Last Sunday I found myself in Denver, traveling by Uber with a scientist I had attended a weekend conference with. My new scientist friend conducted an experiment with our Uber drivers as we traveled to various Denver destinations talking about how much we were enjoying Denver and gathering info about our next destination.
“We are here talking with people who are worried about politics and government in our country, she started. Can I ask you two questions? Are you registered to vote? And are you affiliated with a party?” They were all registered to vote. And all independents.
My scientist friend was Dr. Ann Diamond, a family practitioner and independent candidate for the Washington State House of Representatives who had just won a top two primary in her district. If elected in November, she will be the first independent to serve in the Washington House. The conference we met at was the Unite Summit – a gathering of independent elected officials, former Democratic and Republican officials, candidates, strategists, and supporters from across the country meeting to continue building momentum for a better way forward in governing our states and our country.
The Summit was hosted by Unite America, a national grassroots movement of citizens who think both parties are failing and that our country can do better. I was honored to sit on a panel with elected independent state legislators from Maine, Alaska and Colorado and talk about the difference a small group of elected independents, working with moderate members of both parties, can make in state legislative bodies. The seven elected independents in the Vermont House work with our moderate colleagues on both sides of the isle to pull together bipartisan coalitions. In Maine and Alaska, these bipartisan coalitions have come together to overcome serious budgetary and elections stalemates in order to enact commonsense bipartisan reforms.
In Vermont, Maine and Alaska voters are getting used to electing independents. But that is not the case in the rest of the country and certainly not the case with any of our federally elected officials. Unite America is providing a simple yet productive way to help bring function back to our politics — by helping elect independents to office. If you are an independent, like my Denver Uber drivers and 40% of our fellow Americans, and are looking for a productive way to engage in politics, keep an eye on Unite America as they work to connect independents across our country.
My time in elected office has been spent dedicated to elevating the voice of our district and our district’s issues to Vermont’s policymakers. While that will continue to be my focus, I was grateful for this brief opportunity to share my experience serving as an independent and to be able to encourage others to run to serve the people instead of parties. It left me feeling very hopeful for our country.