When I was a little girl, I heard it said, “You never know: someday, there may even be a woman president.” This was said when both Margaret Chase Smith and Shirley Chisolm ran for the highest office in America. Even at my tender age, I knew it was said in the same way that you might speculate about Martians landing in Washington, D.C., but I didn't care. A seed was planted. I already had dreams of movie stardom and a career in top-level espionage as a youngster, but from very early on, my being President of THESE United States was always looming in the distance of my girlhood fantasies.
You have to understand something: Politics wasn't as far removed from my childhood as it is for most kids. My house was a hotbed of political discussions as far back as I could remember, a bubbling cauldron stirred by, among others, my avowed socialist grandfather, Sam, and his son, who was my father, Jerome Barr. They were socialists stranded in Utah, the most Republican state in the union, but which also had roots in socialism, as the Mormon Church supplied cradle-to-grave protection for all of its Utah members, until the Goldwater Revolution of the ’60s that became the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s. In other words: From the beginning, I was no stranger to Realpolitik AND the potentially desperate need to swim against the tide. For those doubters who think my campaign of 2012 was a whim or just a gimmicky way to grab some attention, my documentary Roseanne For President will be an eye-opener.
That seed I mentioned at the top took root and kept growing, and in my late fifties, after nearly three decades in show business, I decided to ascend to the even loftier level of “show business’ that is presidential politics. I did it for many reasons, but my favorite one was because of the theatrical farce of “hanging chads” which brought W to the Executive Office, and actually nullified our election system itself. At the urging of my friends, notably Cynthia McKinney, herself the last Green Party candidate for president, I agreed to take on the task and “carry the water” for American workers.
It bears repeating: This was no publicity stunt.
As I said early on the campaign trail and as you can see in the documentary that chronicles my run, I accepted the very real possibility that my bid to move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would squash my career as a stand-up comedian like a steamroller, and like many candidates in other countries where a “Supreme Court” determines who wins an election, I accepted that I could be killed or imprisoned here—as was a former Green Party candidate, Nativo Lopez. But, I went for it, and survived it all, and may just do it again. As I say about the whole unlikely and idealistic quest: “You gotta start somewhere!”
It’s not just a throwaway line.
When you see how much big money controls our politics and observe how stymied a president can be when Congress and the people who own it want to thwart his efforts, you come to realize that the presidency is not the seat of unbridled power it’s sold as. If you haven’t seen the late, great Bill Hicks’ bit about the “briefing” a newly-elected president gets from the shadowy figures who actually run things, well, let’s just say it should be required viewing for anyone allergic to wool being pulled over their eyes.
Upon election, according to Bill Hicks, the newly sworn-in president is taken to a private screening of the Kennedy assassination, filmed from a completely different angle than the one shown to the public. After the film ends, he is asked, “Any questions?”
A few years ago, I saw a quote from George Washington that was so chilling it stopped me in my tracks. Our very first president said he feared that there might come a day when just a couple of wealthy parties could come to own our government. The first part was eerie enough, but I remember even pausing a little over the words “our government.” How many Americans comfortably say, much less really feel the words “our government?”
Listen, citizens: We’ve been had. When the subject is government, we think of Democrats and Republicans like we think of salt and pepper. They like to sell themselves as being at the heart of it all straight from the gate—as different as night and day but just as fundamental, and personifying and rhetorically asking the benevolent question, “What more do you need?” The deeply embedded image of two political parties standing like twin pillars that hold up “our government” is pure hype and BULLSHIT. There’s nothing in the Constitution about Republicans or Democrats. There have been plenty of other parties: Democratic Republicans and National Republicans, and Federalists and Whigs, Socialists, and the best idea yet, in my opinion, a Woman’s Party which is actually pro-women, founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage about a century ago! For years now, there have been no real alternatives to our Coke-versus-Pepsi model, because most third parties never gain real nationwide traction, with all due respect to Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, and Eldridge Cleaver. We have to change that or accept the disturbing truth that we get what we deserve, and I and a growing tide of disappointed and disgusted citizens happen to think we deserve better.
Getting back to me and my run: I never understood, much less bought the idea that a woman who’s made a living in the entertainment industry should not be taken seriously if she wants to enter politics.
And, somehow, lots of the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers who say that actually think former alleged actor Ronald Reagan belongs on Mt. Rushmore!
The truth is: The only qualifications for getting into politics and even running for office should be citizenship and a desire to change things. I resented from day one the idea that my candidacy was some kind of vanity project and that I was utterly unqualified for a high political office. For some reason, people discounted the fact that along with being a comedian-writer-actor on a successful, long-running TV show, I was by association and necessity a successful businessperson; a job creator who gave a whole lot of talented, qualified artists and other skilled behind-the-scenes people their starts in a still-thriving industry.
I always fought to bring a message with my comedy—from the time I was a young woman stand-up comic struggling for stage time in a male-dominated field, and later in my years as a writer/performer on my show. That show was a huge commercial success, but more important to me was the fact that we brought bread-and-butter economic issues as well as social causes like labor’s right to organize, gender equality, gay rights, our wasteful and unjust war on drugs, and much more into American living rooms and kitchen table and water cooler discussions. My accomplishments in entertainment dwarf those of Ronald Reagan, whose real claim to fame was betraying his own socialist roots in Hollywood. However, his campaign and his win served my fantasies of running. After all, if co-starring with a chimp and getting into bed with rich growers from Orange County can win both the presidency of the USA, as well as the office of Governor of California for both Reagan and the Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger, then certainly, a much better actor and spokesperson for working Americans (me) could win too!
To get to the nuts and bolts of my campaign, I started by seeking the nomination of the Green Party, and as my documentary reveals in some detail, the rest was quickly history. I’ll let the movie speak for itself and move on to the fact that I was warmly received by the Peace and Freedom Party and, in spite of the roadblocks confronting anyone who’s not marching under the banner of one of the two rich parties that George Washington feared, I was able to accomplish something I and everyone involved can be proud of. It was thanks to the efforts of regular Americans who were not paid, but acted out of a strong sense of their own, a sense which my friend Rick Overton calls “Matriotism.” They worked tirelessly against very strong entrenched forces to get my name placed on the ballot in three states. I received 67,000 votes and placed sixth in the national race, so that I could represent and serve those who worked to elect me.
I raised a few thousand dollars for my campaign from the public through some fundraisers, but mostly, I used my recognition from the public at large, and my own time, money, and shoe leather attending debates, going to rallies, and making TV appearances with just about anyone who wanted to discuss my take on the issues, my motivation, and my real-world solutions. I was better known than every other socialist candidate, all of whom belittled me and my constituents, the Black Caucus, at every turn.
Several of the foundational planks in my platform were debt forgiveness for student loans, a stimulus to housing, an end to the ridiculous, destructive “War on Drugs,” single-payer health care, equal pay for women, marriage equality (I’m also a staunch advocate for gay divorce, by the way!) and the nationalization of the Federal Reserve and Monsanto and Big Pharma.
Wait! Hey, “This just in,” as they say: As I write this, Hillary Clinton has announced her presidential candidacy, this in the wake of a couple of birdbrains (no disrespect to birds) from the other branch of The Money Party throwing their dunce caps into the ring—I’m speaking of course of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Paul looks ready to have a meltdown or start throwing punches when a reporter asks a question he doesn’t like, and Cruz is another candidate of the Dualistic Money Party of Elite Banksters who despise women, so of course, Clinton is painted as the more progressive candidate. The truth is, she is riding the gravy train of self-enrichment and entitlement subsidized by taxpayers who remain oblivious to the fact that they continually elect un-representatives who move public wealth into private pockets. This is not exactly the kind of redistribution that will save the middle class from extinction!
Long story short: We’ll now all have to slog through twenty months of mud-slinging from these shills for the status quo who call themselves Democrats and Republicans so that no one will be allowed to suspect they’re all paid by the same people. We’re right back to where I started with that dire prediction from George Washington: One day our government could be owned by a couple of rich political parties. To which I say, “Uh, COULD be?” Thanks for the warning, Mr. President! I’m trying to do something about that. So... Who’s on board?