Roseanne Barr on Presidential Run: Two Major Parties Are a ‘Bunch of Prostitutes Who Work for Big Money’
The irrepressible comic is trying to bring attention to electoral issues that are too often ignored.
Roseanne Barr leveraged her comedic skills to become a household name. But while she’s known for her biting humor, and some critically acclaimed acting in the film adaptation of Fay Weldon’s novel, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, Barr’s life experiences also left her with an appreciation of just how hard it is to climb the ladder today. It was reflected in her writing; in her standup routine and on her hit TV show, Roseanne was always most comfortable breathing life into the struggles of working-class families. An outspoken small “d” democrat, Roseanne is now running to head the Green Party’s presidential ticket on a platform that stresses empowering the “little guy.”
A few weeks back, AlterNet interviewed Jill Stein, Barr’s primary opponent in the race (you can read that interview here). This week, Barr appeared on the AlterNet Radio Hour for some equal time. Below is a lightly edited transcript of the discussion (you can listen to the whole show here).
Joshua Holland: Roseanne, I want to say that I’m a big fan. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but you kind of remind me of my mother.
JH: She’s outspoken and she has overcome a lot of adversity, and is a good liberal.
RB: How old is she?
JH: If I say her age in public I’m going to get into a lot of trouble.
RB: I just wonder if she’s my age?
JH: She’s your generation, let’s put it that way.
RB: I would say so many people of your generation are telling me I remind them of their mother. It’s pretty widespread, and I take that as a compliment.
JH: Before we get to your campaign, just a quick point about the Roseanne show – I was a huge fan. Since it went off the air I feel like you’ve become more vocal about your politics. And it strikes me that “Roseanne” was one of a very small number of shows on TV that had characters who were good people struggling to pay their bills. Maybe “Good Times” was another one. I’m hard pressed to think of any others. In a sense, you offered a class analysis that’s almost entirely absent from any TV entertainment. Why do you think that is?
RB: Well, because that’s what I wanted to do.
JH: But why don’t we see more of that? I mean, so many families are struggling you would think that our culture would reflect that once in a while.
RB: I know. Since the success I had on the Roseanne show I have not been able to replicate that success anywhere. It just fell out of popularity and at the same time being an outspoken women and all that stuff fell out of popularity right around the same time.
JH: It’s a shame for our culture I think that we don’t see regular people dealing with the issues that regular people actually deal with.
RB: I don’t think that would be in the interest of the people who control what goes on here. It wouldn’t be in their interests. They kind of narrowed the field so they would get approval of all content that was shown over the people’s airwaves. That’s been coming since when the FCC was deregulated. That’s what happened.
JH: That’s the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
RB: Yes, that’s exactly what happened. They took control of all content, all context and all message. They think that the plight of the 99 percent of Americans isn’t worthy of being discussed in any media.
JH: And we’re probably the only advanced country that doesn’t have really any sense of class. We’re supposed to pretend that class difference don’t exist.
Let me move on to your candidacy. I asked Jill Stein whether she saw it as a disadvantage to her that you come into the race with very high name recognition, which would make a big difference if you were running for, say, Congress as a Democrat or a Republican. She said “No, it doesn’t make any difference because Green Party members are very engaged. They’re activists and they pay very close attention. Name recognition isn’t a big thing.”
I want to ask you if the reverse might be true. Do you think there might be a perception among Greens that you’re a celebrity coming into the party, but haven’t put in a ton of work to build the party over the years?
RB: Yeah, I think there is some of that, but I think the more people hear me speak and hear my platform, solutions and ideas for things to help the people of this country they kind of get smarter. They realize this isn’t about them at all; it isn’t even about the party. It isn’t about me and it isn’t about Jill Stein. It’s about the American people. I think that the more they hear me say that the more they understand that they’ve got to let go of it. This is a time in our country where we’ve got to move past politics and into something else. Every single day we lose ground. The people of this country lose ground every single day because of these factions and this infighting.
I formed my message over many years of reading and study. My message and my solutions I offer freely to all parties. I think they matter more than me or Jill Stein or anybody else. It’s imperative that Americans start voting for issues and solutions rather than parties and enriching the people who get rich on partisan politics. We need to move past all that. This is a new century and we need new methods, because the things even from the last election are no longer relevant in so many ways. We need to move into a whole new place now.
JH: Historically third parties have pushed issues into the mainstream that were ignored by the two major parties.
RB: That is the precise reason that I am running for president of the United States of America. The one thing that both parties forgot, and hopefully not the Greens, is the people who do all the work to make things go in this country. The taxpayers who support this huge and heavy pyramid, with about six guys at the top of it. My point is how do you marginalize 99 percent of a country? They have done that.
JH: Let’s talk about the issues that you’re trying to get more attention for. Obviously there’s massive inequality, and also the political inequality which follows. But as far as a few of the concrete issues that you’re running on — what are the top two or three issues that you think Roseanne Barr is running on?
RB: I think numbers 1-10 — number 1 counts as 10 things — is that first off we need to have free elections in this country. We do not have them. People need to be aware of the fact that we do not have a system of free elections. It takes $1 billion to lose an election. That means that everything is for sale. And that means everyone in Congress sits there, and they are not legislators or true representatives of the people. They are lobbyists. I would say that because of that fact we don’t have free elections.
Another reason why we don’t have free elections is a thing called the Electoral College. The Electoral College was this thing forced on the American people, just like the Fed was forced on the American people, that came after the Declaration of Independence.
The Electoral College made sure that people do not elect their own representatives. That is like a Banana Republic way of having an election, and it needs to be corrected. Election after election goes by and nobody even mentions it. I’m running to shed light on things in the electoral process because it’s corrupt from top to bottom. I have suggestions on my Web site, RoseanneWorld.com. Those suggestions include a new way of tallying votes and paper ballots. As Stalin, who was a bad guy, said, “it isn’t who votes; it’s who counts the votes.” That’s number 1. Overturning the Electoral College.
A lot of people came to me because I got famous. A lot of them were lawyers. One man came to me who’s been working his whole life on a lawsuit that will be filed in federal court that shows the need for us to get rid of the Electoral College. He will be filing that lawsuit on July 4th, 2012 in Philadelphia. All of these things encompass the first reason, the first issue.
A new method of counting votes, a more intelligent method of counting votes. Say, for instance, say I get 3 percent of the vote, Obama gets 50 percent and Romney gets 47 percent. The winner-take-all system of counting the votes is completely ridiculous. What should happen, as it does in most civilized countries is that each of us receives a vote in the houses of power where public money is apportioned because we were voted by citizens. In other words it should be proportional, not-winner-take all. Every candidate who wins any kind of vote should be included in a parliamentary-style government.
I think this government is broken and unfixable, and it needs to be tossed out and replaced with a parliamentary government. This one is just a whored-out bunch of prostitutes who work for big money. Big money is what’s in the saddle and the citizens of this country are down on all fours.
JH: It’s interesting that in the wake of World War II it was American forces that helped draft the German and Japanese constitutions, and they both have parliamentary systems where if you win 10 percent of the vote your party gets 10 percent of the seats.
JH: They didn’t force onto them our own system.
RB: We turned all of their dead economies around also. We don’t seem to bring the good things we do there back here. I’m reminding you and everyone that the Electoral College once counted black people as three-fifths of a human being.
JH: Roseanne, whenever I talk to Green Party members I hear that we just have to overcome our fear. Jill Stein said that during our interview. I guess the idea is that if progressives — or whatever you want to call us — voted for the candidates who best reflected their positions they’d vote Green.
One thing that strikes me about this is the idea of lesser-evils. What’s wrong with the idea of voting for the lesser of two evils if the alternative is electing the eviler of two evils? When I look at what the GOP is doing in terms of domestic policy, from the Ryan budget, to all of these insane anti-woman laws, to voter disenfranchisement, and harsh anti-immigration legislation. Should one not be frightened of Mitt Romney appointing a couple more right wing justices to the Supreme Court?
RB: What we should all be afraid of is that both the Democrats and the Republicans went for the same guy, so let’s not BS ourselves. Let’s put the blame on both parties and everybody in this government. They both work for the elite bankers of the Federal Reserve. They do not work for the American people. That is a sad fact. You are indeed voting for the lesser of two evils because you’re voting for the exact same party. The money party which has two faces – we should throw the bums out.
Obama is not a populist and he never was. He’s masquerading as one. Obama is Wall Street’s favorite candidate, and make no mistake: they’re going to yank everybody and work everybody so that we think there’s a real chance Romney is going to win, and he isn’t. Nobody is going to vote for Romney. This is just all theater, and at the end Obama will win by a landslide — unless I win which would be fantastic for this country. It’s all just a charade. They all work for the same guys.
Obama signed the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act]. He doesn’t want to get rid of DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act]. He says gay rights are a state’s rights issue. His healthcare program is Romneycare, so what’s the difference? I’ll tell you what the difference is. Obama is the hand-picked person from his masters at Wall Street whose job and task is to tell the American people that their jobs and money are not ever going to come back. The American people will be pacified hearing that from a face that looks like Obama far more than a face that looks like Romney. It is all a scam from top to bottom.
The more you dig in and the more you look at that the more aware you’re going to be. When you’re aware, you actually want to take care of yourself and stop doing what the Republicans and Democrats want the American people to do: keep on crapping right next to where they eat. That has to stop. They have the chickens voting for Colonel Sanders for God’s sake. People need to wake up and see that all these bills that they think they support are cutting their own throats. I’m serious, and you know it too.
JH: You’re talking about the influence of money in politics, and there’s no question that both parties are beholden to campaign donors.
RB: All parties are owned by big money. Those people that sit in those houses of government are lobbyists. They are not representatives of the people. They are not legislators either. You’ll notice that by the laws they are passing. They’re passing pro-drug lord laws, to put it succinctly. They’re passing laws for pirates, and they’re getting paid in American tax dollars to do it. They’re working both sides of the street and we’re paying for it. Now they’ve got everybody out there fearful that they won’t be able to continue that system. They say you better get out there and vote for Romney or vote for Obama because then this system won’t be able to stay exactly as it is and never change.
It could get get worse, but it could also get better. You could vote for me. If I am elected president of the United States it will get better. It will get better for the people I represent — all 100 percent of Americans, not 1 percent. I will represent 100 percent of Americans.
What I will do is ask the richest among us from the top down to make the sacrifice. They caused this problem and profited from it. They need to step up and put their patriotism before their profits in order to continue to live in this country. That includes what’s-his-name from Facebook [Eduardo Saverin]. You guys pay your fair share and then we won’t have any deficit. We won’t have any unemployment and we won’t have any people who don’t have health care. The richest among us simply must be patriotic and pay their fare share, and we will then have no problems here any longer.