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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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Ventura: Exit stage left

Jesse Ventura has starred in many roles during his career. He was the flamboyant, boa-wearing wrestler who declared: “Win or lose, but by all means cheat.” He played a renegade warrior in the action flick “Predator.” In his latest gig, Ventura played governor of Minnesota. And, for all his cheesy, second-rate performances, this was perhaps one of his worst.

Much of the time, he hardly resembled a governor. He darted from coast to coast, one soap opera set to the next, cashing in on his newfound political stature. He moonlighted as a commentator for the raunchy, now-defunct XFL and was nowhere to be found during a state workers strike. He had a “Big Plan” for government reform but did not attempt to build the base of party support or the coalitions essential to enacting it into law. He was too busy pouting or writing books blasting the media.

As he leaves office after four years, it has become clear: While Minnesotans voted for Jesse the Populist, they got Jesse the Narcissist. He will be remembered best for his boorish antics and feuds with the press, not for any substantive policy reform or helping to build a sustainable third party.

When Ventura was in St. Paul, and doing his job, he did have some successes. He was able to make property tax reform a reality. He also helped bring light rail into the metro area. For that he should be commended. His support of gay rights and campaign finance reform should also be applauded. Yet, there is little else of substance to show for his four years. He certainly was no friend to the University. Ventura consistently low-balled funding requests and axed projects important not only to the University but to the economic growth and brain power of the state as well. His policies encouraged stagnation and tuition hikes.

In 1998, political watchers hailed Ventura’s ascendancy as a harbinger of a rising third-party movement. He had energized a group of voters previously apathetic to politics. But the momentum flickered once Ventura took office. During his tenure, no other candidate from his party was elected in local, state or national races. Voters remain eager for a viable third party, but its construction requires time and care. Evidently Ventura, the nation’s most visible third party leader, did not seem to think it was worth either. His neglect was perhaps his most disheartening shortcoming.

Ventura approached the governorship much like he did pro wrestling. He viewed it as a public stage to utter barbs at his perceived enemies and to pad his already-deep pockets. And, like pro wrestling, it was mildly entertaining. Still, it’s regrettable that we allowed him to do this on our bill. As Ventura returns to his rightful spot in the private sector, Minnesotans should heed this important lesson: Leadership by entrenched political know-it-alls might not be the best system, but it sure beats gimmicky governance from unstudied, B-list celebrities.

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