Now that Roseanne Barr, doyenne of her own blue-collar 1980s sitcom, has announced her bid for the Green Party presidential nomination, she may have given the 2012 race just the lighter touch it could use. On the other hand, if her paperwork is any indication, she is quite serious about the bid.
"I will barnstorm American living rooms," she said in a candidate questionnaire submitted to the party, according to the Associated Press. "Mainstream media will be unable to ignore me .... [M]ore importantly they will be unable to overlook the needs of average Americans in the run-up to the 2012 election."
But Ms. Barr hasn’t exactly been concentrating on a political résumé. The comedienne was most recently seen in a one-season cable reality TV show, “Roseanne’s Nuts,” detailing her macadamia nut farm life in Hawaii.
“I would say that she is not a serious candidate, if for no other reason than it’s not clear who she appeals to right now,” says Villanova University political science professor Lara Brown, author of “Jockeying for the American Presidency.”
She adds that if Barr is hoping to reach out to the youth vote – the demographic often likely to respond to an insurgent third-party candidate – young voters don’t remember her network TV show. “If this were someone like Chelsea Handler or even Tina Fey who is very visible right now, then it might be clearer who will pay attention to her bid,” Professor Brown says.
This year more than ever, third-party candidacies are a long shot, according to Brown. In some previous elections, “voters head into the booth and say, ‘This is just “Tweedledee” and “Tweedledum,” ’ ” she says, referring to the major-party candidates, “and they look for an alternative like Ralph Nader or even Ross Perot.” But this year, she says, voters are more divided into camps, and many are keenly aware that a few votes made a difference in the 2000 election.
They know now that those votes cast for Ralph Nader possibly changed the election, Brown says. "And most voters, if they had it to do over again, probably would take that third-party vote back,” she says.
And then there is the ticklish money question, points out James Broussard, professor of political science at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa. In the case of Barr, he says, her considerable wealth conflicts just a tad with her self-identification as the flag bearer for the 99 percent.
“This is a bit like Trump leading a campaign against gambling,” Professor Broussard says with a laugh, but adds, “All these candidacies depend on resources, so if she is willing to throw some of her own money into it, who knows?”
The bid certainly has given the Green Party the flash of media spotlight it has been lacking as the GOP candidates slog through their primaries. “We may be laughing now,” says Republican strategist David Johnson, who worked on Bob Dole’s 1988 presidential campaign, “but even as this announcement comes out, people are clicking on the Green Party website to figure out if it’s for real and to find out more.”
This is an election year for many posts besides the presidency, Mr. Johnson notes, and the Green Party has been building momentum in many smaller races across the country, such as county commissioner and city council elections in Colorado and Minnesota. “The more the Green Party seems like a legitimate contender, the more grass-roots races it will be able to win,” he says.
The Green Party will pick its candidate at its Baltimore convention in July. It’s not clear what would happen to Barr’s TV career if she is chosen. NBC reportedly just picked up a pilot for “Downwardly Mobile,” starring Barr as a mobile home park boss who serves as a surrogate mother to park residents.
“This could just be a preshow blitz for her,” points out Johnson, who adds, “After all, the big reward for aspiring politicians these days is not a slot on the ticket, but a TV show. Just look at Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.”