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And in that context, Hillsman asserts, Ventura remains the anti-politician. "Who else? Brian Sullivan, the rich guy? Roger Moe? People still think of Jesse as 'one of us,' certainly more than anyone else who's running. If they say, 'He wants to raise your taxes,' we say, 'Yeah, and you'd spend the entire rainy-day fund at the first sign of trouble.' It is going to be a pretty simple reelection campaign. Jesse is going to say exactly what he said before: If you think I'd do a good job, vote for me. If you don't, don't vote for me. And he'll be fine."
Hillsman's analysis notwithstanding, circumstances are not exactly the same this time around. In his initial run for governor, Ventura generated a prankster's zeal for blowing up the system. Retaliate in '98 was the bumper-sticker slogan, and anyone who caught the buzz as Jesse waded through crowded suburban bars the weekend before the election knows the unique magic of that campaign. Ventura churned out thousands of new voters, many of them young, politically apathetic males suddenly motivated by the prospect of civic mischief. Times were flush and politicians seemed deaf, boring, or simply corrupt, always quick to take your money. What does Jesse say to them now? Fight terrorism and pay more taxes? What will the campaign slogan be this time around? More retaliating to do in 2002? I'm still one of you in 2002? "Young males are probably our strongest supporters," Hillsman admits. "If we can get them out of bed."
In Ventura's first year dealing with the house and senate, his unprecedented, rule-breaking triumph intimidated legislators into treating him with kid gloves. His second year money was so plentiful that nobody had to get along; the surplus was divided into thirds, to be used however the house, the senate, and the governor wanted to spend it. In year three Ventura played divide and conquer, belatedly teaming with the Republicans to enact his tax-reform plan. Now, in his fourth session, the governor finds himself the odd man out. Although he still possesses a turbo-charged bully pulpit, he has been marginalized--forced to fight for just a small piece of his agenda.
Ironically, Ventura's budget proposal is more reasoned than the legislature's, and it would leave the government in better financial health. This from a man who four years ago was naively proclaiming to voters that he wanted to outlaw reassessments of property, a move that would have created financial chaos, but assuaged his ire at finding an assessor wandering around the grounds of his home. Jesse the candidate has always been about Jesse the person. Last time around, like a lot of voters, he was sick and tired of bureaucrats shoving their calculators into his lifestyle. So this fall, he must convince those same voters that his calculations are more responsible than his opponents'. He has to argue that the media, the DFLers, and the Republicans (not to mention the terrorists) are out to get him. And that, for better or worse, is a job for a politician.
Shrinking the HEAD
A local psychologist takes a crack at the governor
Editor's note:Jesse Ventura has a big head. Not just a big head--an enormous head, almost geological in scale. It hypnotizes with its size, like a great, wobbling Everest.
For even casual watchers of Ventura's cranium, though, the burning question remains: What goes on in those cavernous depths? No one can presume to know, of course; that would require rotating teams of bearded Swiss men, churning out dissertations round the clock. But, in the (vague) interest of science, we sent our reporters out to find a local psychologist to offer a unique insight into the mind of the Body.
Citing possible ethical implications, our winner asked that his name not be used. The veteran psychologist also took pains to point out that his remarks should not be construed as a diagnosis, but merely as observations of Ventura's (increasingly non grata) public persona.
CP: SO WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON JESSE VENTURA?
"When someone appears to be trying to demonstrate how competent they are, it's often the case that they don't feel competent. The job of a parent is to help kids grow up feeling competent. When that doesn't happen, sometimes as the youngster develops, he or she finds areas that can get them rewards. Those can be either good or bad rewards."
CP: AND THAT WOULD LEAD A CHILD TO ACT OUT?
"Right. That's part of the macho thing with Ventura. Perhaps he doesn't feel that he really is macho. He might be compensating for a lack of security, not feeling male enough or not feeling smart enough. The wrestling just fits those needs. The [World] Wrestling Federation showcases that kind of bravado.
"One school of thought is that if somebody is exaggerating a character trait, then perhaps the opposite is true--that they really feel small or anxious about being accepted. It's called 'reaction formation,' where a person does the opposite of what they're really experiencing.
"The Freudian psychoanalytic view might be that he feels sexually inadequate. A really wild speculation is that he has a small penis. So what? Well, imagine having such a large body with a small penis."