Over 40 percent of Americans identify ourselves as independent. Our focus is not on social issues, but rather economic issues and problem solving.

Despite being the largest voting bloc, we can be bypassed in primaries, wooed in the general election and then discarded like Kleenex.

I live in a one-party county, in a one-party state and my national government is a bought government. Former Kansas Congressman Dan Glickman described it this way: "Both parties are on the take. Both parties are raising money from the same people - they're the people who want things from the government ..."

In Maryland, independents are excluded from the primaries in an election system that we finance.

The country is as polarized as it was in the late 19th century. Most independents see increasing polarization as a dangerous problem, but swivel your head left or right and not everyone agrees. Ask Republican Mike Castle, who could have easily become a Republican Senator from Delaware until the tea party buried him with money and extreme rhetoric in a primary. A Democrat won the general election. Or ask Democrat Blanch Lincoln after Moveon.org ruined her chances in Arkansas. The tea party and Moveon.org have little in common except being part of the problem.

Researcher Linda Killian has written a good analysis of the issues faced by independent voters in her book, "The Swing Vote." She sees five problem areas for us: growing influence of special interest lobbyists; shrinking numbers of competitive congressional districts due to gerrymandering; pressure to raise huge campaign funds making elected officials beholden to party leaders and big contributors; state election laws that prevent independents from voting in primary elections; and partisan, agenda-driven media that reward outrageous partisan players.

Killian's solutions are: open government and transparency; open primaries; more competitive districts; real campaign finance reform; more small donations to individual candidates; more participation at public meetings; more support for moderate candidates; and taking advantage of our strength in numbers by organizing groups outside the two major parties.

Moderates in Congress are a vanishing breed. Democrat Jim Webb will leave the Senate in disgust in 2012 after six years of being rebuffed by the other side. Republican Tom Davis retired in 2008 after 14 frustrating years. This is the fate of people that care more about country than party.

Robert Miller