Third party candidates in this country can't get a fair shake. They simply don't have the money or the organization to get their message out to the masses. What they do bring to our political discourse is a dose of authenticity and independent thinking that seems to be lacking in our Republican and Democratic candidates,...

Third party candidates in this country can’t get a fair shake. They simply don’t have the money or the organization to get their message out to the masses. What they do bring to our political discourse is a dose of authenticity and independent thinking that seems to be lacking in our Republican and Democratic candidates, whose images and words are meticulously shaped by political operatives within their own parties.

For me, the most pronounced independent voices in this country can be heard at the presidential level. They’re usually shunned from the major network and cable debates and can scarcely afford air time, but alternative media (and the Internet) has given them new forums through which they can share their ideas.

I think we’d benefit from listening to their “straight talk.” These atypical voices are refreshingly more specific about the need for shared sacrifice in this country than our major party candidates, who are forced to pander to the fickle nature of daily polls and voters who’ve created near-mythic expectations for the president. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are guilty of promoting rosy messages that make it appear as though we can get out of this economic mess without each of us being asked to give up something.

Buddy Roemer ran for the Republican nomination earlier this year and dropped out of sight after the $35 million experiment known as Americans Elect failed to gain traction with its online effort to produce a viable independent candidate. But I hope he re-enters the public arena because he has the pedigree (Harvard undergraduate and MBA degrees), the resume (former congressman, governor and banker), and no-nonsense approach to governing (he accepts no contributions from special interests, caps all donations from individuals at $100) that’s sorely lacking in American politics today. Watch Roemer’s January interview with Democracy Now! after being shut out of a Republican debate in New Hampshire. He’s blunt and passionate. So exhilarating.

Green Party nominee Jill Stein recently stopped by to visit the Seattle Times. At the time, my colleague John Saul wrote that she caused him to have second thoughts about the ballot he’d just filled out. I was particularly drawn to her message of building and sustaining an economy based on caring for the environment and living sustainably. Her domestic agenda includes a specific plan to create jobs and to forgive student debt. The Harvard-trained physician and mother says she opposes Obamacare (which started as Romneycare in her home state of Massachusetts) and believes that expanding Medicare to all could actually cut down costs and produce better outcomes. Her unique background includes a 2002 run against Romney for governor. She also readily admits she does not agree with all aspects of the Green Party platform. Such independence is rare. Watch her interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman below: