How Jesse Ventura Redefined Modern Politics


By M.D Balousek, Editor at Viral Awesome. 

In his 1999 autobiography, I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed: Reworking the Body Politic from the Bottom Up, then Governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura admitted to to things then unheard of by any modern politician. For decades, even after Nixon, it was taboo to openly admit to trying/using drugs in the past. After all, then US President Bill Clinton had to weasel out of admitting he tried marijuana, stating he had “tried it but did not inhale”. Ventura openly admitted to trying and using marijuana in his past, and also visiting brothels in his younger days. All of these statements were a breath of fresh air compared to the verbal gymnastics that politicians, in their attempts for decades to cultivate a squeaky clean image, had to uphold. Here was a politician who wasn’t exactly a traditional politician, an independent who in many ways threatened the establishment, and he had won the governorship as a result. Even though he didn’t get reelected a second time, he had planted a seed which had consequences, whether good or bad, that we feel the effects of to this day.

In 2008, Barack Obama was elected as President of the United States. He had admitted to trying cocaine in the past, something that had been a media circus for Vice Presidential candidate Dan Quayle just 20 years before, with the allegations that Quayle had tried it.

Also, Obama had ran as an outsider who had promised change and wasn’t afraid to say things that challenged the status quo. After 911, many politicians were afraid to openly admit they were against US sanctioned torture, or the war in Iraq. In the meantime, Jesse Ventura was making the rounds as a provocateur and dissident against the war, and above all, speaking his mind on mainstream media outlets that were often too afraid to take a definitive stance. It can be said that Ventura had contributed to the anti-establishment sentiment that was growing since the nineties, and beyond.

In 2016, Donald Trump was elected president. He ran on (whether genuine or not) an anti-establishment sentiment that paralleled Bernie Sanders’ campaign in the 2016 Democratic primaries. Sanders was defeated, and some say if he had won he would’ve easily defeated Trump, in part because of the anti-establishment fervor that had been brewing through the years. His friend Jesse Ventura didn’t end up endorsing him in part because of very divisive statements he had made, and also scandalous behavior though exposed by the Hilary campaign, did not have the intended effect on the electorate. Modern voters are more forgiving of personal behavior, whether abhorrent or not, because they believe much of the behavior is either dredged up for political reasons, or is exaggerated altogether by political enemies. Of course, a modern politician can be accused of a lot of bad behavior and not face the scrutiny of decades past. A lot of this can be attributed to the “speak your mind against the establishment” style of former Governor Jesse Ventura (and also is apparent in the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003 for two terms as well).

Ventura, nearly 20 years ago now, in many ways opened up a modern pandora’s box of anti-establishment populism that had been felt since the days of Huey Long all the way through Ross Perot, and modern voters are increasingly turning their backs on the establishment. Whether or not it will remain an establishment politician’s go to strategy to frame themselves this way, while they are in reality not, or whether it leads to real change in government remains to be seen. Ventura’s campaign was only the beginning of this modern paradigm, whether we like it or not.

Jesse Ventura in an 80’s ad for the FDA