Green Party “Debate” Between Jill Stein and Roseanne Barr, Reviewed
I didn’t plan on watching the Green presidential debate on Saturday night but when I saw a link get tweeted to a stream of it, I figured it would at least be worth putting on in the background in case Roseanne Barr did something crazy.
I’ve been a Green since first registered to vote, and over the past 12 years, I’ve seen the progressive movement rack up its share of failures. From the anti-war movement being ignored for a solid decade to the health care system collapsing on itself to Murphy’s congressional campaign not managing to produce even one hilarious campaign T-shirt, it’s been tough to stay positive. [We had to make cheap hilarious things.-IM]
If you ask most people in the Green Party why they haven’t gained any traction over the years, the stock answer tends to be that the mainstream media ignores them and doesn’t give equal time. Candidates aren’t invited to debates. Green Party activists aren’t brought on news shows. No one on SNL does a Jill Stein impression. If people don’t know you exist, it’s tough to get them to vote for you.
Exactly why the media ignores the Greens is a bit more interesting and something the party tends to have a huge blind spot about. If you ask them why they’re ignored, they’ll tell you it’s because corporate media is afraid to cover an anti-corporate movement. To a degree, that’s probably true, but the way the party presents itself doesn’t do it any favors either.
The production quality of the debate was reminiscent of Troll 2. I’m 85% sure it was shot with a built in laptop webcam.
The debate was suppose to be between Roseanne Barr, Kent Mesplay, and Jill Stein. Mesplay had a prior commitment and announced on his campaign site that he wasn’t going to be there. Apparently, no one bothered to tell anyone running the debate this and they included an empty chair with a microphone between Stein and Barr. No explanation from the moderator, no “Kent won’t be able to make it tonight,” just an empty chair. It may seem like a trivial thing to bitch about, but it’s a perfect example of why no one takes the party seriously. If you can’t handle putting out a remotely professional looking video production, how can you expect to compete with the major parties? Even if a major outlet did want to pick up some sound bytes from last night, do you really think they’re going to air footage grainer than a bin Laden video?
The debate was more of a pep rally than a debate.
Stein and Roseanne don’t actually differ on any issues, so Barr pretty much just clapped and cheered into her mic every time Stein made a point. It’s clear Stein knows her shit and she deserves the nomination which is pretty much inevitable at this point. It’s pretty obvious she’s the most qualified person running, but she isn’t exactly dripping with charisma. It’s tough to see her broadening the party at all, but the aging hippies who run it should be happy with her.
I didn’t really know what to expect out of Roseanne when it came to a presidential debate. On one hand, she’s got some liberal street cred. People forget now, but her show was light years ahead of its time, and she’s been calling corporate America on its shit since the ’90s.
On the other hand, I’ve read her Twitter feed before, so the smart money was on a train wreck of a performance.
Early on, it seemed like that was going to happen. She stumbled nervously though her opening statements and seemed to want to read prepared remarks in response to most questions. She was constantly worried about running out of her allotted time on questions despite the fact no one gave even the slightest hint it was an issue. For someone who built a career as a club comic, it was weird to see her struggle on mic so much.
It wasn’t until about halfway though the debate when she was asked about how she’d represent the poor that things turned. She responded by saying she’d be their president and represent where she came from and nearly started crying mid-sentence. It was an incredibly weird moment in that it seemed to be a genuine expression of human emotion during a debate, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a political speech before. From that point forward, she seemed to find her stage presence, bust out some one liners and finish strong.
I pretty much watched this thing specifically to make fun of how much of a circus I assumed she was going to make it. I have to admit, she exceeded my expectations, but not enough to forgive the last episode of her show where it turns out Dan is dead and everything was a dream all a long. That was a train wreck.
What drives me nuts about the Greens is that if they could just get their shit together, they’ve got a solid platform to push that could easily appeal to young voters who get consistently fucked over by the major parties. There’s a back-patting culture around American progressive politics where everyone seems to be happy they made the attempt at running a campaign at all and if it isn’t as polished and well run as the major parties, it isn’t their fault, it’s the system that screwed them.
While the system sucks, it isn’t changing until we change it and if you refuse to play the same game the other teams are playing, you can’t win. You can only make those excuses for so long.
Well produced online media doesn’t need the financial backing of a Koch brother to be successful. What the Greens lack in funds, they make up for in smart, creative people. If the media won’t cover you, build your own media and make it better than what they’re doing. No one under 30 is watching television news, they consume everything online. Focus on reaching and engaging them with issues like forgiving student loan debt, legalizing pot and offering single-payer health care. Republicans and Democrats flat out ignore this stuff but young voters have made it clear that that’s what they care about. Find a sleek way to package and sell those positions and you can build the party for the next 20 years. Keep campaigning like it’s still 1965, keep pretending that substance wins out over style, and you’ll end up with more of the same.
But, hey, at least the Green Party is still cool enough to hang out with Jello Biafra after the debate:
Jon Splett looks like a shaved Chewbacca. Follow him on Twitter.