People like to put Jesse Ventura and Donald Trump in the same category. They both have affiliations with the entertainment industry, including the production of “Pro Wrestling”. They both were insurgent candidates who shook up the political party system… but speaking as someone who actually voted for Jesse Ventura (and did not regret doing so)… let me tell you, Donald Trump is no Jesse Ventura.
When I first heard that Jesse Ventura was running for Governor of Minnesota, I certainly laughed out loud. Celebrities pull these kinds of stunts all the time and they rarely end up successful. But I also knew that Jesse Ventura was pretty serious about politics, and had already served as Mayor of Brooklyn Park, a suburb of Minneapolis, under an independent ticket…. so I certainly thought it was worth checking out.
Jesse was polling well enough to get invited to the televised debates, and I managed to convince the barista at a local coffee house to turn on the debate one night… and I was actually quite floored with how well he performed.
Jesse’s debate style was commanding. He demonstrated a command of the facts and statistics. He also portrayed himself as a man of the people, who sends his kids to public schools while questioning the authenticity of what the politicians in power were actually doing with all the money they had already appropriated to reduce class sizes down to 17 (did that ever happen?).
But what Jesse did that resonated with me, in particular, is he changed the subject away from the wedge issues. He pointed out the absurdity of the party platforms, which centered around issues of differentiation between the two parties exclusively, while ignoring issues that weren’t in their interests. The two parties were neglecting many issues simply because it didn’t fit into the electoral math of getting them elected. How often do you hear politicians talking about gerrymandering or instant run-off voting? Even in 2020, you don’t hear about it very much… but in Jesse Ventura’s day… it was totally taboo to talk about the enfranchisement of 3rd party candidates… because both of the two major parties were in agreement that talking about such things would be offering an olive branch to their rivals.
Jesse Ventura completely pummeled Skip Humphrey and Norm Coleman (who would eventually become a republican senator), making them look like ill-informed puppets to polling statistics… and frankly just boring. Humphrey and Coleman didn’t have anything new to say that hadn’t already been said a thousand times by a thousand political hacks that came before them. In a transparent attempt to woo voters away from Ventura, Coleman repeatedly complimented his ideas as if to say to the public “hey, I’m actually electable, Ventura is not, because he wasn’t picked by one of the two giant corporations that are the Democratic and Republican parties… so if you like Jesse, vote for Coleman!”. But Coleman, a former Democrat, came off as completely unauthentic, ill-informed, dispassionate, and frankly not all that smart.
Ventura said some shocking things in the debate. He advocated for the reduction of the drinking age from 21 to 18 because [sic] “nobody should be sent to war with a gun, without legally being offered the rights of an adult.”
He also pointed out the absurdity of Minnesota’s emissions testing system, that it put an undue burden on poor people who couldn’t afford to fix their old cars, while Minnesota offered them extremely inadequate public transit options (he was a big proponent of bringing light rail to MN, and actually did). In an admittedly self-interested point, he also complained that our license tab fees were way out of line, costing him, personally, thousands of dollars per year for just one of his cars. As a young person, all of this resonated with me. I was driving a beater. My car insurance cost more than my car’s entire value, every month. Public transit didn’t seem like an option, even in good weather. And every year I had to go to an emissions testing station, fail a test, then spend hundreds of dollars on mechanics to get my car to pass emissions standards. This problem was best solved by better emissions standards at the manufacturing level. Certainly, cars are far less emissive in 2020 without the need to put burdens on poor people driving crappy cars.
Leading up to election day, the polls were completely wrong. The pollsters predicted that Humphrey would win, Coleman would come in second, and Ventura, third. On election night, the results were completely opposite. Ventura, Coleman, Humphrey. Jesse Ventura did not wait for his opponents to concede, and went to the stage and delivered his famous line, “we shocked the world!”… which landed on the covers of major magazines and was subsequently shamelessly re-appropriated by many candidates who followed him… so as to convey some kind of kinship with insurgency.
As Governor, Jesse Ventura was always entertaining to listen to. The legislature would try to paint him as uncooperative and disengaged. Both parties hated him, naturally. But Ventura did not tow either party’s line, and although his style was often brash and pointed, they were forced to work with him and come to a party-neutral compromise if they wanted to get anything done. All-in-all it was good for Minnesota, in my opinion.
As governor, Jesse would abolish Minnesota’s emissions testing system, reduce tab fees down to sane levels, and even start Minnesota’s first light rail project among many other things, and didn’t take any shit from anyone or either side of the “isle”.
He didn’t pay lip-service to what would get him reelected. One of his most famous quotes was, “Organized religion is a sham, and a crutch for the weak minded.”
Often, what he said hit kinda hard, but it was also what needed to be said. He didn’t pretend to believe things he didn’t. And he didn’t twist facts to play nice with public opinion. I had friends in Winona, MN at a time when Winona was having some issues due to lack of funding for schools, maybe there was a Teacher strike going on… some protests… I don’t really remember. Any normal politician would have shown up, got on stage and kissed all their asses, “We’re sorry, funding is on the way, education is important! Help is on the way! Teachers and our children matter!”, they would likely say. You might expect Jesse, as well, to come up on stage and say something populist, but, Jesse came up on the stage, fired up, armed with data. He said, [sic] “You people have been paying some of the lowest property taxes in the state. Raise your property taxes, fund your schools, and don’t come back complaining to the state government until that happens!” [mic drop] When people needed a good spanking, Jesse wasn’t afraid to tell it like it was.
Now Trump. Trump is no Jesse Ventura. Trump has never said anything of substance ever. Trump speaks in small words illustrative of his small brain. Trump does not care about community. Trump is self-dealing. Trump is a draft dodger. Trump tells it like it “isn’t”. Trump is on a major party, not independent. Trump is the literal embodiment of a “confidence man” a.k.a. “con man”. He’s just the guy who stands in front of you promising that he alone can deliver what you need… takes your money and delivers maybe 10% of what he promised. Trump is a rapist. Trump is just a bad, bad, bad human. Trump needs to go, YESTERDAY. He has done nothing good for this country. He took an economy that was thriving, that Barack Obama and Biden built up from the ashes of the previous Republican idiot (George W. Bush) and dumped all the prosperity into the toilet. Our trade deficit with China is higher than it has ever been. There has been 7 trillion added to our national debt under his watch, which Republicans would be crying about every minute on Faux News if a Democrat had caused it. At the same time, his rich golfing buddies got huge tax breaks, sometimes in amounts annually greater than you will ever see in your lifetimes… and Trump’s own businesses have received sweetheart government deals, both locally and abroad. Trump has destroyed Main Street in favor of Wall Street and Country Club Lane.
Trump needs to go. I would consider voting for Jesse Ventura for President. Trump, however, is a complete disaster.
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