing Trump, which is a bit concerning to me,” he says. “A lot of people know his name and associate him with [Barack] Obama, which is fine. But I just kind of feel the same way I did when Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders in 2016.”

Though he ultimately cast a ballot for Clinton in 2016, he says he’s since grown “tired” of having to vote for candidates the Democratic Party considers “electable – whatever the heck that means.”

“I’m not quite as far as some people who are ‘never Biden’,” he says. “At this point it is what it is, Biden vs Trump. I’m just trying to focus locally for my sanity.”

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