To: The Honorable Jesse Ventura
70 Miles Northeast
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
There are many in this election season who believe that the Iowa caucuses will foretell what the general election—and possibly the next presidential administration—will look like. We know better. Your election as governor of Minnesota in 1998 “shocked the world” and gave us our first look at Trumpery. Yes indeed, the Donald is following in your wrestling boots.
Wrestling is entertainment because the matches are scripted. You were “the Body,” while Trump is “the Donald.” Trump is fond of pointing out that he plays to peoples’ fantasies and that his businesses are based on those fantasies—gambling casinos and gold-plated apartments. Pro wrestling is based on the fantasy of good versus evil. Generally, in a pro wrestling match, good ultimately triumphs over evil. And pro wrestling often traffics in racial stereotypes—the Arab, the Sheik, the Asian, and the Mexican were all staples of the “evil” side of the wrestling tableau.
In the Trump fantasy, we also have good versus evil. The good will “return America to greatness,” and this will be accomplished by vanquishing evil. The evil forces are generally people who do not look like us—Mexicans or Chinese. In fact, the Chinese government—which according to Trump is much smarter than the American government—has been stealing all our jobs. While the Mexican government—also much smarter than the American government—has been injecting thousands of rapists, murderers and drug dealers into our country. To solve this problem, we will have to call upon more than the Assassin or the Claw, or even the Body—we need the Wall. (We are pleased to recall that you, Jesse, would have none of this immigrant- or Mexican-bashing.)
Most polls have Donald Trump ahead by approximately 37 percent in an extremely crowded Republican primary field. Jesse won with 37 percent of the vote. Under rules the GOP adopted following the 2012 Romney debacle, a self-funded candidate with a solid one-third of the vote could capture enough delegate support to go all the way to the national convention in July.
The Trump (and Ventura) appeal, based on celebrity, is also based on a popular dislike of politicians and the political system. In the late 1990s, this distrust was fueled by the mess in the Oval Office, the ongoing impeachment of President Bill Clinton and the accelerating wealth of a small portion of the population. In fact, not being a professional but merely an apprentice was essential to both candidates’ support. It is no coincidence that Donald Trump starred in Celebrity Apprentice.
Minnesota can also point the way to what would happen if the Trumpen-proletariat gained control of government. As governor, Ventura was active as an announcer for the Extreme Football League (XFL), as a referee in a WWE match, and in several other personally profitable ventures. It seemed to many of us that—with the exception of a few of his appointed commissioners—Ventura quickly became bored with the job, and he did not run for reelection. I would expect the same trajectory of a Trump presidency.
Like Ventura and his effort to brand the XFL, you could expect to see Trump’s name on even more buildings—perhaps the Treasury Building right down the street from the hotel that Trump is building on the site of the old D.C. Post Office. Trump’s signature policy initiative—building the very high and very effective wall on the Mexican border—would be a complete failure. His claim that he can negotiate such a deal (“It will make your head spin”), so that Mexico would pay for the wall is reminiscent of the claim that oil revenue in Iraq would pay for the Bush-initiated invasion of Iraq. It won’t happen.
In a Trump presidency, we should expect even more boastful self-promotion, and no successful policy initiatives. Ventura understood from his days as an actor in scripted wrestling matches that the sharp dichotomy between good and evil was a fantasy. He knew that people enjoyed being entertained. As a result, one never heard from Gov. Ventura an attack on a group of people, or an effort to incite one element of the population against another element of the population. Not so with Donald Trump.
Trump has boasted that he slept with “the top women in the world”; Jesse Ventura once boasted that a prostitute paid him. But that’s about as far as it went. Trump refers to women as “pigs,” and believes you can criticize women’s appearances as a basis for choosing the next commander in chief. You get the impression that Trump views women in a different way than he views the rest of the population.
Neither Ventura nor Trump was knowledgeable about a wide range of real issues (they were apprentices, after all). Ventura at least appointed high-quality commissioners early in his term. Trump, on the other hand, has failed to identify any significant experts advising his campaign, other than “I will appoint the best in the world.”
And so Minnesota has shown the way, and the pitfalls, of electing an apprentice to office. Apprentices usually don’t get much done, get bored with the job and move on. But the contrast between Ventura and Trump also shows the dangers of electing a nativist.
I’m not suggesting, Gov. Ventura, that you come “off the grid,” but if I had to choose between you and Donald Trump, I’d vote for you.
Vance K. Opperman
Hoping for a Better GOP Candidate
Vance K. Opperman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is owner and CEO of MSP Communications, which publishes Twin Cities Business.