Our friend Steve Hayward, author of the indispensable Age of Reagan, is a native Californian and has of course had much to say about the California free-for-all, both on NRO’s Corner and over at No Left Turns. Coincidental to my point here, today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune carries a good column by Isaac Cheifetz based on Steve’s first book, Churchill on Leadership. The column is “What would Winston do?”
Steve wrote us this past Wednesday regarding his visit to Minnesota a few years back: “Not sure if you recall this, but when I spoke at the Humphrey Institute in November 1999 (I think you were there), I opened by saying that Californians were jealous of Minnesota because Minnesota had Jesse Ventura.
“This was my way of twitting all those earnest UM liberals who were plainly embarrassed and horrified at Ventura’s election. Out in California, I said, ‘We’ve been looking at Ventura and saying, “Damn, why didn’t we think of that.”‘ Well, now we have. Except Arnold is likely to be a much better governor than Jesse.”
At the outset of the recall campaign, we wrote about the comparison between Jesse and Arnold in “Let the termination begin.” In light of Arnold’s stunning victory last week it seems fair to ask at this point what the election of Jesse actually represented.
A former “professional” wrestler who abandons the ring to become an entertainer and then a politician comes wrapped in multifarious guises that should arouse any observer with a modicum of skepticism. On election night 1998, Ventura announced that he had shocked the world when he defeated the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor. Consistent with Jesse’s professed reading of the election, political reporters portrayed the race as a portent of dissatisfaction with the Democratic and Republican parties in Minnesota and elsewhere.
This appears to have been a substantial misreading of the outcome. In 2002, Ventura stood down and Minnesota Republicans posted their strongest showing since “the Minnesota massacre” of 1978. (In “the Minnesota massacre” of 1978, Minnesota simultaneously elected a Republican governor and two Republican United States senators.)
In the 2002 election, Minnesota Republicans netted gains in legislative and congressional races as well as winning the senate and gubernatorial races, notable accomplishments in a state that has long been a Democratic stronghold. In retrospect, Ventura
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
“Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” Inscription on the Liberty Bell