Cultural Revolutions

A Jack-of-All-Trades

Jesse Ventura’s election to the governorship of Minnesota marked the apex of the full-fledged merger of politics and entertainment.  When it came to celebrity, “Jesse Ventura” (his stage name, which, tellingly he used at his inauguration) was a jack-of-all trades: actor, professional wrestler, announcer, talk-radio host, football broadcaster.  All of these professions, held in some combination or another for nearly three decades, allowed him to have more name recognition than, say, someone who had served in the state legislature for ten years would have had.  It may have been a wave of disgust at the establishment suits running the state that vaulted Ventura into the governor’s chair four years ago, but it was his celebrity that Minnesota voters craved, wishing that some might rub off on them.  Our governor’s famous; he’s fun; he’s exciting.  We’re not just a bunch of boring, morose Scandinavians up here: We’re hip; we’re happening.  We actually elected a professional wrestler to our state’s highest office.  And he can beat up your governor, too.

Yet the same celebrity status that propelled Ventura to the governor’s office helped to undo him.  He recently announced that he will not run for reelection, perhaps signaling an end to the idea that entertainment and politics can be more than just fundraisers, endorsements,...

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