DENVER, COLO. - Unite America, a national organization providing support for independent candidates running for elected office in various states, hosted the first-ever Unite Summit in Denver, Colorado, this past weekend.
Attendees came from across the country to hear about the future of the independent movement, as it has come to be called, and what could be done to successfully effect change in American politics.
Panels were held and speeches given on running competitive independent campaigns, being successful independent policymakers, advancing political and electoral reform, and more.
Speakers included Unite America co-founder and author, Charles Wheelan, former members of Congress Brian Baird and David Skaggs, independent Kansas gubernatorial candidate and entrepreneur Greg Orman, independent US Senate candidates Craig O'Dear (Missouri) and Neal Simon (Maryland), independent policymakers from Alaska, Colorado,Maine, and more!
There were also representatives and leaders from major reform organizations like Jackie Salit, president of Independent Voting, Dan Krassner, political director of Represent.us, Dr. Jessie Fields, national spokesperson for Open Primaries, Committee for Ranked Choice Voting campaign manager Kyle Bailey, and Chad Peace, founding board member of the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers and attorney for the Independent Voter Project.
The Unite Summit is just the latest development in a political shift that many political scientists predicted, but few of them could see would happen outside the political parties. And since 2016, we have seen this movement explode as efforts expand to change the political status quo.
"A movement is a group of people and leaders who join together to create lasting change," said Joel Searby, political strategist for Unite America and political consultant.
He later added, “The people are ALWAYS the movement.”
It's important to consider the role the 2016 presidential election had on the unprecedented growth in independent activism. Many voters experienced first-hand in that election a system that the two parties created to block out competition and disenfranchise voters outside the major parties.
Voters saw the myriad of ways the system is rigged for the Republican and Democratic Parties:
- Party superdelegates that voted against the will of voters;
- Party bosses that hand-picked their nominee before a single vote was cast;
- Partisan primary systems that shut out millions of voters or made voting a nightmare for voters outside the major parties;
- Ballot access and campaign finance laws that discriminated against independent and third party candidates;
- Outside candidates excluded from presidential debates despite having ballot access in all 50 states;
- A system that left voters with two extremely unpopular candidates from two increasingly unpopular parties;
- Partisan-driven media narratives intentionally designed to fan the flames of division;
- And more.
It is a system that Unite America Co-Founder Charles Wheelan says is THE opponent of the independent movement. And it was a wake up call to the millions feeling frustrated, marginalized, disenchanted, and forgotten.
In 2018 alone:
- Reformers and grassroots organizers have formed bigger, stronger coalitions;
- National and statewide slates of independent candidates, united by shared principles, were organized;
- We have seen a historic number of candidates outside the major parties run;
- Historic change to voting laws in Maine and other states were enacted;
- A grassroots campaign grew from a single Facebook post into an anti-gerrymandering initiative backed by hundreds of thousands of voters;
- Two large gatherings of nonpartisan activists and concerned citizens were held in New Orleans (Unrig the System) and Denver (Unite Summit).
And that just scratches the surface of everything that is happening right now or in the works.
At the core of all of this are people committed to effecting change. People with a passion and drive to challenge the two-party duopoly, and are willing to invest the time, energy, money, and resources needed to overcome the enormous barriers and hurdles this movement continues to face.
It is clear that these people come from different backgrounds, they have different ideological and philosophical ideals, some are trying to elect independent candidates, and some are trying to give voters a better election system.
Yet they joined together in Denver with the shared goal of making our republic and the democratic process better -- better for voters and better for Americans at large. And when you talk to these people, it is clear that this is just the beginning.
Stay tuned for more extensive and exclusive coverage from the Unite Summit!
Check Out Our Exclusive Interviews from the Summit:
Dr. Ann Diamond, Independent for Washington State House
Steve Peterson, Independent for Colorado State Senate
Paul Jones, Independent for Colorado State House
Maile Foster, Independent for Colorado State House
Thea Chase, Independent for Colorado State House
Jay Gayer, Independent for Colorado State House
Listen to IVN podcasts recorded at the Summit:
IVN Business of Politics Editor Lindsay France discusses independent Steve Poizner's campaign for California State Insurance Commissioner, and the political monopoly running California:
IVN Election Reform Editor Shawn Griffiths sits down with Independent Voting president Jackie Salit to discuss the rapid growth of the independent movement following the 2016 elections: