Trump, Ventura, and political performance art

Here in Minnesota in 1998, we elected a cartoon candidate, the rassling villain with the shaved skull and the pink boa, Jesse (The Body) Ventura, who squeezed past two standard-issue candidates to sneak into the governor’s office with a 37% plurality. He hung in for four years, fulminated, blustered, and in the end did not seem to be enjoying himself. Meanwhile the sky stayed up where it should be, perhaps because the governor of Minnesota doesn’t command a few thousand nuclear warheads.

Ventura didn’t run for re-election and his Reform Party, now known as the Independence Party, dwindled to less than 3% of the vote in 2014. It perhaps was not a good idea to make a man named Philip Fuehrer the state chairman, but beyond that, the party lacked candidates with massive chests who could bellow.

Trump’s yuuuuuuge ego trip could not have lasted this long but for the fact that a large class of Americans is suffering and nobody is offering them hope that things will improve. They are hard-working men and women who believed they were solidly in the middle class and now find themselves slipping and for good reason are fearful about the future. Their ship is leaving. Washington is locked in intramural combat and incapable of action. The president worries about Iran and Syria and global warming. These people are angry and don’t know what to do, and in Trump they find a man who is also very angry and doesn’t know what to do. He is careful in a whole hour of “Unbelievable!” and “Stupid!” and “Take my word for it!” not to offer specific proposals. He has no ideas. His rationale for running is that a lot of people like him.