Run, Jesse, Run…

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Rich Broderick, 5//19/08 • The barely disguised antipathy Minnesota’s corporate news media displayed toward Jesse Ventura during the 1998 election and his subsequent time as governor always had more to do with snobbery and social class than policies or politics.

The shock over his election was rooted in embarrassment at what “they,” meaning the rest of the country (which doesn’t think about us at all), would think of Minnesota for having voted in a man who speaks with a Midwestern equivalent of a “youse guys” Brooklyn accent. It was the kind of vapors my lace-curtain Irish grandma used to succumb to whenever her grandkids behaved in ways that were not “respectable.” What will the neighbors think?!!

Even though Ventura appointed perfectly respectable – and highly competent – commissioners (he never once saddled us with hapless ideologues like Carol Molnau or Cheryl Yecke), his governorship was not a successful one. It fell victim both to his impatience with the often-tedious process of political bargaining and to the determination of the DFL and the GOP (one of the ringleaders: Tim Pawlenty) to sabotage him – and thus the Independence Party – the consequences of which narrow bi-partisanship have left Minnesota reeling financially ever since.

Still, it’s good to have Jesse back in action, hawking his new book and, even more intriguingly, bruiting the possibility of another run for office, this time for the U.S. Senate.

Anyone who caught Jesse’s bravura performance last week on MPR’s mid-day program got a refresher course in what a breath of fresh air the man is in today’s consultant-driven political environment. Not only is he bright and articulate, he also has an extraordinary ability to frame supposedly complex issues in ways that are not only simple to understand but also illuminate otherwise overlooked dimensions of critical importance. My favorite moment during the show was his comment about the proposed 600-mile fence along the U.S. Mexico border. People should remember, he observed, that fences not only keep people out, they can also keep people in – a pithy allusion to the authoritarian streak behind “Homeland Security.”

I don’t know if Ventura could win a Senate seat this year. Conditions are not the same as they were in ’98, and he would face a wave of press hostility that would make his previous tangles with the “media jackals” pale by comparison. But it sure would be fun to hear him debate Norm Coleman, desperately trying to distance himself from the Bush Administration, and Al Franken, the soi-disant wit who is not only witless when it comes to public policy but a major-league carpetbagger as well – the real issue exposed by his recent tax problems. In any public forum matching a clone and a clown like these two, Ventura would shine.

Norm Coleman and Al Franken running for Senate? Now that’s embarrassing!