One Heel of a Candidate

Harry Welty

A Minnesota tag team. Radio Host, Garrison Keillor, and his peerless punching bag Minnesota Governor, Jesse Ventura. From Harry Welty’s kitsch collection.
A Minnesota tag team. Radio Host, Garrison Keillor, and his peerless punching bag Minnesota Governor, Jesse Ventura. From Harry Welty’s kitsch collection.

   I take some pleasure in being a little ahead of former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. He just announced (not for the first time) that he’s seriously contemplating a run for the Presidency – this time against Donald Trump. For the record, I announced my intention to run against Trump in the Reader’s Nov. 8, 2018 issue. (Google “Harry Welty for President.”)

   Donald Trump has motivated a stunning array of challengers most recently former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick. Heck, a year ago my ex brother in law announced that he was going to run against Trump on Facebook. I sent him my column and told him to get in line.

   So, its not surprising that the man whose improbable run for Minnesota Governor succeeded, would be thinking about a come back. Seeing a professional wrestler, and a “heel” at that, achieve high office inspired body builder, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to get himself elected to the Governorship of California. Just imagine how the success of both these gentlemen fueled Donald Trump’s imagination. Imagining himself President was nothing new for Donald Trump. For years he’d brag to every reporter within earshot that he’d be a great President notwithstanding a long string of high-profile bankruptcies that suggested a certain ineptitude. It’s probably not Trump’s competence that has attracted so many challengers like sharks to the Presidential feeding frenzy.

   The day after Jesse’s election friends in North Carolina called us and asked us in astonishment “What were you people in Minnesota thinking?” All these years later I could ask my Tar Heel friends the same question. Trump won North Carolina in 2016! Watch your finger wagging.

   Its premature to give Jesse too much attention at this point. He told Minnesota Public Radio that if he was to run, he’d start in June of next year. That would give him time to collect an endorsement for the Green Party and skip today’s long slog to November. That’s how he pulled it off in 1998 with a quickie campaign. He took command of Ross Perot’s faltering Reform Party and with one clever television ad posing his muscular body as “The Thinker” won over Minnesotans. We were ahead of the national curve in thumbing our noses at both Republicans and Democrats.

   I got a close look at Governor Ventura while he served as Governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003. I was a School Board member then and saw him up close at the State Capitol when he showed up before a packed room of supplicants, press and the curious. As he showered the room with his bellicosity his head turned beat red. I worried that he might have a heart attack. But his schtick worked like magic. No one in Minnesota knew how to deal with the Governor except perhaps radio host, Garrison Keillor, who invited a faux Ventura on his weekly Prairie Home Companion broadcasts. Prairie Home was to Ventura what Saturday Night Live has been to Donald Trump - a laugh track. But the Ventura bravura that helped Trump sweep aside a flaccid pack of Presidential wannabes in 2017 may have a limited shelf life. Jesse himself stepped down before he had to face the voters again after four years.

   And here’s a warning to the Greens. Like Trump, who has the Republican party down to 30 percent of the population, Ventura did little for the Reform Party which disintegrated after his election. As for its successor, the Independence Party, Ventura denied it his short-lived political capital after his single term as Governor and it too shriveled to irrelevance. Even so, Jesse Ventura was head and shoulders above our current President whose chief aim seems to be fomenting Civil War. Ventura appointed both Republicans and Democrats and Independents to run State agencies and found judicial candidates that neither Republicans or Democrats could find fault with. There was no court packing. I was both amused and appalled to learn that my Mother and Sister voted for Ventura but I could hardly blame them.

   Like Keillor I had fun with Jesse. When someone, maybe Jesse himself, proclaimed Ventura to be “Minnesota’s Education Governor,” I made a snow sculpture of Jesse wearing a mortar board and tassel. Despite the cleft in his chin no one knew who it was. Covering up Jesse’s bald pate was an artistic mistake, but it was not my last one. In 2017, ten months before he was elected, I put put a snow tiara over a sculpture of Trump’s infamous pompadour. What a pair! It might be fun to watch a professional wrestling “heel” take on his imitator, Miss Congeniality .

Harry claims to be writing a book and Duluth’s voters have granted him some time off to do some serious scribbling. While you wait for it you are welcome to check out his wood shavings at: