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Minnesota's New Governor: Yawn

04.14.1999 | POLITICS

"You're all a bunch of slack-jawed faggots."
—Governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura, in Predator

The convergence of Planet Hollywood with the levers of State power is nothing new in America. Reagan was of course the modern apotheosis of this marraige—with talk of a Governor Schwarzenegger, Eastwood, and even Heston keeping the tradition alive. An argument could even be made that in the media age all successful candidates must posess some celebrity qualities as well as a platform. Jesse Ventura has shown us that the prior alone—along with some money—can be good enough too.

The striking thing about the election of Jesse the Body Ventura to the governorship of Minnesotta this November is not his celebrity status, but his total lack of even the crudest agenda. Although he ran on the Reform Party ticket, his campaign speeches were even more inchoate than the "throw the bums out" rhetoric of most Perotians.

He quoted Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendirx and articulated the boredom and frustration of the working class youths that constitued the backbone of his campaign, but actually had no ideas that could be considered political in even the loosest sense of the word. The most sunbstantive excerpts I have read amount to little more than "guns good, taxes bad." His amazing upset, hailed from different quarters as both a success and failure of democracy, is the electoral expression of an active contingent of Sega generation Cheetos eating kids. Indeed, their leader's political philosophy has the depth of a video game and the heartiness of Cheeto. To the extent that it says anything, it is the blunt voice of confused reaction.

Which seems to satisfy his supporters just fine, although their own lack of political sophistication has precluded them from seeing that the regressive tax policies he is likely to adopt represents a clothes-line drop to their own class interests. For unlike the governor they love so dearly, they do not drive Porches to work, if they are lucky enough to have a steady job at all.

And this is the real tragedy of Ventura's election. For grassroots, shoestring funded victories with no connection to establishment power are rare things these days. But instead of electing a genuine populist that might put certain balls in play—as a Green or Socialist might—Ventura represents the same interests as his conservative friend and advisor Arnold Schwarsenegger does. Namely, the interests of people that make a lot of money.

Whether this money comes from inherited oil wealth or action movies about aliens has been demonstrated, over thousands of years, to have little impact upon the strong class allegiance it generates. Ventura may have come up the hard way, but he is part of the club now, and shows little inclination of bucking anything other than the most superficial of elite conventions. The establishment makes room for eccentrics, even those with bad table manners, as long as they serve a purpose—as the governors mansion always has.

Sure, Ventura is liberal on social issues. But these are not the ones most likely to effect the Americans that worked so hard to get him elected. He may be a libertarian on smoking grass, but he will most likely toe a straight line on social spending. Nobody ever called the Reform Party a hotbed of socialism.

And so, what has captured the country's imagination is essentially, even spectacularly, a growth-hormone enhanced bore. Jesse the Body—if not the brain—will soon become just another politician. And after the excitement dies down, his campaign workers will realize that they are still pumping gas into the endless tank of the Governor's new limousine.

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