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Land O' Ventura

On This Week with George Stephanoplous newscaster Cokie Roberts made the statement that the people of Minnesota had voted for Jesse Ventura for governor because he was a wrestler. Excuse me, but this is the laziest journalism that I've ever encountered. Has she ever talked with even a single person who said that Ventura being a wrestler was the main reason, or even a reason they voted for him? Has she seen a poll that said this? No. Of course not. It's simply sloppy post hoc reasoning with no basis in fact. It goes like this: Ventura was a wrestler. Minnesotans voted for him. Therefore they voted for him because he was a wrestler. You know, post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Ms. Roberts should have talked with me. I could have told her why one person in Minnesota had voted for Ventura. And I wasn't drunk, and I wasn't crazed from wrestling fandom, and I hadn't been judged legally insane at the time. My intelligence was supposedly 'normal' and I was educated enough to have a college degree. And, no, I didn't think that it would be a swell practical joke to play on everyone else in Minnesota. The amazing truth was that I - like most of Ventura's voters - decided to elect him because of his performance on a series of televized debates on PBS. Incredible, but absolutely true. To a lesser Ventura benefited from his ability to energize a portion of the electorate - young voters - that usually bypass elections, through the use of new media (ie) the internet.

Consider this: Ventura started out with about ten percent support when he started the election and had the smallest advertising budget of any of the candidates, most of which was spent the week before. But, after each one of the debates (there were about six, I believe) his poll numbers went up, although the polls turned out to be amazingly inaccurate. Pre-election polls showed Ventura with twenty five percent of the vote when, in fact, he won with thirty-five percent. The young voters, who unexpectedly came out in droves, were entirely discounted.
If Minnesotans had been be-glamored by his wrestling reputation, as journalists believe, the polling numbers would have been exactly opposite. By the way, even though Ventura had not wrestled for more than a decade and had recently been a former mayor and radio announcer, he was always referred to as a former wrestler. How would you like it when people only mentioned your actions from ten years back, and ignored what you've done recently?

Everyone seems to forget that there were two candidates that Ventura ran against. The Democrat was Skip Humphrey, the son of former US Vice President Hubert Humphrey and a former Minnesota Attorney General of Minnesota. The Republican was the Mayor of St. paul, former Democrat and carpet-bagger from Boston, Norm Coleman. The reason everyone seems to forget about these guys is that they were two of the greatest political mediocrities of our time. Their great qualification for the governorship was that they were next in line in their respective parties.

Both of them are nice guys. This is Minnesota, so you expect that because nice is the law there. In fact, I've go a buddy who's on a first name with Coleman and he tells me: "Normie's a nice guy!" And from what I hear, Normie's making a pretty decent senator, now. But back then, he didn't shine at all and somehow for all the years he lived in the state he never was able to shed that Boston accent which just grated on my ears. You'd have thought he would have learned to at least say: " Yah, sure, you betcha!" That way he could've blended in better.

Like most Ventura voters, I watched him in the PBS sponsored debates. In the first debate I remember seeing him in between the other two candidates, absolutely dwarfing them, looking a tad bit like a circus strongman in a suit. I thought he looked like a buffoon and really wondered what on Earth he was doing there. Then the debate started and it was with an almost mounting sense of horror that I realized that I agreed with Ventura more than the other two, that he was actually making sense, that what he was saying was thoughtful and intelligent. Humphrey and Coleman? They had their lines well memorized and that's all I can say for them.

I watched the other debates thinking this must be a fluke and each time I came away with the same impression. Finally I confessed to a close friend that I thought I was going to vote for Jesse Ventura because I couldn't in good conscience vote for either of the other guys. My friend looked around and told me very quietly that he felt the same way and he was going to vote for Ventura, also. See, there were a lot of guys like us in Minnesota who were secret in our support of Ventura, but didn't want it publicly known.

So, Jesse Ventura got elected and he was an okay Governor despite what anyone tells you. His record was a little bit mixed, but mostly I think he looks worse than he was because - as he often charged - because the media was against him. Politicians always say that, but in this case it happened to be true. Why were they against him? Well, Media are people, too, and they have their opinions and beliefs and most people in the media voted for somebody else. The St. Paul Pioneer Press is an excellent example of this. They had a comic strip, which I believe they specially commissioned, called 'Venturaland' which was in the Newspaper everyday. Sure, newspaper's have political cartoons but never with such a clearly displayed bias. For some reason, The St. Paul Pioneer Press didn't have a special cartoon strip for the Republican Governor who preceeded Venura, nor did they have a special cartoon strip for the Republican Governor who succeeded him, either. Hmm, I wonder why.

The media can basically portray you any way they want to. Did you ever think about what it would be like if every second of your life had been recorded on camera? You could be shown to be anything, because there are portions of your life that could be taken out of context, exaggerated, etc. ... just like what was done to Ventura. Yeah. He said some pretty outrageous stuff, but so have you. It's just that his outrageous stuff was recorded for all time and yours wasn't.

About the Author: Steve Sommers new book, Evil Super-Villains Need Love, Too ... and other important wisdom, is available at
His novel, REXROI, is available at

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