Independents: America's Largest Voting Bloc with Jackie Salit and John Opdycke

Common Ground Committee Let's Find Common Ground Podcast Episode 104

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Independents: America’s Largest Voting Bloc with Jackie Salit and John Opdycke

Independent voters make up well over 40 percent of the voting public. But you wouldn’t know that from media coverage, which focuses almost exclusively on red vs. blue. Independents are often overlooked and misunderstood by political professionals, journalists, and pundits.

In this podcast episode, we look at this group of voters and learn why they’re disillusioned with the two main political parties. The number of American voters who identify as independent is at a record high.

Our guests are Jackie Salit and John Opdycke. Jackie is the author of Independents Rising and president of Independent Voting, an organization dedicated to bringing respect, recognition, and reform to independent voters. John Opdycke is president of Open Primaries, which campaigns for primary elections in which every American can vote, not just Republicans or Democrats.

Jackie Salit

Common Ground Committee Let's Find Common Ground Podcast Jackie SalitJackie Salit is President of Independent Voting, a national strategy, communications, and organizing center that works to connect independent voters across the U.S. and is a 30-year veteran of the independent and reform movements. She also serves as co-director for the Center for an Independent and Sustainable Democracy at Arizona State University.

Salit hosts regular national conference calls with hundreds of activist independents nationwide. Her firsthand account of this growing and influential voting bloc, Independents Rising: Outsider Movements, Third Parties and the Struggle for a Post-Partisan America, was published in 2012 by Palgrave Macmillan.

An architect of independent presidential runs in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Salit played a central role in the 1988 “Two Roads are Better Than One” campaign of Lenora Fulani, the first African American to achieve 50-state ballot access. Salit was a frontline figure in shaping a coalition with Ross Perot and the Perot movement which led to the founding of the Reform Party in 1997.

In 2008, Salit’s network of independent voters galvanized support for Barack Obama in the open Democratic primaries, key to Obama’s primary win over Hillary Clinton and his general election win over John McCain.

John Opdycke

Common Ground Committee Let's Find Common Ground Podcast John OpdyckeJohn Opdycke is the President of Open Primaries. He is an activist and strategist with 25 years of experience working in independent, alternative and reform politics. He is one of the country’s most visible and vocal advocates for primary reform.

Opdycke began his career as a fundraiser and researcher for the Rainbow Lobby, which advocated for ballot access and debate reform in the United States and supported the pro-democracy movement in the Congo (Zaire). In 1992, he joined Dr. Lenora Fulani’s independent campaign for president as a regional fundraising director, and in 1994 assisted Dr. Fulani in her campaign against Mario Cuomo in the New York Democratic Party gubernatorial primary. In 1998, he became the director of development of, and between 1999 and 2014 expanded’s fundraising from $50,000 to $1 million annually.

He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, PBS, and NBC, and his written commentary on independent politics and electoral reform has appeared in USA TodayNewsweekThe Hill, and dozens of local publications.