Did you know that Roseanne Barr came in sixth place in the 2012 presidential election? Despite only making the ballot in three states, the former Roseanne star nabbed 65,000 votes in the general election, and filmmaker Eric Weinrib was along to cover it all. Now Weinrib's turned his footage into a new documentary, Roseanne for President, which follows Barr's campaign through her early efforts to secure the Green Party nomination — she lost to mild-mannered doctor Jill Stein, who seems politely baffled by Roseanne's presence in the race — to her rapturous reception in the Peace and Freedom Party, while also running through Barr's groundbreaking entertainment career. The day after the documentary's premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, we spoke to Roseanne over the phone about her run, the state of American politics, and why she doesn't want people to protest.
One of the things I was thinking about while watching the movie was, what does a successful third-party campaign look like in this country? What was your definition of success for the run?
My definition of success was just to get on the ballot. I wanted to show how hard it is for anyone who doesn't have $1 billion, who doesn't have any infrastructure, to get their name on the ballot. I wanted to show how my supporters accomplished getting my name on the ballot in three states, and I wish there was more of that in the movie.
The movie gets some laughs out of the fact that you only had one person on the ground in the Green primary. Were there really more people working on your campaign?
In the Green Party, no. Well, yeah. A lot of new people came to the Green Party with me, and they did a lot of work to get me on the ballot.
The middle of the movie is all about your battle with Jill Stein for the Green nomination, and you've got these two competing visions for what a third-party presidential campaign should be. You're saying, "We need to run someone with an audience who can get our message out," and she's saying, "We need an experienced politician who knows how the system works." What makes your pitch better or more effective than hers?
I talk to people who aren't in the choir. I think I can speak to the 45 percent of people who have never voted. I tried to bring new people in who were sick of, you know, politicians.
Do you think you were successful?
Somewhat. A lot of people came to the Green Party and the Peace and Freedom Party and voted for the first time. That's what I'm talking about — taking back our government.
How do you think someone who doesn't have the same platform as you could affect that same kind of change?
Just do some reading, find out about it, go down there, and show up. A lot of women my age have a lot of disposable income, and rather than looking for new boyfriends or going on hormones and shit, they ought to run for office. Men, too. They should run for every local office, from dogcatcher up to mayor. We need a lot of good people in there, instead of careerists.
The counterargument to that, though, is that the people like Jill Stein know how Washington works and could maybe get more done.
Well, she won't get more done. But what she did do is qualify for matching funds. That was a good thing that happened to the Green Party. But I don't like it. I think all money should be out of politics. Every campaign should be limited to six weeks. When I was a kid, they had Equal Time: If somebody got a political commercial, they had to give their opposition the same amount of time. They should go back to that. It never cost a billion dollars to lose an election when I was a kid. It's when they changed the FCC that made all of that possible. They made everything into a business, and it shouldn't be a business.
At the end of the movie, you reveal that you voted for Obama in 2012. How did you come to that decision?
I didn't say I voted for him, I said I picked him. You'll have to figure out what means. It's my sovereign right as a citizen to select my ballot and remain silent about it.
How did you feel when he won?
Mixed. [In 2008] I was happy that one level of mind control seemed to have broken through. Our racial limitations seemed to be overcome. But that was a vote to stop the war in Iraq, which I knew was bullshit. That's why they voted for Obama. I also knew that he would be unable to deliver anything that he's promised, and of course I was right.
Could anybody, though, or is that just the nature of the system?
One guy can't do nothing. The president, he's a figurehead. All it is is showing up and giving a speech.
What's the point of running for office, then?
People that it really serves, the real owners of our country, they're all the same. That's why Obamacare is exactly like Romneycare; they're all the same in the end. The face of it has to have a makeover every few years so it looks relevant, but it really isn't.
You don't think there's the possibility of real, concrete change?
There's only the possibility, not the probability. The possibility will come if the American people want it to happen or not.
What's stopping them?
What kind of mind control?
Tons of different kinds of it. Division, pacification, class.
How do you get rid of that?
You have to go to the root: capitalism. It should be illegal by now, along with war, slavery, usury.
And then replace it with socialism, I guess?
No. I won't say that because I don't like a lot of things about socialism, either. I'd replace it with a situation that actually works for people. I'm a people-ist. I'd replace it with an intelligent system that actually works. And that would take a lot of experts getting together and brainstorming a solution, and that is what is never allowed to happen in this government, or any government. It doesn't serve power for it to happen. It doesn't serve power for power to be shared.
Your campaign really took off when you started talking about legalizing marijuana. What would be the benefits there?
It would end the war on drugs, which is the way fascism took hold of our country.
It seems like ending the drug war is becoming a bipartisan issues. Even Rand Paul is talking about it. Do you think there's been a legitimate shift in politicians' attitudes, or are they just pandering?
I don't know about Rand Paul. He's weird. I don't like a lot of the shit he says. He says a couple good things, but anyone with a brain in their head knows it's time to legalize it, and stop locking up kids. It's ridiculous.
Are you inspired by Occupy Wall Street and the Black Lives Matter protests?
No, I think those are faked. They're fake actions so that kids show up, and they start fighting, and then they get arrested. I always tell people, whatever you do, don't get arrested by this government. Then you're right exactly where they want you — in prison, working for 16 cents an hour for corporations.
The people in the streets right now, what would you tell them to do instead?
Organize. Don't join anything that is for-profit, or for money. Organize people-to-people.
What would that look like?
It'd look like freakin' heaven on Earth.