After declaring as a Peace and Freedom Party (PFP) presidential candidate only three weeks before, Hollywood comedian and actress Roseanne Barr won the PFP nomination at its convention on Aug. 4-5 in Los Angeles. Placing second was New Yorker and veteran union and gay rights activist Stephen Durham of the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP), who, like Stewart Alexander of the Socialist Party, had waged a serious, months-long grass-roots campaign for the PFP nomination.
Said Durham, whose running mate is Chicana feminist organizer Christina López of Seattle, “The convention of the socialist and feminist PFP was hijacked by a millionaire celebrity making grand promises. But her total contribution to the PFP so far has been a 15-minute talk at the convention that was half political speech and half comedy act.”
Barr, who reinvented herself as a socialist in the few weeks before the PFP vote, did not show up for a candidates’ forum the night before the convention. She was represented there by her vice-presidential partner, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan. On Saturday, Aug. 4, the opening day of the convention, Barr’s appearance was preceded by a security detail while delegates sat waiting for her to arrive, which she did in a flurry of media. She left after giving her speech, and took the media attention with her, headed for the taping of a Comedy Central roast in her honor. Delegates were unable to ask her questions.
Barr had originally announced as a candidate for the Green Party nomination, but lost decisively to Jill Stein, whom Barr had pledged to support should Stein become the nominee. Barr did not attend the Green Party convention in July.
Now Barr is promising to do major fundraising and help register voters for PFP, a California-based left electoral coalition that is in a fight for its life thanks to new state ballot laws hostile to minor parties. The Durham-López team had argued for making a PFP registration drive part of a bold two-year grass-roots campaign statewide, explicitly anti-capitalist and feminist, to protest the rigged electoral system and organize with others to demand relief for those hit hardest by war, bailouts for corporations, and austerity for workers.
After Barr delivered her speech and left, and just moments before PFP delegates began voting, Peta Lindsay, the presidential candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), abruptly withdrew from contention after being nominated – and pledged support for the Barr-Sheehan ticket. Lindsay, who is underage to take presidential office, was barred from the California ballot in February, but continued to campaign for the PFP nomination. She explained her surprise convention move by saying that she did not want to leave the PFP without a candidate if she won the nomination but lost the court case challenging her exclusion from the ballot.
It took two rounds of voting for Barr to gather a majority, and the final tally was 36 votes for Barr, 16 for Durham, and 6 for the Socialist Party’s Alexander. Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party had dropped out of the race a few days before the convention.
FSP Campaign Manager Doug Barnes was at the PFP convention with Durham, López, and supporters. About Lindsay’s bombshell, he said, “Lindsay and the PSL portrayed themselves as the revolutionary socialist contenders in the PFP race. But what revolutionary socialist is going to support a millionaire for U.S. president? That’s ridiculous. So is saying while endorsing Barr that they will run a write-in campaign in California for Lindsay.”
Concluded Barnes, “PSL was not serious about anything but blocking the FSP and Socialist Party. It was a disgusting display of left sectarianism – especially since FSP has supported PSL candidates in the past on the basis of their professed socialist program.”
Sheehan, Barr’s vice-presidential candidate, has pledged to support Peta Lindsay and other PSL candidates where they are not competing with Barr and Sheehan. “This political horse-trading is exactly what one would expect to see at a Republican or Democratic Party convention,” Durham said. “On the other hand, the delegates who stood with us through to the end because of our socialist feminist platform showed a lot of character. They stuck to their principles.”
Vice-presidential candidate Christina López added, “We have met so many people in California who are excited about the fact that we are offering concrete, practical, working-class solutions for the problems people face, especially those who are discriminated against, paid the least, and treated the worst. We hope our friends in California are proud of all the wonderful outreach they have done, and we look forward to continuing to work with them and broadening our national write-in campaign in the state and across the U.S.”
López, Durham, and Barnes are meeting with supporters, speaking at forums, and making whistle stops at shopping malls as they drive north from Los Angeles in the middle of a six-week tour of California, Oregon, and Washington. The candidates are also participating in union picket lines, immigrant activist gatherings, and more.