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!

5 replies
  1. All dahlquist
    All dahlquist says:

    Enjoyed your post on Jesse. I was a resident of Brooklyn Park fro 1978-1998. Jesse ran for mayor because he wasn’ t happy about a permit issued on property adjoining his. A few people gave him some other personal type things they didn’t like near their residence. At the time Brooklyn PArk was in a large growth spurt but was still being run by as Jesse called them “The good old boys”. I didn’t vote for mostly because of reasons already stated. We, the residents of BP actually ran Jesse out of town before his term was up. I have no idea why his record In BP wasn’t checked when he ran for Governor which both my stock broker with Piper-Jarret and myself did vote for him after listening to all 3’s campaigns.

    • dickbernard
      dickbernard says:

      Thank you for you comment. When Jesse ran for office I lived in Apple Valley, in south suburbs, while Brooklyn Park was in northwest suburbs. In row 1960s I lived in Anoka, and worked for the Anoka-Hennepin teachers. A goodly part of Anoka-Hennepin was Brooklyn Park and still quite rural. Of course you wouldn’t know that, now. Do watch the film. What I seemed to pick up from the film is that Jesse, beneath the flamboyance, was a serious man who tried to make a positive difference, and did.

  2. norm hanson
    norm hanson says:

    Skip Humphrey was a candidate that people wanted to remain as the attorney general of the state, but they did not him as their governor or as their senator in Washington, Coleman had switched parties that created some baggage for him at the polls. As such, it was kind of the proverbial perfect storm that led to Ventura’s win. I did appreciate when Venture walked out of the memorial service for Sen. Wellstone at the U of M when some clown who was a friend of the senator started to preach to Wellstone’s many colleagues for both sides of the aisle in attendance that they owed Wellstone to pass this or that legislation. B.S. as they did not owe Wellstone a damn thing beyond the respect that they had shown him by coming to his memorial service. As a good friend of Wellstone, that clown allowed his political naivete and silliness to get out of hand in an otherwise impressive service. My father served in the Minnesota state senate for eighteen years when it was non-partisan aka having liberal and conservative caucuses in terms of the organization of the senate. Dad understood very well that the voters did not owe him a damn thing other than deciding whether to give their permission for another term. People who think that voters or the colleagues of elected officials owe them something are just being politically naive as all hell!

    • dickbernard
      dickbernard says:

      Thank you, Norm. I had more than casual knowledge of the Memorial at Williams Arena you comment about. We were there for the entire event, in the stands, and as one would expect it was very emotional, coming as it did literally only days before the 2002 election. As you recall, Walter Mondale became the surrogate candidate and very nearly won. It was an extraordinarily difficult time…but it was peaceful. Still, depending on ones point of view, what happened could be viewed in different ways.
      Personally, strictly by happenstance, four years earlier, March 7, 1998, I heard Jesse Ventura and seven other potential candidates for Governor introduce themselves at the MEA Convention. I still have the audio tape I made, and listened to it this weekend. I got a five minute (from each) intro to the upcoming election.
      Six years earlier, in 1996, I had been the then-MEA liaison from the 8th CD to the Wellstone campaign. Evidence is on my wall here at home – an autographed photo of Paul in the Green Bus. About that time I wrote some reflections which remain on the internet, if you wish:
      We’re a complex society, now more so than ever, and Jesse and Paul were important players in our not always easy democracy. March on.
      Thanks again.

      • norm hanson
        norm hanson says:

        Yes, democracy is a complex animal. that takes hard work let alone acceptance aka buying into by the citizens of its value over other forms of government. Unfortunately, it seems that too many citizens or at least those who vote do not want to put in the hard work let alone accept some of the tenets of democracy including Lincoln’s by, for and of the people characterization of democracy, the importance of a strict separation of church and state and the welcoming all to liberty and freedom as stated if you will by the concrete lady in New York Harbor. For too many people, a reality tapped fully into by Trump and his MAGA deal, if you will, want someone to take care of them and to stand up against the continued “imposition”, if you will, of the principles and tenants of democracy. They seem to prefer an authoritarian government aka a dictator that would keep those non-Christain and those doggone liberals and progressives in their places and make America a theocracy based up their very fundamental view of what a religion or faith should aka be…and faith that must be practiced by all citizens. Trump understands this and the concern that folks have allowing them to see themselves as victims of the “elite” and he knows full well how to exploit those victimhood feelings for his own benefit and strictly for his own benefit. It is very disillusioning to see that insecure man-child and five-time draft dodger able to garner so much support with that poor me ain’t it just awful appeal.


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