By Dennis “DJ” Mikolay
Those familiar with Governor Jesse Ventura’s lengthy and unconventional public career will likely be aware that he very rarely has anything nice to say about the government, politicians, or special interest groups. Skepticism of elected officials, regardless of their partisan affiliation, has long been his signature trait; this disdain was apparently strengthened during his four years as Minnesota’s most controversial elected official. Following his retirement, Governor Ventura briefly vanished from the spotlight, only to return in 2008 with several books, countless media appearances, and a popular TruTV series that helped catapult him back into the public discussion. Now, riding on a new wave of popularity that largely coincides with the public’s obvious disgust regarding the federal shutdown, many are speculating whether the country’s most vocal independent is planning a presidential candidacy.
It’s a prospect that has been raised on several occasions during the last fifteen years. Though Ventura for President has yet to materialize, the former Governor has endorsed and campaigned for at least two recent presidential aspirants (Ralph Nader in 2008 and Governor Gary Johnson last year), so he likely knows all about the hardships that a nation-wide third party effort would inevitably present. Previous threats to run for office were met with great skepticism by some in the media (myself included), though this time something feels different…as though Jesse really is considering throwing his hat into the ring. Governor Ventura has dropped several hints about such a possibility on Crossfire, Coast to Coast AM, and several other shows, always delivering the same message: if a grassroots movement of voters petition and achieve ballot access in all fifty states, the wrestler known as “The Body” will seek to become “The President.”
Now in the midst of a tour in support of his new book, They Killed Our President: 63 Facts That Prove a Conspiracy to Kill JFK, Governor Ventura isn’t quite campaigning, though it wouldn’t be the first time a politician used a best-seller to test the waters for a future campaign. During his appearance in Ridgewood, New Jersey, last week, he certainly seemed the prospective candidate, bashing Congress for the shutdown of the federal government and reminding voters of an oft-forgotten truth about Washington: “they work for us, we don’t work for them.”
There were many potential platform planks discussed last week, including opposition to the War on Terror and support for legalization of marijuana. “Colorado and Washington are going to get rich,” the Governor predicted. “How many people are taking vacations to Colorado?” While some within the vanguard of punditry will scoff at these ideas, it is important to remember that support for libertarian views has increased greatly in recent years. If the environment is right, a socially liberal, fiscally conservative anti-war candidate like Ventura could very well nab Nader 2000 numbers at the polls.
During the appearance, Jesse also integrated himself into New Jersey’s political debate, if even on a minor scale, after independent United States Senate candidate Antonio Sabas also made an impromptu appearance seeking his blessing. “I’d vote for him,” Ventura quipped after Sabas, a former Marine, condemned the two-party system. Though he may be giving off-the-cuff endorsements now, it will be interesting to see whether or not Governor Ventura will be seeking them himself in three years. “President Ventura” may sound like an impossible scenario, but stranger things have been known to happen, and with America as divided as it is today, an outsider who is willing to stand up to the machine may be just what the people look for come 2016.