The accelerating momentum of a Jesse Ventura and Howard Stern ticket in 2016 continues to be a laughing matter for some but the more I consider it the more convinced I am that if things keep heading the way they are, the two could attract a critical mass large enough to – at the very least – elevate an issue or two to national prominence.
Because this motley crew may already be closer to the center of American politics than either of the two major political parties.
As indicated previously, I define the new center as the Wanniski-Tamny tripod – the three major areas of concern for the electorate. Those being Economic Growth, Social Tolerance and Less Entanglement in Foreign Affairs. The latter two of the three figured prominently in last week’s interview of Governor Ventura by Mr. Stern.
When you listen to Ventura in various forums the clear voice of a Populist-Libertarian emerges and not only that a shrewd strategist’s mind informed by years of experience 1) in pop culture, providing entertainment as a professional wrestler 2) political experience (as Mayor of Brooklyn Park Minnesota and then Governor of the state) and 3) investigative journalism (as host of the popular Tru TV series, “Conspiracy Theory”).
The finished product is a still physically-imposing man capable of defeating anyone politician in debate. But his greatest insight maybe the ongoing wooing of Stern as running mate, which would bring with it hours of free advertising (the same that NBC’s America’s Got Talent enjoys thanks to Stern being one of its judges) with little regulatory restriction since Stern’s show is broadcast on Sirius-XM which escapes onerous FCC rules.
But there’s more.
His comedic talents and penetrating interview skills notwithstanding, Stern is a political animal himself – with an insurgent Libertarian Party run for Governor of New York in 1994 which at one time saw him polling at 20% level. The genius of it all may have been a campaign platform so simple and blunt it was impossible to forget, (“His platform is brutally simple: pass the death penalty, let road crews work only at night, stagger highway tolls to prevent traffic jams.” The New York Times noted back then ). But it was his 2004 battle with Clear Channel, the FCC and President George W. Bush that made it clear to me that Stern is a fighter when backed against a wall.
His rants and policy dissections of Bush became a subject of credible contemplation by Washington’s political corps – a group that stopped laughing once it realized Stern’s audience was a potential swing vote. And something must also be said for Stern’s brutally honest admissions on-air including his being in therapy and his constant struggle to improve himself. His formula for a successful career, “If you want to go to the next level, you gotta open up a whole bunch more.
That’s the secret for anybody who’s considering a career in radio,” also sounds like a mantra for a good political leader. If the electorate wants candor, they’ll find it here, I think. Want more evidence? Ok, Stern sued his own employer, lost twice, and still gives an honest day’s work, at least 3 days a week, that is. And if dogs and cats could vote, he’d win in a landslide due to the honorable work he and wife Beth perform in Animal Rescue and Adoptions with the North Shore Animal League.
When teamed together the Populist-Libertarian and Progressive PGR -0.84%-Liberal could possibly arrive at a fulcrum in the political spectrum. Or to use a musical analogy, Ventura and Stern appear dissonant but their combination identifies the middle C of the grand electoral piano, halfway between the treble clef staff or the bass clef staff – the Right and Left of music.
Ross Perot found it in 1992 and the Whig Party located it in the 1840s. Here, the supposed weakness of Ventura and Stern – their background in the entertainment industry is an asset, as it was for President Reagan, not only in campaigning before audiences but in being sensitive in listening to and reading them.
If asked whether I’d trust a career Politician more than a Cultural Icon, I’d prefer the latter because I believe ideological zealotry produces an imbalance that is antithetical to creative thinking and governance. I’d rather be guided by a person with a great appreciation for music than one who parrots talking points obsessively.
Something that Plato wrote about how one obtains balance comes to mind, “The just man does not allow the several elements in his soul to usurp one another’s functions; he is indeed one who sets his house in order, by self-mastery and discipline coming to be at peace with himself, and bringing into tune those three parts, like the terms in the proportion of a musical scale, the highest and lowest notes and the mean between them, with all the intermediate intervals.
Only when he has linked these parts together in well-tempered harmony and has made himself one man instead of many, will he be ready to go about whatever he may have to do, whether it be making money and satisfying bodily wants, or business transactions, or the affairs of state.”
But Ventura-Stern is no arts festival, these are men with an experiential vantage point in the military and business, respectively, which can inform policy as much as any Think Tank paper.
Should Congress continue its bickering through 2014; America find itself mired in unpopular war, humanitarian intervention or serial military operations in a particular region (Africa may soon emerge as this one) and the culture wars heat up, what Ventura and Stern offer rhetorically could be quite electable.
And should they serve as gadfly, which I suspect is more likely, their party-less campaign could accomplish what the most successful third-parties do – raise an issue the electorate is communicating but which establishment politicians are not hearing. As one analyst described in 2004, “There’ll be an issue that’s being neglected or that is being purposely excluded from national debate because neither party wants to face the political criticism that it would bring. A classic example was slavery.”
The only genuine question I have for the Ventura-Stern ticket, aside from how fast Stern backs out once he has to file Federal Election Commission paperwork – is could Ventura-Stern absorb a broader political education in economic growth policies: things like credible plan to being manufacturing back to inner cities; capital gains tax reduction, stable currency and sensitivity to the realities of entrepreneurs with no more than a single paid employee (the overwhelming majority of small businesses in this country) overlooked by ‘free-market’ ideologues fixated on the stock market and world of venture capital.
Here, Pat Buchanan’s Independent third party run in 2000 is instructive.
His flirtation with a disgruntled economic growth wing of the Republican Party was a stutter-step affair but he eventually married his economic nationalism with entrepreneurial capitalism (though never enthusiastically campaigning on it).
The formula may resonate though, particularly with Ventura’ s America-first leanings (“As he has begun outlining it in speeches this week, Buchanan would set an across-the-board 15% ad valorem tariff on imports, using the funds generated — at what is not an excessive level — to finance vigorous tax cutting and sweeping reform on domestic income and capital formation schedules. Americans would do somewhat less trading with the rest of the world and more trading with each other,” wrote Jude Wanniski, who informally provided economic advice to the candidate at the time).
There will be plenty of time for us to wonder whether Stern show executive producer Gary Dell’Abate will be entrusted with selecting a campaign theme song from his trusted vinyl collection or whether Ventura-Stern will delegate the mandatory ‘minority outreach’ to “The King of All Blacks” or guess what the first Executive Order of a President Ventura would be (my preference: a release of all government files pertaining to the JFK assassination) but in the meantime the prospect of an authentic Left-Center-Right coalition in America is intriguing enough for me.
Jesse Ventura and Howard Stern have my full attention.