Sunday, September 24, 2006

What Ventura's Political Tenure Says about Kinky

Kinky Friedman's campaign has announced that former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura will be campaigning for him. That's not surprising considering that Dean Barkley, Friedman's campaign manager, also ran Ventura's campaign. This latest move might be a sign, though, that the recent controversy over Friedman's controversial use of, umm, racial epithets has had an impact.

The juxtaposition of Ventura and Friedman invites further comparison. Ventura, like Friedman, was an entertainer first and ran an unconventional campaign. Ventura's famously contentious relationship with the press is presaged by Kinky's surly responses to serious questions, such as the one dubbed his worst interview ever. (And like Ventura, Friedman also offers merchandise which includes his own talking action figure, which in Jesse "The Body" Ventura's case made a little more sense.)

Ventura also ran an "insurgency campaign," captializing on the discontent of a disaffected group who saw a vote for a third party as a way to shake up politics as usual. But unlike Friedman, Jesse Ventura had legitimate experience in politics prior to running for governor, as well as the backing of the Reform Party ticket. Once in office, though, the easy answers gave way to legislative gridlock.

This article posted on Kinky's own website, acknowledges as much:
Ventura, it must be said, was less than successful once he reached office, spending much of his time on extracurricular activities and flaming out at the end of a single term. Barkley said his big mistake was to wage war on the legislature, uniting the Republicans and Democrats against him.
In a poll conducted in the spring of 2003, only 29% of voters said they would vote to re-elect Ventura. Considering he was elected initially with only 37% of the vote, that's not as big a drop as it might seem, but it certainly wasn't enough to guarantee him re-election, even in a three-way race. And that, more than any other reason he cited - the money, the press or his fondness for term limits - probably explains why he chose not to seek re-election. Now that he's out of office, Ventura has gone back to that which he does best, being a celebrity.

Kinky Friedman's campaign is not a serious bid at a third party candidacy. There is no reform platform, no serious attempt at policy at all, just a pastiche of one-liners and the occasional stab at making headlines, the more controversial the better. His contempt for the seriousness of office is on display in every interview he's ever conducted in this race. He's not a rebel, he's not a leader, he's just a comedian without the demeanor to hold such high public office. His campaign has no prayer of success except to serve as spoiler and when it's over, he'll leave nary a ripple on the political waters. It's enough to make true champions of democracy cry.

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