Roseanne Barr has been making statements over the last five years that sharply contradict the positions of our party and the beliefs of our members. As she goes from insult to outrage, our party's leaders wish we could go back to 2012 and nominate someone else for president, but history doesn't work that way. All we can do is make it very plain that she does not speak for us, and that we condemn her racism and her reactionary politics.
For those interested in how she became our nominee in 2012, I am providing a brief account of that campaign, warts and all.
At our presidential nominating convention in 2012, delegates were sharply split four ways on the first ballot. The leading candidate in the first vote was Roseanne Barr. She came to us as a presidential candidate who had been a comedian playing a working-class woman on television, a rarity. She described herself as a socialist, not just to us but in a recently-published autobiography. Most of her political positions were quite good, and she had supported Cindy Sheehan's independent left campaign for Congress against Nancy Pelosi in 2008. Barr presented Cindy Sheehan as her choice for vice-president, and Sheehan had already become a member of the Peace and Freedom Party and was a member of our State Central Committee. The Barr-Sheehan ticket presented us with an election platform that was based on the Peace and Freedom Party platform.
On the second ballot, some of those who had favored other candidates in the first round switched to Barr, and she became our presidential nominee. We then overwhelmingly agreed to nominate Cindy Sheehan for vice president.
The same convention later chose me to serve as State Chair for the 2012-2014 term, and as the new chair I convened our campaign committee. I had served as state chair during three previous terms (2000-2002, 2004-2006, and 2008-2010), and had worked with Ralph Nader when he was our nominee in 2008 and with the Leonard Peltier campaign in 2004.
We faced some unique problems during the presidential campaign of the following twelve weeks of 2012. While Roseanne Barr was not uncommunicative, her statements and commitments on phone calls were not matched by action by her staff. We managed to get her on the ballot in two additional states, but money she promised to spend to qualify for the ballot in additional states was never released from her campaign funds. We lined up slates of presidential electors in some states, only to find that her national treasurer would not issue any checks for filing fees. As deadline after deadline was missed, her priorities were apparently set by others who were more interested in performance art for a video project than in doing actual nuts-and-bolts campaign work.
From the first week of the campaign, we had trouble with her unfortunate habit of tweeting anything that came to mind. Skilled baiters took advantage of this propensity, got her to respond to questions to which there were no good answers, and then spread her unfortunate replies widely.
The worst results of her refusal to check her responses with any politically experienced person led to a break with our vice-presidential nominee. A crew of three saboteurs led by a private detective made friends with her by e-mail and phone, using gushing flattery, and soon moved on to telling her things that others had allegedly said about her privately. She took the bait hook, line, and sinker.
In response to their e-mails, she sent them nasty insults about the alleged critics, which they spread around where the most harm would be caused. A few of the alleged critics then became actual critics of Barr, responding in ways that were provided to Barr with the context removed, resulting in still more insults. The saboteurs managed to get her to write some unforgivable things about Cindy Sheehan in response to false provocations, and Sheehan suspended campaigning for the last few weeks before the election.
Roseanne Barr is not our first nominee to move to the right after the campaign. Our first presidential nominee (Eldridge Cleaver, in 1968) spent the last few years of his life as a right-wing Republican. Other parties have the same problem: The 2000 Democratic Party nominee for vice-president left that party soon afterward and campaigned for Republicans.
We are proud of our consistent record of struggle for the needs of the working class, for peace, against racism, in defense of the environment, and for human rights for all. No former candidate speaks for us. We speak for ourselves, and we do our best to speak for you too. Our actual positions may always be found on our website at PeaceAndFreedom.org.
-- Statement by Peace and Freedom Party State Chair Kevin Akin, 29 May 2018