So Roseanne is back and feeling very Trumpy. Quite a journey for someone who sought the Green Party nomination for president 2012.
Or actually, not really. From remarks she made back then to her recent interview in the Times launching the new show, Barr emerges as an exemplar of a very specific type: She’s one of the millions who doesn’t care much for actual facts, but absolutely devours every narrative that blames liberals and the Democratic Party for every one of America’s ills.
Back in 2012, she said at a Green Party candidates debate that voters should “just leave the Democratic Party and register as Greens. They could still vote for Obama but it would be sending the Democratic Party itself a message it needs to hear.”
It’s quite true that there’s a message the Democrats needed to hear about the pain being felt in left-behind America. It’s highly doubtful that the Green Party, easily the most demographically elitist party in the United States, was the right vehicle to deliver it. But that aside, the quote pegs Barr as one of those left-wing types for whom everything bad is liberalism’s fault.
Those types often jump from far left to far right, so it wasn’t surprising to me in the least when during the campaign she started tweeting and retweeting screeds against Hillary Clinton and saying things like “if you don’t endorse Hillary, then you’re anti-American, a racist, a sexist, or whatever names her robots throw around.” More recently, after the congressional softball game shooting last year, she shared a YouTube video that purported to “confirm” that Steve Scalise was in the same hospital that “took out” murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich.
Now, in that Times interview, she explains why she thinks the Conners would be Trumpites today. The explanation is built around five observations about life in these United States today and/or criticisms of liberalism. Let’s walk through them.
1. She wants the show to be about “everything in our country,” after which she mentions health care, opioids, and gender-fluid kids.
Okay, Roseanne. I’ll circle back to opioids, but on health care: Who passed universal health care? And who tried to repeal it 70 times? And which president and party created a system that has enabled about 18 million people to get health care? And which president was fuming at his Republican Congress’ failure to undo it? And by the way about 80 percent of those 18 million got coverage because the expansion of Medicaid made coverage affordable for the first time to working-class families. Families who were, in other words, a lot like the Conners.
And on gender-fluid young people… maybe I really missed something, Roseanne, but I’m pretty sure it’s Democrats and liberals who are uniformly sympathetic to these youngsters and who try to pass the hated and mocked bathroom bills to honor their gender choice. And I’m pretty sure it’s Republicans (not all of them, but the vast majority of them) who scream that this is Satan’s work.
On opioids, I can’t defend the Obama administration, under which the FDA did nothing about the over-manufacturing and over-prescribing of the drugs. But who wants to bet that the Trump administration is going to do better? The funding in the new budget bill isn’t terrible but is way short of what’s needed, and Trump’s emphasis on treating this as a law-enforcement problem would throw a lot of D.J. Conners (the son in the show) in jail.
2. Rosanne complains about the wars we’ve been in “for a long, long time,” and how the swells forget about this but “working-class people don’t forget because their kids are in it.”
Yes, that’s correct. And, um, who started these wars? Again, a Republican president started both of them. Yes, many Democrats, including she-who-is-uniquely-evil, voted for them. I think any president would probably have invaded Afghanistan, so it’s not fair to drop that one on George W. Bush, but Iraq was his baby, and a neocon dream going back to 1991. Not sure, Roseanne, how you pin that one on liberalism, or how you exonerate a president who just hired as his national security adviser a man who still thinks that war was a grand idea.
3. Trump, Rosanne says, favors same-sex marriage: “he has said it several times, you know, that he’s not homophobic at all.”
That’s nice. And completely irrelevant. What matters is not how he “feels.” What matters is what kind of judges he puts on the federal bench, because that’s where same-sex marriage law is established.
Anthony Kennedy voted for same-sex marriage. It was a 5-4 vote. Suppose Kennedy retires (rumors are currently flying around Washington). What kind of judge will Trump nominate to succeed him? In all likelihood, one a lot more like Neil Gorsuch than Kennedy. Supreme Court precedents can be overturned, you know. And conservatives are itching to see that decision overturned someday. And Trump has already been stacking the lower courts with anti-LGBT judges. You, Roseanne, can find all this out in about two minutes by Googling it.
And then of course you might stop for another two minutes—no; 30 seconds!—and realize that President Clinton would be putting pro-same-sex marriage judges on the Supreme Court and all federal benches. But that doesn’t matter, I guess, next to your righteous anger at her cheerleaders in the media.
4. The Times’ Patrick Healy asked her about Trump and labor unions. Here, I can’t improve upon the transcript:
Healy: What about labor union protections and blue-collar workers, and—
Barr: What do you mean, the—oh, let’s not get into this.
Barr’s representative, apparently also present: You don’t have to get into it. We can move on.
5. That having not gone well, she moves on to trade and NAFTA. “Well, I think working-class people were pissed off about Clinton and NAFTA…That’s what broke all the unions, and we lost all our jobs…”
I’m no defender of NAFTA, but it’s not what broke unions. Roseanne, remember the air-traffic controllers strike? Who fired them? Which party was he in? The private sector quickly followed Ronald Reagan’s example and started replacing workers. “Any kind of worker, it seemed, was vulnerable to replacement if they went out on strike, and the psychological impact of that, I think, was huge,” Georgetown historian Joseph McCartin told NPR. “The loss of the strike as a weapon for American workers has some rather profound, long-range consequences.”
Look, Roseanne can run whatever kind of show she wants. I think it’s pretty obvious that Dan (John Goodman) would have been a Trump voter; then again it’s demographically quite likely that Dan would have been a Reagan-Reagan-Bush-Dole-Bush-Bush-McCain-Romney voter (although some such men voted Democratic in 1996 and 2008 in particular). I think it’s unlikely that the Roseanne Conner of the old show, a roaring feminist with all those gay and lesbian co-workers and friends, would have voted against the first woman major-party candidate. But it’s her show.
But really. The things you profess to care about, Roseanne, are the things the Democratic Party has been trying to do something about, and the Republican Party has been trying to block. Those facts have been overwhelmed by narratives that sound like they explain everything and that feed some emotional need inside the people who embrace them.
But someone loses when rich television stars who don’t have to worry about their health care are the ones doing the embracing, and they’re the people whose interests she says she’s representing.