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The Jesse Ventura Primer

How do you like the new colors? I'm changing the look a little, but the blog remains mostly the same. As always, I am on the lookout for good topics, and it was pointed out to me that I have yet to discuss our lovely state's governor, a mistake that I must correct. I realize this could take more time than my daily allotted bloggage, so I think it's going to have to be a two day affair.

Part I, or, how the hell did you elect that guy?

For those living under a rock, Jesse Ventura is the governor of the state of Minnesota. Jesse Ventura is the trademarked name taken by Jim Janos as a struggling young pro wrestler. He wrestled and commented for the WWF, gaining much notoriety among young white men (much like myself; WWF was always on after the cartoons, so if you weren't doing anything else, why not watch? After all, there was Jake "the Snake", and Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, and. . . sorry to digress. My mom probably thought I was cleaning my room while I was watching.).

Anyway, so right after moving to Minnesota in late September 1998, we were sitting in the Back Garage of Mag's parents' house, and Jeron mentions that he heard that Jesse was in the double digits for poll percentages in the gubernatorial race. Mag and I thought that was pretty cool. After all, Jesse was mostly known at the time for a) making outrageous comments (as the establishment saw it) on the campaign trail; b) being a former pro wrestler, and c) sparking national interest in the race. But no one gave him a snowball's chance in hell of winning. In the Back Garage, we formulated the plan that would win Jesse the race. He would figure out how to get in a dead heat, and we would make sure he got the votes to push him over the edge. We laughed heartily and then forgot about state politics for a while.

Then a funny thing happened. The Democratic candidate Hubert H "Skip" Humphrey III (how could you lose in Minnesota with that name?) insisted that Jesse be included in the televised debates. He figured that Jesse's avowed fiscal conservatism and huge popularity among white men would pull voters away from the Republican candidate, Norm Coleman (a Brooklyn transplant, mayor of St. Paul, and Dubya's Minnesota campaign chair, by the way). This would prove to not only be a huge mistake (for the two parties), but also a lesson for all those who claim that minor candidates are irrelevent in political debates. At the time of the debates, Jesse was in third place with about 10% of polled likely voters saying they'd vote for him; after the debates were done, he was polling in the 30s and within striking range. Around the same time, Jesse began using his meager campaign war chest to buy some targeted television advertising. The result was perhaps some of the best political advertising I've ever seen: the Jesse Ventura Action figure, fighting off the evil lobbyists ("I'll never take any of your dirty money!"). Jesse was also beginning to attract a constituency that would send shivers of shock through the spines of political operatives everywhere. Young voters, not known to vote in any numbers ever, where getting very excited about the idea of voting for a guy that didn't really care what the polls said, he just said what he thought.

Thus, the cry and hue of the editorial pages about Jesse's statement that he wouldn't outright rule out considering the legalization of marijuana and prostitution fell on some deaf ears. Sure, this wasn't what politicians said, but the politicians weren't doing anything about the problems anyway. As the election day grew nearer, the Back Garage plan sprang into action, and from the polling numbers that followed, many people of our age group had also met in their own Back Garages and determined the same thing we did. Voter turnout was huge; I've never seen lines on an election day like then. I waited for nearly half an hour to vote, and we dragged several people that were friends of Jeron's to the polls with us. No one was predicting that Jesse would win, mind you. Even the most optimistic of the polls only said it would be very close, but the press continued to think of it as a Coleman vs. Humphrey race, with Jesse as spoiler. Early exit poll results showed Jesse in the lead, and we watched the results pour in all night long. The analysts kept predicting that outstate (i.e., not the Twin Cities) returns would push Jesse's lead down, but it didn't happen. Jesse had won. Humphrey, for his hubris in insisting that Jesse get included in the debates, took the loser's third spot with a sniveling speech about how the people had spoken and he trusted the people. Coleman conceded with his funny East Coast accent and went back to cutting back room deals giving St. Paul businesses tax breaks. As for Jesse, I don't think he really thought he would win. He now had to figure out a way to come up with a coherent way to govern.
Tomorrow: Jesse the Governor

Loose Ends

What would you do if you started a community weblog that suddenly had over three thousand members, more links than were readable, and growing whining among the core members over news items that kept getting re-posted? I don't know. Just wondering. Stupid Criminals from the genius behind Newza da Weird. Finally, the reason why if we find ET, it will be way smarter than us.


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