So Jesse Ventura has apparently decided against a run for the U.S. Senate, which spares taxpayers the burden of having to fumigate the Senate chamber after every session, in much the same way it was necessary to fumigate Minnesota after the conclusion of Ventura’s term as governor.
We don’t generally launch into ad hominem attacks on this site, but in the case of Ventura it is almost impossible to seriously discuss his place in politics without engaging in an “argument against the man.” For Jesse Ventura has probably done more than anyone in the last fifty years, excluding perhaps David Duke, to demean and degrade the profession of politics in this country. And that says a lot, considering the base level to which politics has fallen. It has little to do with Ventura’s own politics – I’m not sure I can actually recall any – and everything to do with Ventura the man.
It is true that politics today is filled with personal invective, fringe elements spreading paranoia and conspiracy with every breath. It is the case that politicians are viewed with suspicion and are accused of dishonesty, of corruption, of waffling and distorting to please the latest special interest group. All of this is undeniable, which might lead one to ask how this wrestler could possibly make things worse. And yet he does, by his very presence in the body politic.
For in addition to the already-present traits of corruption and graft, dishonesty and deceit, selfishness and narrow-mindedness, Jesse Ventura adds the qualities of bigotry and bullying, of crudity and uncouthness, gracelessness and incivility and a host of personal charms that demean not only himself but anyone who is forced to listen to him.
If, as Ventura claims, he is more representative of “the people” than other politicians, then it is our lowest and basest instincts which he so crudely represents, the uncivilized qualities which we like to think can be overcome in a civilized society. Ventura, the man who once scorned religion as a crutch for weak people, does not appeal to our higher nature, does not encourage us to rise to the level of the angels, but instead reduces us to the base level of animals. He is the country bumpkin, the crazy uncle who embarrasses you at every family gathering, the relative for whom you’re always offering apologies. There are no brakes, no restraints, none of the refinements which human beings like to think we’ve developed in the time since the primordial slime. He is the very representation of the knuckle-dragging troglodyte that conservatives are (mistakenly) so often portrayed. His appeal is to the qualities in ourselves which we must work at the hardest to rise above, which we can do only with the very graces which the wrestler ridicules.
We can never know what resides in Ventura's heart, nor would we dare to speculate. To suggest that he is incapable of individual acts of kindness and intelligence would be absurd. We can only observe his public behavior, his words and deeds, and note them accordingly. Nor can we avoid repsonsibility for his election, for whether we voted for him or not, we all share in that responsibility. Ventura is a creature of our own making. "His blood be on us and our children," and in that way we are as responsible for what Ventura hath wrought as he is.
It could even be plausibly argued that much of his boorish behavior is no more than a clever act, bread and circuses for the masses. If so, then it’s an act that no longer entertains (if it ever did), and honors neither him nor us.
Cromwell dismissed the rump Parliament with the famous words, “In the name of God, go” and those words could apply equally to Ventura. “Go already!” we might add to the man whose cloying, “will he or won’t he” political machinations make Brett Farve look positively decisive by comparison.
If this sounds harsh it is, because Jesse Ventura has made politics an infinitely harsher game by his very presence. And we are infinitely better off without him.