Thoughts after Iowa, before New Hampshire, and Jesse Ventura recalled 25 years later

Postnote Jan 21.  #DE#%&^&*E$$$!!!!  I am basically a mild-mannered guy.  Spent most of last week dealing with yet another e-mail issue, and just today e-address am again on-line.   My alternate is sykestonguy46ATgmailDOTcom.   Make note of it.  The problem seemed a bit more complex than just blaming someone.  Glad I’am back


Jan. 16, 2024: I spent some time last evening listening in on the returns in Iowa.  There were about 115,000 votes cast.  This was out of 752,000 registered Republicans among 2,2 million registered voters in Iowa.  If you care you already know the split and the back story as reported.  The turnout was relatively light, but no rocket scientist needs to analyze that.  It was cold.  I had suggested page 5 of the Des Moines Register article for more data.  Link is early in Sunday’s post.

In the aforementioned post I recalled the 2008 Minnesota Democratic caucuses – the one where Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton began their active campaigns for the nomination for President.

The process was similar to Iowa – grassroots involvement at the community level.

Caucuses and later local, state and national conventions are important events for those who organize political campaigns.  There is a tendency to be critical of most everything related to the political process.  On the other hand, there is much to be learned  and applied by those who run for political office at all levels.

Such a process is crucial for the very survival of  large and complex society, as ours is.  An ideal of freedom from government would be a disaster for everyone, including for those who advocate for such.  Government is the glue which holds us together, imperfect as it might seem to be.  And it is always imperfect, because we are imperfect.

Take a bit of time some day to consciously observe what it is that you take for granted which would not exist were it not for government.  For most of us, safe streets and roads are a given, for instance.  Make a list.

If you can, get to know personally who is a government official, elected, a “bureaucrat”, a neighborhood association leader, on and on.  We may not know what they do; we may think their position is a waste of money…on the other hand, their position would not exist were there not some need for it.

The Iowa caucus is not history, and the political process in the U.S. will intensify in the coming months before Election Day in November.  You have plenty of time to become better informed, and to help make a positive difference.

Jesse Ventura

by happy coincidence, my day ended Jan. 16 watching a one-hour documentary on a legendary Minnesota Governor, Jesse Ventura, who unexpectedly (even to Jesse), and memorably, became Minnesota Governor 1999-2003.  The movie is “Jesse Ventura Shocks the World“.

Often such specials are repeated sometime within the next week, so if you happen to be in range of TPT, check in with them.  Next announced showing on local TPT is Monday night, Jan 22, at 8 p.m.  The program is an hour, and I think you’ll find it very interesting and enlightening.

Former Governors Jesse Vetnura (center) and colleague  Al Quie, dedicate a replica of the Liberty Bell at the Minnesota Veterans Services Building, St. Paul, on Armistice (Veterans) Day Nov. 11, 2019. Ventura had been a member of what later became the Navy Seals. photo: Dick Bernard

There is plenty of biography of Jesse Ventura on-line.  My comments below are strictly personal.

Ventura was an unlikely candidate for Governor of Minnesota, at least that is how he was perceived at the start.   He was independent, his given name was not Jesse Ventura (look it up).  His fame was as a ‘professional wrestler’, though being a local mayor and volunteer high school football coach didn’t hurt.  His two opponents for Governor were conventional and prominent Republican and Democrat.  In the end, he beat both of them, narrowly.

No one I knew – I was an active Democrat – could believe the results election night 1998.  Probably Jesse, himself, was among the surprised.  I was with a local Democrat group as election returns were announced, and when he was declared victorious over Skip Humphrey – Hubert’s son – and Norm Coleman.  Both were prominent and respected politicians.  The general reaction after the dust settled would probably best be characterized as stunned.

The day after a  Republican I knew said his vote for Jesse was strictly a whim – he hadn’t warmed to the Republican candidate.  His seemed  a “what the hell?” kind of vote (he won’t win anyway, so why not?).  A very active Democrat relative said about the same thing to me about the same time.  Skip Humphrey had been to his town and seemed to dismiss the local Democrat power structure, of which my relative was an important part.  They felt slighted.

I don’t think either man had ever had any contact with Jesse.  Neither thought Jesse would win, but he did.

“All politics is local” came to have meaning that election night.

We should have known better.  In March of 1998 I was at a state teacher’s union meeting where all of the then-potential candidates for Governor were invited to give their 5 minute elevator speech to several hundred teacher leaders from around the state.  I recall there were at least 8 in the field of prospects then, including Jesse Ventura, and the teacher union audience was an important one.  Jesse’s turn came up, and some teacher leader in the room yelled “Go, Jesse”, and other people were equally enthusiastic.  Nobody commanded the room like Jesse did.  We should have paid more attention.  I still have my tape recording of all the candidates talks that Saturday – it was March 7, 1998.  I have relistened to the tape.  Everyone regardless of party made good presentations.

Not all of the speakers that day ended up running in the Primary election later that summer:  here was the Primary results: MN Primary Election 1998

After the 1998 election, late November, I was at a national conference in Houston TX and offered to convene an evening  conversation about the election for anyone interested.  There was a room full of union staff from around the U.S.  The agenda was simply to talk.  Jesse overnight was a national celebrity.

Ventura turned out to be a consequential governor, in a very positive sense.  He had his own personal priorities, of course.   But he surrounded himself with good advisors for his departments, all who were well qualified, mostly Democrats and Republicans.  And he respected their advice.  Jesse being Jesse, there was seldom a dull moment in his four years (watch the movie).  In the end, he decided not to run for reelection, and the rest of the band of merry folk essentially disintegrated.

Minnesotans who might read this would doubtless have opinions about him and his time in office..

In the interim, if you happen to see this, check out the public television film mentioned above.  You won’t regret it.

PS: One of Jesse’s admirers (who makes a cameo appearance in the movie) was Donald J. Trump.  If one looks closely at the two men, their experience and world view seems to have been almost totally different, though their public persona was similar.  Jesse by and large seemed to take his public charge very seriously; Donald cared only about himself.  The only thing they had in common was celebrity.  There are lessons we can learn from the experience with both.  Will we?

After Jesse took office, one of our office secretaries and myself, started a poster wall of stuff that showed up in the paper about Jesse Ventura – things like cartoons and the like.  We were an office full of Democrats, I would guess.  I seem to recall Wanda telling me that Jesse was the first and only person she had ever voted  for…and, while young, she was no longer a youngster.  There were a lot of Wanda’s that year.

The Jesse Wall at Education Minnesota Summer 1999.

Our office manager put up with the nonsense of the Jesse Wall for awhile, but before too long the posters came down….

There are endless comparisons of Jesse to Donald.  Both were larger than life caricatures of humanity – “stars” shall I say. But if you look closely at the human beings underneath, they followed entirely different paths, which should have been easily discernible by the electorate.

I hope you take the time to watch the film: “Jesse Ventura Shocks the World”.  I think you’ll be glad you did, and that you’ll learn something, maybe even about yourself.

My personal bottom line: buy an actor’s line at your own risk.  It is a good idea to make a clear-eyed assessment of the person actually behind the mask…

Govs. Al Quie and Jesse Ventura at the bell-ringing Nov 11 2019.  Jesse was very respectful and kind at the bell-ringing.  His hand on Gov Quie’s arm said a lot to me that day…A very positive measure of the man.

“EXTRA CREDIT”:  In November I read a most interesting commentary about what it means when someone says they are a liberal.  You might find it interesting: Liberal by Sunstein  

COMMENTS (more below):

from Gail: When I awoke to the news that Jesse Ventura had been elected Governor, I was embarrassed for my state. A wrestler – not even a Real sport!  But I came to admire Jesse, because he was honest and truly independent.

from Steve:  I’ve seen the promotional pieces on TPT for their Jesse Ventura film, but haven’t tuned in to watch the program. Shortly after Ventura’s election, our daughter, then in her mid-20s, told us that the only people she knew who did not vote for Ventura were her parents. I don’t know if that was just a facetious comment, or had a foundation in truth. No matter, the returns showed that more people voted for Ventura than either of the alternatives.

Jesse’s approach to “politics-as-usual” was obviously appealing to plenty of people. After the election, I had a local DFL campaign chair speak to a class I was teaching at the University. He said that Jesse’s campaign was a phenomenon that he and his colleagues couldn’t understand: “At a weekend campaign event, Jesse told the story of his visit with a prostitute in Nevada. After the encounter, Jesse said that she gave him ten bucks.”
The Democrats thought that Jesse’s story had been the indiscretion that would sink his campaign. “But when polls came out on Monday, his approval had gone up five points.”
I was working at the University’s Humphrey School at the time. The day after every election, students and faculty traditionally got together in the auditorium to talk about results. After Jesse’s election, one of the Senior Fellows and former US Ambassador, Geri Joseph said: “We should form a committee to offer Jesse help because he has no experience.”
I thought Geri’s comments were turned around. It was Jesse who had taught both Republicans and Democrats a lesson. Voters responded to someone they believed was genuine, did not appear condescending, and expressed feelings they held in common.
That doesn’t mean that Jesse was some kind of savant who could straighten things out. Far from it. I thought his attitude and resulting policies were short-sighted, sometimes selfish, and unwilling to accept a serious analysis of his proposals. His tax program has had a lingering and difficult effect ever since the “Jesse Checks” were approved by the legislature and distributed.
Do you remember when Charlie McCarty was elected mayor of St. Paul–might have been 1971? A city council gad-fly, whose confrontations with council members and mayor became a regular part of the evening news, became a kind of folk character—again, standing up to official politics and poking them in the eye. He decided to run for mayor and was elected—Jesse Ventura had been mayor of Brooklyn Park, I believe, but Charlie McCarty was just a character, a kind of populist with the same sort of attitude and appeal. He didn’t like what the city government was doing and he told them so—often and without any attention to traditional decorum.
I’m willing to make the comparison—Ventura and McCarty, and there are other examples in our past–to former president Trump. Not an appealing thought.
Thanks for your recent post

from Georgine: Aloha Dick,  Wanted to share with you that I cheered when Jesse beat Norm Coleman.  He was not in my book a respected and prominent Republican Politician.  I got to know Norm when he was a democrat and I was active in democratic politics.  Coleman is a lot like Trump.  He has a very high opinion of him self and little respect for other people, especially women.  He naively tried to involve me in a process to manipulate the women at a Democratic party convention.  He believed he was going to be president one day, and when the Democrats figured out what a creep he was, he became a Republican.  I always said that he thought he was JFK.  He in reality was a Trump.  I was so happy when Jesse crashed his dreams of ruling the world.  Was sad for the State of Minnesota but Jesse did the USA a big favor.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Democracy, revisited

You may have heard that the Iowa Caucus is Monday January 15 (see comment from Larry at end of this post).  More, if you wish, from the Des Moines IA Register: Iowa Caucus 2024. (For me, the most interesting data is on page 5 of the article.)

If you’re not sure where Iowa is:

Minneapolis-St. Paul is about 240 miles from Des Moines.  Chicago is about 330 miles and New York City 1,100 miles east; New Orleans 1,010 miles south, San Francisco 1,825 miles west….  Iowa has 3.2 million population; Minnesota has 5.7 million, U.S. is about 330 million.

We’re a large country.  At the same time, as a democracy everyone eligible to vote has a single vote, whether billionaire or the most common person.  It is a great right, and an awesome responsibility.


Last week, I posted a commentary from Chuck Woolery about the Danger of Democracy.  I sent it along because I found it very interesting and concerning: a statement of uncomfortable truth.

If the post passed you by, here it is again.  Agree or disagree, the points made apply to politics past, present and future.  We, the people, in a democracy. ARE “politics”.  We are the ones ultimately and always responsible for who we elect to represent us, by action or inaction.

By choice, I am a modern day Democrat – the party that dealt with its roots in slavery.  Every post I make includes my self-identification (at right on this page.)

A favorite quote is the one attributed to Will Rogers in the 1930s.  “I am not a member of any organized political party; I’m a Democrat.”

To this day, Democrats are criticized for being a disorganized rabble, and the criticism is justified as far as it goes.  Democrats (democracy) is a big tent philosophy which encourages different voices.  Democracy represents we, the people, as we are in all our rich diversity.

Democracy is the antithesis of authoritarianism, which seems to have become the philosophy of choice in today’s Republican party.


I don’t have any nifty one liner to add to Chuck’s fine collection of quotations seemingly against “democracy”.

Neither do I have have any opinions about what will happen in Iowa on Monday, nor about the pull quotes which anchor the news about one side or the other down there.  Were I a resident in Iowa, I would be no different than I am as a resident here: a single but essential voice.  I would likely attend and participate in my caucus, as I have always tried to do here.

What does Democracy look like?  And how can each of us have a positive impact?

Every single one of us is part of one, often many, family(lies), and I’m not talking about a family where everyone marches to the same drummer.

One of aggravating constants of any functioning family unit is inevitably tension requiring negotiation to not only survive, but thrive.

For every family unit, this looks different.

A suggestion: make your own list of who you define as “family” in a personal sense in the course of a normal day.  If you do this with an open mind, you’ll find differences of opinion and philosophy which must be constantly negotiated.  My family lists do not include my “birds of a feather” which “flock together”: the people I totally agree with, all the time.  Come to think of it, there aren’t any of these!  There are all varieties.


Wednesday, Iowa will be old news, and the focus will be elsewhere, New Hampshire, etc.  There remain about ten months till Nov. 4, 2024….  Show up, well informed.

This is a time to get actively engaged as part of the body politic – demonstrate what democracy looks like.

POSTNOTES: In side conversations during the preparation of this post, there are some  brief threads which relate.

About Chuck Woolery’s post (there were also a couple of comments at the end of this post):

Fred: Got this last week and saved a bunch of them.

Kathy: Thought you might like to see what brother Tim has created from his work with Native Peoples and differently abled folks. (Video here).  Let me know your thoughts

Frank: Well, I plowed through this and it makes me shake my head in sadness as I find myself agreeing so many times with statements I would have found to be blasphemous fifty years ago. Thanks for sharing.

Larry: It looked very much worth printing…so I printed it for keeping and reference. It took 11 pages on both sides…no prob. I have my old laserwriter for that…the color printer for anything that requires color…thanks…will give you my take after I digest it…LG

In February, 2008, I remembered a memorable precinct caucus in Minnesota – the year Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were the main event.  I was writing to two local friends.

Dick: Do you remember Feb. 2008?  I went to see Barack Obama on February 2 (it was Saturday), and the next Tuesday we went to the caucus at Oak-Land Junior High.  It ws bumper to bumper on I-94, and finally I walked about a half mile into the school to cast my presidential preference on a scrap of paper – they had long since run out of the prepared ballots.  (I had dropped Cathy off at the school first).

My preference: Hillary Clinton, because I thought she had more relevant experience….
I’ve always regretted not taking a photo out at Oak-Land that night.
That’s what I’’m thinking about as Iowa looms next week….

Joyce: I well remember that caucus night; my daughter was trying to keep things under control in our room, and failing, despite doing everything possible. I didn’t see Obama at the Target Center, but I did see him at the Energy Center right after he got the nomination.

Sue: I remember the caucus at Oakland Junior High too. The parking lot filled up quickly, and some people (like Dick) had to walk a fair distance just to vote in the presidential preference poll. I was there early because, as I recall, I was manning a table in the front of the building. As far as I can remember, they haven’t had a caucus night there since. Although the school has been (or is being) enlarged, so maybe they’ll start again.


Mary in New York State: Hi all…in case you missed it there is an event in IOWA on Monday.  I know none of you are there to participate but I was curious how many of the folks that I associate with regularly even knew where the state was… I completed a straw poll which included ushers and book club members in my age group, lifeguards at the pool, and random other folks.  N=20 so it was small.🇺🇸🇺🇸♥️

NO ONE could place it with all surrounding states, about half thought it was somewhere in the middle of the country (yea) and knew it was near Minnesota, too many put it in the south or west, and a couple just said really undereducated things like  “Is that a state?”.
I am hoping grandkids may be better informed but wonder if everyone should post a United States map on the back of the bathroom door.

Joyce in Minnesota: This reminds me of some of my former coworkers back in NYC. As I was preparing to move to Minnesota, they asked me what I liked about the state; one of the things I mentioned was how beautiful the Mississippi River looks as it winds through the state. My former coworkers told me that couldn’t be right; the Mississippi River, they said, was in the south.

John in California:  To Mary : What a revolting development!!! I think you need a better set of friends….

As a seasoned world traveler I, of course, know exactly where Iowa is, and have crisscrossed the state in multiple directions – including visiting the High Point  of Iowa, which (believe it or not) is on the crest of Iowa Highway 60 in Northwest Iowa. And frankly, the only reason that I went down that road was to get to the High Point of Iowa.
But I digress… Unfortunately, your informal poll only serves to strengthen the arguments presented by somebody in one of Dick’s latest blog – 118 Quotes Against Democracy. Pretty much the  overarching theme of that article was that people are too dumb to be trusted to govern themselves…

Sue: These stories remind me of the responses I got from classmates (from all over the U.S.) when I enrolled in a graduate program (in psychology) at Sonoma State College (now University) in northern California in 1975: “Minnesota – that’s east of the Rockies, isn’t it?

Joyce, a number of these scholars were from New York.

Sean in Houston (with tongue firmly in cheek!): I thought Iowa was a county in Western Illinois or Southern Minnesota.

Joyce, again, and Sue: There was a New Yorker cover by Saul Steinberg, years ago,  showing how New Yorkers view the world.  Sue: Yikes! Things are even worse than I feared.


from Larry: I find it rich — and rather abominable at the same time — that Iowa’s “Republican event” is on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

from Peter:  As to democracy, I think all the complaints about it are really about people who are woefully undereducated in just what it is. In my various conversations, especially amongst diverse indigenous people, it seems to me that democracy is very much older and more sophisticated than any of us in the “west” realize. But we have lost or forgotten or never understood the other component, the thing that happens when somebody in a real democracy goes off the rails: the others quickly surround them and hold on until they recover their sense of community (there are many creative ways this is done).

There is a tribe in the Congo that has danced the same dance for seven thousand years; and when one of them gets sick, they paint a red spot on the head of every person down to the smallest, newest baby. They do this to spread the malady as thin as possible, while all understanding that they are taking on part of the burden of this illness. Seven thousand years is a long time for a culture to last, and it isn’t because they got set in their ways. Au contraire, as they say in Paris, France.
So my take on the wonderful list you sent along is that it says more about the various speakers than about their subject; and yes, people are contentious and silly, but better democracy is not going to address that one.

Responding to Peter: Of course, I know you now for over 20 years, and while I’ve never met Chuck in person, but there is long connection there as well.  I think the two of you would get along famously, pretty much on the same page (though I know you both as very capable of standing your ground!). Anyway, this is one of the advantages of having this network, now so many years around.

from Flo: Being a Minnesotan since 1968, and having friends from Iowa, I had no trouble recognizing where it is!  Glad I don’t have to vote there, but living and voting in Hubbard County MN certainly has made our votes count for less!

Regardless, please vote well informed, with a clear conscience! Hope Minnesota will continue to have among the very best voter turnout nationwide.

from Mary:  Interesting post.  Which shall take precedence?  I will watch a few snippets of caucus but likely wait for the rehash.  Maybe I am in the Isaac Asminov category ………. ‘my ignorance is as good as your knowledge’.That snippet of his quote seems to fit way too often.

from Deb: Interesting article.People need to get out and cast their vote. It’s odd that only 55-60% vote & others don’t exercise their right. It matters when all vote, at least everyone has opinion.  Can’t imagine being in Iowa today, it’s a nasty day to be on the road for anything…

from Jeanne: I think there may be a few more than one or two Democrats in Iowa but there is no way to tell because they don’t vote and they don’t talk to each other. Lol

January 6, 2024: QUOTES against Democracy

Ten months from now – Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2024 – is Election Day in the United States.

Dec. 30, Chuck Woolery, long-time subscriber to this blog, sent a writing of his including over 100 “QUOTES against democracy”. Here’s the 21 page document: Democracy compiled Chuck W.  

I read the entire document, find it full of wisdom and particularly rich in food for thought and discussion, and asked Chuck if I could share it at this space.  Permission granted.

(The 21-page length is not daunting, consisting of over 100 quotations by people both famous and some I’ve never heard of.)

I’d appreciate it if you’d simply open the document and quickly scroll through.  At page 20-21 is Chuck’s self-description of himself.

Sharing of this post is encouraged.

I want this to be stand alone, so I’ll do a specific post including my own commentary. and hopefully some of yours as well.  COMMENTS WILL BE HELD UNTIL JANUARY 15.

Jan. 6 2021 mid-afternoon at our nation’s Capitol.