Thank you for the kind remark.
There have been "independent" nominees on several occasions, but it is hard for them to overcome the safeguards put in place by the Republicans and
Democrats. The phenomenon is, however, a modern one. Andrew Jackson felt he had been cheated in 1824 election, so he created the Democratic Party, and swept into the White House in 1828. Jackson's actions were a classic example of how a political party needs to be founded, and how quickly it can become a power. He organized from the ground up, exactly as he had done to become governor of Tennessee. Local associates created local branches of the party, and then appointed precinct committeemen. These people then formed county committees, who then provided the organization for state committees. In the 1828 election, after less than four years, the Democratic Party was in place and already a power: Jackson took 16 states; John Quincy Adams took eight.
Jackson had lost the 1824 election because there was only one effective political party then--the Democratic-Republicans, known as the Republicans, who originally fielded six candidates, with two withdrawing before the election. Jackson won the most electoral votes, but not a majority, so the election was thrown into the House of Representatives. Henry Clay, who was the Speaker of the House, and who had come fourth in the election (and therefore was no longer in the running), threw his considerable influence into defeating Jackson, saying in a letter to a friend that he didn't think killing 2000 Englishmen at New Orleans qualified him for the office. The vote was by state, and Adams won. He then appointed Clay as his Secretary of State. Jackson's new Democratic Party made much out of that, which helped them into the Congress, and helped them to take over state legislatures (much more important then than it is now--Senators were not popularly elected then, but appointed by the states).
The Democratic-Republicans were effectively dead by then, and the Federalists were already moribund--from 1800 to 1828, every President was a Democratic-Republican. The Whig Party organized to fill the void of an opposition, doing well in formerly Federalist states, but they only ever elected two Presidents. (Both were former generals--William Henry Harrison of Zachary Taylor, and both died in office in their first terms.) By the 1832 election, the Democrats had taken over enough state governments that the process of legislation to make electoral votes "winner-take-all" began. The Whig-controlled states passed similar legislation, mostly in an attitude of self-defense. This is what makes the Electoral College pernicious, not its mere existence. Today, 48 states have "winner-take-all" provisions, and only Maine and Nebraska apportion their votes. This is constitutionally authorized because the constitution recognizes the power of the states to certify their own elections.
Few serious candidates have been "independents"--the Socialist candidates have been the members of an organized (and forlorn) party. After 1900, candidates whom we would consider "independent" were few and far between. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., stepped down in 1908, following the tradition of serving only two terms (terms limits on the presidency were only ratified by the states in 1951, a reaction to Franklin Roosevelt; I'll bet the Republicans were kicking themselves when Saint Ronnie Ray-gun had to step down in 1988). But Roosevelt came to see William Howard Taft, his personal selection to replace himself, as betraying the radical Republican tradition (yes, there were once Republicans who were " radicals"). In 1912, he ran against Taft and Woodrow Wilson, the Democrat--and it looked as though he might win--until he was shot. He survived, but he lost votes and ended up as a spoiler, basically assuring the election of Wilson, the idealist who was also a racist.
Roosevelt had not organized from the bottom up, as Jackson had done in 1824-28, so no political party survived his failure. That is the key to founding a successful new party--taking over the counties, then the states, and then, one hopes, the White House. Ross Perot created his Reform Party, and then dissolved it in a fit of pique when they had the temerity to propose their own platform rather than awaiting the word from one high. The Reform Party elected a few local men and women, but withered on the vine without Perot's money, fund-raising and support. I only know of one true independent--John Anderson, who ran in 1980 after failing to secure the Republican nomination. He was the only candidate whose economic proposals actually made sense, so I became a volunteer for him. I had no illusions that he could win, but I wanted his message to remain out there. I would not have voted for either Carter of Ray-gun.
Because of the implementation of the "winner-take-all" system of the allocation of electoral votes (that could only be stopped by amending the constitution, which is extremely difficult), and the primary election system (begun in the early 20th century)--which focuses the spotlight on the Republican and Democratic candidates, the election of an independent is almost impossible. For a third party to be successfully organized would require employing the method that Jackson employed, and which was successfully copied by the Whigs and the Republicans (the new party, not Jefferson's old party). No one has done that (other than the Socialists), and until it is done, the Democrats and Republicans have a death grip on the Congress and the White House.