What if independents knew our 42% could end the two-party political machine that would have us believe voting for the lesser of two evils will keep us “safe?” Here is my “author’s cut” of the shorter version of my article that appeared in the Huffington Post.

42% Independents Break Two-Party Political Machine: Is 2016 the Year?

It was the election of 2000. Gore narrowly loses to Bush. Beyond the electoral debacle in Florida, some political analysts and Gore supporters alike later blamed Gore’s loss on Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader.

Also known as the spoiler effect, vote splitting occurs between candidates with usually similar ideology drawing votes away from a major candidate. Nader was the man who became history’s scapegoat for what should have been an indictment on a 51% voter turnout.

With less than 600 recorded votes separating Bush and Gore; it’s extremely difficult to argue effectively that any single factor caused Gore’s loss when margin of error is taken into account. More telling is the 11% of Democrats that voted for Bush or nearly half the Democrats (and Republicans) that didn’t vote at all.

The final analysis was contained in the votes cast and uncast that were never counted. In the end, it was the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision for Bush that handed him his victory.

In a 2013 Chicago Tribune interview, retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said in hindsight, “It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.”

In his Farewell Address, George Washington warned political parties would be “potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.”

And this is exactly what’s happened as both parties serve moneyed interests rather than the will and the common good of the American people.

According to Pew Research, in the 2000 Presidential election cycle, 29% of voters were Independent. Gallup’s most recent poll brings that percentage up to a stunning 42%, compared to 26% Republicans and 29% Democrats.

Citing dissatisfaction with government as the primary driver of defection, affiliation with the two political parties is the weakest Gallup has ever recorded. Egocentric infighting has rendered both parties essentially ineffective and unsustainable—one more so than the other.

Since 2000, fear-mongering has conveniently championed the mantra that votes that stray outside the two majors are wasted votes. Essentially, you are being warned that voting for the “lesser of two evils” rather than voting your values is the only way to keep you “safe.”

The WikiLeaks data dump exposed the Democratic National Convention’s Clinton nomination setup. Nominees from both major parties are financially supported at levels that average Americans can’t touch. Where is our representation?

Fast forward to Presidential Election 2016. Never has it been so self-evident that Super PAC mega-donors, six monster-sized media corporations, rigged electoral maps, and continued voter suppression are hard at work steering voters toward candidates chosen for you by the two-party political machine.

Bernie Sanders was the only candidate to have come close to breaking down barriers to become a true grassroots funded and supported candidate. Whether or not Trump is an Independent candidate in disguise or a steering mechanism gone rogue won’t be fully revealed until after the election.

What does this mean for the American people this November? It means Independent voters, your 42% has an incredible opportunity to reshape American politics—even the direction of this country if you are willing to claim the power you’ve handed yourselves.

Though true Independents number around 5%, meaning the other 38% tends to lean left or right, your rejection of the status quo is your calling card that you are ready to be part of a functional and sustainable political structure. Moreover, you’ve already impacted the political landscape more than you realize.

Independent voter courage and intelligence is the foundation and the engine for the emergence of a new cooperation-over-competition political paradigm. Knowing what doesn’t work, Independent voters have an opportunity to come together to find necessary middle ground in a new and dynamic way.

Independents are the new partyless party that works for the common good of all to forge a path of least resistance to what does work free of special interest. In the next stage of human evolution (and politics), we transcend petty divisiveness, taking responsibility and ownership of our inherent authority as sovereign beings.

Now the real work begins.

If a major party candidate wins, it won’t be from third party votes. It will be from the expected 100 million voters who continue to give away control of their lives to others by not voting. Your vote belongs to you. Where do you start?

Do your due diligence. Research third-party candidates such as Jill Stein/Baraka who put “people, peace and the planet over profit.” Two former two-term Governors have teamed up, Gary Johnson/Weld to “bring proven leadership to the White House.”

Organize discussion groups within your communities. Contribute articles to your local paper. Call radio stations to ask they feature independent candidates. Request debates include independent candidates. Use social media to connect with positive support groups. Responsibly vote.

Embracing diversity rather than fearing it, we rise as awakening leaders to collectively do what no generation before us ever believed was possible. It’s our time to thrive!