Independents Can Unite America

Independents Can Unite America
AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File
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If you’re like us, you watch the evening news nearly every night and shake your head, wondering, “What is happening to our country?” 

Government shutdowns, constant finger-pointing and blame games, and endless scandals. On top of that, we now have politicians who ran on promises of fiscal responsibility passing budgets that make trillion-dollar deficits the new normal. Unfortunately, the dysfunction and divisiveness of Washington, D.C., has also found its way back to state capitals, where partisanship often prevents pragmatic problem-solving.  

Voter frustration continues to grow. Today, more Americans name dissatisfaction with government as the most important problem facing the country (25 percent) than any other issue we confront, according to Gallup. At the same time, a record 44 percent of voters now self-identify as independent, more than call themselves Democrat or Republican, and a majority (61 percent) desire an alternative to both political parties. 

That’s about as clear an indication as any that the two-party political system that has dominated American politics for at least 150 years is failing us and needs reform. We believe truly independent leaders can bridge the partisan divide and improve governance, and that’s why we are both running for governor in our states –– unaffiliated with any political party and refusing contributions from any special interest groups.  

If you’re like us, you want elected officials to stop campaigning on election night and transition to governing; quit the bickering and instead focus on their real work of helping to give every American the opportunity to realize his or her full potential –– such as by supporting the creation of good jobs, improving our education system, and ensuring health care is affordable.  

The challenge with our two-party system is that it has created a dynamic where the primary objective of politicians is not working together to solve important problems, but beating the opposition and winning the next news cycle. The two parties have so demonized each other and divided the country with harsh rhetoric that working collaboratively is virtually impossible. 

Voters want change, but continuing to elect Democrats and Republicans to office year after year and expecting things to be different won’t do it. The parties need new competition -- as when independent Bill Walker (pictured) was elected governor of Alaska in 2014. A new movement we are helping to lead –– Unite America –– is offering that competition by recruiting and supporting common-sense, independent candidates across the country. For the first time, Unite America is helping to level the playing field with both political parties by providing independents with the volunteers, resources, and expertise they need to compete.

This is a watershed moment for the independent movement and a chance, finally, to change the way our political system works. But many may wonder: What does it mean to be an independent?  

Leaders of the Unite America movement came together over the past few months to outline our shared principles, what we call our “Declaration of Independents”:  

First, we put the public interest ahead of any partisan or special interest. Government should represent “We the people” – not the party leaders or those who can buy access to power.  

Second, we use common sense and find common ground to solve problems. We reject today’s zero-sum politics and instead work together with Democrats and Republicans in an inclusive and civil manner to get things done. 

Third, we stand for the timeless values of opportunity, equality and stewardship. We want to empower every American to realize their full potential, uphold equal rights for all under the law, and ultimately leave a stronger country for the next generation.  

Fourth, we champion integrity, transparency and accountability in politics. We seek to rebuild America's trust in government by holding ourselves to the highest standards of honor and honesty and by fixing the broken incentives that contribute to political dysfunction.  

Fifth, we believe in shared responsibility of civic engagement. As Americans, we understand it is our civic duty to be informed and engaged on important issues.  

Our principles are optimistic and hopeful, as we remain about the future of our politics. But these principles will ring hollow without leaders in office who not only articulate them but also govern by and remain accountable to them.  

That is why we invite all those who desire fundamental change in politics today –– Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike –– to join our movement to unite America and elect leaders who don’t just say they’re different, but who actually are different.  

Terry Hayes is the first independent state treasurer of Maine and is running as an independent candidate for governor.

Greg Orman is a Kansas entrepreneur, author of “A Declaration of Independents” and is running as an independent candidate for governor of his state.  

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