For many, 2017 was another tumultuous year in US politics, defined once more by the hyper-partisan divide on Capitol Hill and rhetoric in the media.
As a result of the continued toxic political environment, millions of Americans are not only dissatisfied with the two-party duopoly, but want more choices in elections and are looking to political leaders who are willing to put voters and country before their party, and challenge partisan group think when it doesn't align with their principles.
IVN has built a strong community of independent-minded authors and readers from across the political spectrum, most of whom want change from the status quo. So looking back at the year, we asked who they thought were the most independent politicians of 2017.
The responses poured in. Over 1,000 comments were left, and they showcase the political diversity of the IVN community.
Read some for yourself:
Read more responses and join the conversation here.
At IVN, we believe that being independent is not about ideology; it is a mindset. We should be careful not to put a box around what being independent means. It doesn't necessarily require an (I) next to your name. It does not require one to be centrist or moderate. That is the tribal trap that partisans fall into -- believe as we do or you are not independent.
Being independent is simply about thinking for yourself. It is an ability to see merit in opposing views, and an openness to accept new information and facts when presented with them.
For members of a political party or those who run under the benefits that come with a political party, this can mean a willingness to challenge the party line, break from party loyalty, and put the voters who elected them first.
Looking to 2018 and Beyond
All that being said, 2018 does offer an opportunity for voters who are looking for candidates outside the party structure. More independents (I) and third party candidates are running in 2018 than at any point in modern US history.
In Kansas, independent Greg Orman is running to be the state's next governor. Orman ran and almost beat veteran incumbent US Senator Pat Roberts in 2014. Now, he will use his experience and increased name recognition to challenge the two-party duopoly for Kansas' top seat.
Independent Maine State Treasurer Terry Hayes is running a clean elections campaign to fill the open governor's seat now that Gov. Paul LePage will be term limited out. Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Bob Krist left the Republican Party to run as an independent with the goal of re-establishing a focus on nonpartisan politics.
Be sure to check out Free Wheel Media's recent in-depth interview with Krist here.
Meanwhile, independent Richard Dedor is running for State House in Iowa, while entrepreneur and horse trainer Jarratt Applewhite is running an independent campaign to fix political redistricting and the election system in New Mexico.
Sitting independent Alaska Governor Bill Walker is also up for re-election, and has picked up the endorsement of the Centrist Project, which is helping independents like Walker, Hayes, and others nationwide build the campaign infrastructure they need to challenge the duopoly.
And other organizations, like Maine Independents and Washington Independents, have also emerged to help give independent candidates everything they need to be competitive.
Independent politicians will choose their own path to make a difference. Some will go outside the two-party structure to give voters an alternative choice, while others will try to make a difference from within since the current electoral structure has been molded by the Republican and Democratic Parties to block out competition.
Either way, millions of voters want to get behind a candidate who promises change from the status quo and shows a true willingness to lead the charge against the two-party duopoly. These are just a handful of candidates who are offering voters something new and different in 2018 and beyond.