Roseanne Barr thinks America has been “bamboozled and hoodwinked.” She is referring to the government, which she says is “owned by bankers.” Her solution is simple: “Vote for me. I’m not a liar. I’m not a thief. I’m not a whore,” she says. “And I’m not a politician. I think that uniquely qualifies me to become president of the U.S.”
Barr is the presidential nominee for the Peace and Freedom Party, making her a participant in the grand, democratic, and sometimes oddball reality of American politics: if you can get on the ballot, you can run for the highest office in the land.
Barr, the 59-year-old comedian famous for her long-running sitcom Roseanne, is quick to note that she is “dead serious.” She argues that the country has become undemocratic in its election process, making it too difficult for third-party candidates to get onto state ballots and into presidential debates.
“There is no real third party in America,” she says. “There’s this one party that has two sides to it—the Democratic and Republican side. It’s one party that has two heads. We want to give voters a choice for people not owned by Wall Street.”
Earlier this year, Barr campaigned for the Green Party nomination but lost to Jill Stein, a Harvard-trained physician in Massachusetts. This past weekend, Barr nabbed the nomination at the convention for the Peace and Freedom Party, which bills itself as an advocate for “socialism, democracy, ecology, feminism, and racial equality.”
Or, as Barr puts it: “Our party is about peace and freedom—Americans have been been bullshitted into forgetting that war does not mean freedom ... When I’m president, I’m gonna outlaw bullshit.”
Her running mate, Cindy Sheehan, is an antiwar activist whose son died in the Iraq War. Sheehan is perhaps best known for a protest she staged in 2005, camping out in a ditch near President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, demanding a meeting about the war. She has been arrested multiple times at antiwar protests around the country. The government is reportedly suing her over unpaid taxes, to which she has replied that she gave her son to the country.
Barr says she and Sheehan met through documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. “We are like a lot the same,” she says of Sheehan, calling the antiwar activist “someone who deserves to be heard—a mother who lost her son.”
Among the key points in her platform, Barr says she wants to cut back on military spending and bases abroad, bring troops home, create a financial-transaction tax, crack down on corporate outsourcing of jobs overseas, and remove caps on taxes for the rich. She also wants to create a single-payer health-care system and legalize marijuana.
She believes prison time should be reserved for violent criminals—with the exception of the Wall Street bankers who have “defrauded the working class and middle class,” she says. “Those people should be in jail.”
She thinks her history as a comedian works in her favor, not against. “In order to be able to write a good joke, you have to find the truth,” she says. “I’ve spent 30 years as a comedian focused on working-class issues. Working-class people do not have a vote in this country. That’s the real reason why I’m running and why I’ve put up my own money to seek ballot access in all 50 states. I will keep running till I win.”
Barr says the government is “not supposed to be run like a business” and is “supposed to protect people from fat cats.” She adds, “They had the big bubble that they created. If you watched cable TV, you just saw all the time: ‘Time for a second mortgage!’ That was a scam, just theft.” She calls the battle between Republicans and Democrats a choice between “Satan and Satan.” And Romney? “About the most corrupt person that ever lived.” (Representatives for Romney and Obama did not immediately respond to requests for comment.)
When asked if she would accept donations from companies or political action committees, she says, “Special interests don’t want no part of me—they know I can’t be bought. Their god is money, and they are devout. I’m just trying to get signatures and get on ballots. It does cost money. We would rather take it from people with a decent heart and clean hands. We’d rather take $5 from a grandmother.”
Barr, who grew up in a working-class family in Salt Lake City, Utah, says she knows what it’s like to struggle. “I was raised on government cheese,” she says. “As an adult, in my first marriage, my husband and I worked real hard just to go bankrupt. I happened to write some jokes about it. I did real well for myself.”
Barr performed stand-up comedy before scoring her show Roseanne in the late ’80s, while also appearing in movies such as She-Devil with Meryl Streep. Her sitcom ran through the late ’90s. In the years since, she has done stand-up, appeared on TV talk shows and reality shows, and written her third book, Roseannearchy: Dispatches From the Nut Farm. She now runs a macadamia-nut farm in Hawaii. She has been married three times and has five children. This coming Sunday, she’ll be roasted on Comedy Central.
She’s no stranger to controversy, recently sparking a little drama over the wording of a tweet suggesting that people who eat at Chick-fil-A—the chain whose president opposes same-sex marriage—deserve to get cancer from the chicken.
Last year she spoke at an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York. She says her political ambition has grown from watching the working class get “silenced and ripped off.” She adds, “I raised this generation. I felt like, man, I can’t not speak for them.”
Barr is among a handful of third-party nominees in the race. Others include former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, attorney Tom Stevens of the Objectivist Party, autoworker activist Jerry White of the Socialist Equality Party, and bong salesman Jim Carlson of the Grassroots Party. They all face a steep climb: In a recent Gallup poll listing Obama, Romney, and three third-party candidates, 3 percent of registered voters backed Johnson, while 1 percent supported Stein of the Green Party, and 0.5 percent backed Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party. Two percent volunteered Republican Ron Paul’s name.
Third-party candidates cannot participate in the presidential debates unless they gain significant support in the polls, a situation that the Green Party’s Stein has called a “catch-22,” as the debates help candidates establish themselves.
Barr says she is undeterred, and plans to use her celebrity to get her “common sense” message heard. “I’m gonna give it every single ounce of energy that I have. I’m old and I have the money and the time and the passion,” she says. “I’m gonna kick the doors down as hard as I can. I hope people will help me and walk through them.”