Guest Perspective/Rich Rubino
“He’s ba-a-a-ck!” After spending time in the political wilderness, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has re-entered the public arena, armed with a new book and a message that is predictably quite distinct from the presidential candidates of the two major parties. Ventura, currently unattached to a political party, recently stated on “Larry King Live” that running for president would be: “Too difficult, because they make an Independent like me jump through 50 different hoops, because every state has different things you have to do to qualify to get on the ballot.”
Ventura is right. It is nearly impossible for an Independent candidate to get on the ballot in all 50 states. Our political system significantly favors the large traditional political parties at the expense of the smaller upstarts.
However, despite Ventura’s valid complaint, there is in fact an avenue available that would allow him to take a run at the presidency. Ventura could seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party. The Libertarian convention is scheduled to be held in late May. The Party’s nomination will be decided by about 1000 delegates. Most importantly, the Party’s presidential nominee will likely have ballot status in almost all 50 states.
While Ventura excoriates political parties in general, he ran for governor in 1998 as the nominee of the Minnesota Reform Party. In that run, he “shocked the world” by “body-slamming” the Republican/Democrat hegemony, and winning the Governorship.
And while Ventura may disagree with many in the Libertarian movement, a great many of his ideas fall close to the center of the Libertarian philosophy. On the domestic front, Ventura clearly leans Libertarian. He is a proponent of fiscal austerity, an advocate of states rights, and is socially liberal. On foreign policy, Ventura’s position closely resembles the Libertarian Party view, especially regarding their steadfast opposition to the Iraq War. More broadly, Ventura is a vehement opponent of the Bush foreign policy.
The Libertarian Party would also benefit greatly from a Ventura/Libertarian alignment. Since its inception in 1971, the Libertarian Party has been in a steady state. Only one presidential candidate has garnered more than 1 percent of the vote in the general election. This is, in large part, because most of the Party’s nominees have failed to receive the requisite media coverage to be taken seriously by the electorate. All this could change however with a media-magnet like Ventura who has already shown that he can take on the two major parties and be successful. A Ventura nomination would thrust the Libertarian Party and its platform onto the airwaves and into American homes.
Also boding well for a Ventura/Libertarian strategic alliance is the fact that the Libertarian message has recently struck a resonant chord with a significant number of Americans. Libertarian-leaning Texas Congressman Ron Paul got a surprising number of Americans galvanized in the Republican presidential primaries. In fact, Paul raised more money than any other Republican candidate in the fourth quarter of 2007 and has become omni-present on the Internet, with almost seven million YouTube views. With Senator John McCain now the presumptive Republican nominee, and Ron Paul disavowing any interest in seeking the Libertarian nomination, there is a clear opening in the race for a charismatic figure with a Libertarian message similar to Congressman Paul’s.
How far could a Ventura/Libertarian merger go? Ventura has a significant amount of executive experience in government. Prior to becoming governor of Minnesota, he served as mayor of Brooklyn Park, the sixth biggest city in Minnesota at that time. He can lay claim to eight years of executive government experience. Some of our recent Presidents including Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush had less executive experience than Ventura. As Governor of Minnesota, Ventura presided over twice the population of former Governor Clinton’s state of Arkansas.
Ventura can also point to some real achievements as Governor, including reforming the property tax system of Minnesota, returning the state surplus to the taxpayers, and bringing a successful urban public transportation system to the state.
Ventura’s presence in the Presidential race would offer a third political platform, different from the Republicans and Democrats. For example, on the Iraq War, Ventura could make the case that the Bush administration brought the country into war with the support of the Democrats, and that the Democratic Party, despite their recent rhetoric to end the war, have failed.
Ventura could also shine a spotlight on the 800 pound gorilla the two parties do not want to face, “the national debt.” Ventura could argue that when Ross Perot brought the debt to the nation’s consciousness during the 1992 elections, it stood at $4 trillion. Since that time, under stewardship of the Republicans and Democrats, the national debt has nearly doubled. According to Ventura, every American now owes $30,000 in national debt.
Ventura could easily make the case that while Democrats raise taxes; Republicans defer them to future generations. In addition, a Ventura candidacy would appeal to a diverse cross-section of constituencies, including fiscal conservatives, gun control opponents, free traders on the right, opponents of the Iraq war, abortion rights supporters, and gay rights activists on the left.
In addition, a Ventura Campaign could capitalize on the general malaise grabbing hold of the country. In a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, 81 percent of the respondents stated that the nation was heading in the wrong direction. According to the pollster, this is up from 69 percent last year, and up from 35 percent in 2002.
A Ventura/Libertarian strategic alliance would allow Ventura to take a shot at the White House and would significantly promote a public consideration of Libertarian ideas. Ventura attracts the media, does well in debates, and has executive experience in government. This combination of factors gives Jesse Ventura the chance he needs to create political traction in a run for the presidency.
Rich Rubino, a resident of Marblehead, Massachusetts, is a political advisor specializing in independent political campaigns. He is a graduate of Assumption College and holds a Masters Degree in Journalism from Emerson College. He was a policy advisor to the Christy Mihos 2006 Massachusetts Gubernatorial Campaign.