No Bar On Roseanne`s Presidential Campaign…

 John Curran 

Image © monterey media

Mitt Romney`s acceptance speech at the Republican Convention illustrates how far American politics has descended into pastiche as an excitable audience intermittently bellowed “USA”, as if spectators at a sports event urged on by a candidate inanely smiling like a second rate chat show host. This was pantomime politics; the audience occasionally hissing in unison, an organised response in this era of stage managed politics. Given the circumstances it seems natural to send in the clowns, or at least a comedian, so enter Roseanne Barr, who is campaigning to become President of the United States on a socialist and anti-war policy plank predicated on the notion that a woman`s place is in the White House.

Barr, the most serious comedian in this Presidential race resurrected her political challenge after failing to win the Green Party nomination; she is now running for the Peace and Freedom Party on a Barr/Sheehan ticket. `Roseanne for President` is no joke and she is no court jester, refusing to apologise for proposing a radical agenda. Socialism, she reminds us, is not an agenda to merely help out Wall Street, it is time she argues that public money found its way into the pocket of Joe/Joan `six-pack` on Main Street.

Much of the attention concerning the Barr/Sheehan campaign has focussed on their proposal to legalise marijuana, but the platform covers an array of issues concerning domestic and foreign policy and constitutional change. For example the party is calling for Ballot Access in all 50 states.

Barr employs her energy and intelligence to good effect and her considerable wit is less rapier and more akin to a weapon of mass destruction. Highly articulate and quick on her feet she surely would be a match for anyone in debate. She is running a shrewd campaign, the Peace and Freedom party are appealing to national sentiment urging prospective voters to be an American and not an American`t. The campaign website is sophisticated, Roseanne knows how to communicate to the masses and she gets her message across clearly, concisely and of course, with humour.

There is a strand of isolationism running through the ticket, natural given the anti-war stance this party takes. But the Peace and Freedom Party has an international outlook, the campaign website gives pride of place to the terrible incident recently in Marikana, South Africa, “Where forty- five mineworkers were killed in what the South African press called a bloodbath that recalls the worst massacres of the apartheid epoch.”  Lest we forget, these workers were killed campaigning for improvements in wages and conditions in a British owned enterprise. It is unlikely that any of the leading Presidential candidates will give prominence in their campaign literature as Barr/Sheehan have to the massacre on the 16 of August. 

The left should take the Barr/Sheehan ticket seriously and recognise that the emergence of radical third parties is not an unusual phenomenon, especially during periods of economic distress. When Obama took office he was handed a poisoned chalice and his Presidency has spawned many critics across the political spectrum, in much the same way that Roosevelt was criticised from both the left and the right when taking office in 1933. From the political right Father Charles Coughlin utilised the radio to deliver verbal tirades against Roosevelt and Coughlin had many millions of listeners who regularly tuned into his broadcasts a forerunner for today`s Tea Party

It is interesting that Bankers in the 1930s (as today) were held to be the main culprits of economic despair. Likewise, Barr/Sheehan can be seen in a historical context that encompasses populist figures from the 1930s such as Huey Long, whose redistribution agenda led to the setting up of the `Share the Wealth` clubs. Indeed, left wing celebrities in the 1930s joined the political fray. Upton Sinclair set up his ‘End Poverty in California’ organisation coming within a whisker of becoming Governor. Another radical party at State level was the Wisconsin Progressive Party led by La Follette. The American Communist Party in the 1930s attracted many from the world of entertainment and arts. This fact came back to haunt actors and writers in the 1940s and the 1950s due to the disgraceful antics of the HUAC and in the Senate when Joe McCarthy criminalised left wing activism.

Roosevelt of course dominated the political landscape during his tenure, although like President Obama, he had his skirmishes with the Supreme Court. Yet, unlike Obama, who appears to be on the political ropes, Roosevelt`s myriad of critics were unable to lay a glove on him.

There are many reasons for this. Suffice to say Obama took office before an alternative neo-conservative consensus emerged. Roosevelt, replaced Hoover whose name became synonymous with economic decline `Hoovervilles`, `Hoover-blankets` and `Hoover-flags`. But, Hoover was forced at the very end of his tenure of office to accept an interventionist agenda; it was Hoover who supported in 1930 the passage of the Glass-Steagall Bill (becoming law in 1933) and set up a precursor to the New Deal the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

Roosevelt rode the crest of this policy wave and went further than Hoover ever would. And while FDR realised he needed to salvage USA capitalism, he was minded to look after the blue collar victims of this economic system. The latter point appears lost on Obama; even his Health plan was so moderate that Romney accepted a similar initiative at State level.

There has been no Obama `New Deal` or `Great Society`, the President is accused of adopting a socialist agenda which only benefited Wall Street. This policy paradox has led to the rise of a third party agenda. If life resembled a Frank Capra movie then Roseanne would be invited to the next Presidential debate and wipe the floor with the candidates from the two main parties. She would surely send Obama and Romney from the stage weeping. Roseanne Barr is running for President and she means it man… the Acting President of the United States only needs to get elected first.


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