The former Minnesota governor and pro wrestler offers firebreathing liberal populism in his latest book.
Jesse Ventura has had many lives, having variously been: an underwater demolition diver in the Navy, a motorcycle gang member, a pro wrestler, an actor, and the governor of Minnesota. But his latest evolution is as weird as any: He's reinvented himself as a firebreathing liberal populist, blasting the Koch Brothers, demanding taxes on the rich, citing Howard Zinn, decrying the military-industrial complex, and holding up the Occupy movement as the model for how to fix America's broken politics.
Of course, he's doing this in his own characteristic fashion -- by penning a book that insists the two major parties are just like the two most famous street gangs. As Democrips and Repbloodlicans, co-written with Dick Russell, points out, the colors associated with the parties even match up with the gang signs. And the book departs from standard leftist orthodoxy in a couple other ways, too. He praises Ron Paul and returns to the 9/11 truther themes he's sounded in previous books. He talked to The Atlantic about why he wants party names removed from the ballot, why he refuses to surf in Minnesota, and the song that makes him consider running for president -- despite his fear of assassination. This interview has been condensed and edited.
Why did you write this book?
It's an election year. I believe that the people need to be woken up to the fact that the Democrips and Rebloodlicans -- the Democrips are blue, the Rebloodlicans are red, the same colors as the street gangs -- these guys are worse. Street gangs don't affect but a small portion of the population. What inspired me to write the book, it's an election year. I want people to read this book and then go and vote their conscience. They've destroyed our country. They've controlled the country the last 100 years or so, so they can't push it off on somebody else. They've been in charge. You know the greatest thing we can do right now? Why do we allow gang symbols and gang names on the ballot? You don't even need know the name of the candidates.
So what's the replacement?
Put just the candidates' names on the ballot. Allow the parties to endorse a candidate, just like the teachers union and the firefighters union.
How would people find out about the candidates?
Listen to what the candidate has to say, study the candidate.
But you complain in the book that the corporate media is corrupt and doesn't inform us.
I would rather have people go in and randomly push buttons than what we do now. "Ooh, that name sounds good."
Would it be fair to summarize your book this way: Republicans are corrupt and evil, and Democrats are corrupt and too spineless to stand up to Republicans?
You could put it that way. I would like to put it in the context of pro wrestling. In front of us, they look like adversaries. Behind the scenes, they're wheeling and dealing and going to dinners. They're not divided. They know what they're doing. They just want to keep their power bases and keep the status quo going.
Although you were elected governor of Minnesota on the Reform Party ticket, you write in the book that you've given up hope in a third party. Why?
In order to compete, the third party would have to bastardize itself and sell out just like the others. Look at how Ron Paul got no coverage. He won Minnesota and yet the media doesn't cover him at all. You could tell Mitt Romney was going to get the nomination four years ago. You know how? Did you notice four years ago, after the last election, you started getting all these Mormon ads. They were setting the table so the country would be ready for a Mormon president.
Why do you think the Citizens United decision is so important?
With the Supreme Court ruling that corporations are people and money is free speech, I want the next bank robber to say, "I was just exercising my free-speech rights." What you have now is the fascist states of America. Are you familiar with Smedley Butler?
Only very vaguely. You mentioned him in the book.
Smedley's a two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winner. Smedley said he didn't work for the American people, he worked for the United Fruit Corporation. When they didn't get cooperation in Latin America, they sent in the Marines. The patriotism you see is phony. The men and women in uniform aren't phony, but they're nothing but the strong arm of the corporations. I'm a former Navy SEAL, but today I'd be a conscientious objector. I'm 60 years old. Do you realize we've been at war more than half my life?
You complain that Obama hasn't prosecuted financiers over the economic collapse. Back in the 2000s, the Bush Administration, which you criticize, prosecuted the Enron executives. What's happened since then?
They didn't prosecute them.
Sure they did. Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling went to jail.
That was nothing. Are you familiar with 9/11? Building 7? You know what was in there? All the Enron stuff. I guess that building went down on its own. People get on me because I question 9/11. I spoke to people who survived 9/11 and they tell a different story than what we've been told. Whom am I to believe, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Washington bureaucrats -- or the survivors?
OK, the system is broken and a third party won't work. How can it be fixed?
It would take a huge movement like the [Occupy] Wall Street movement. The mainstream media bastardized the Wall Street movement and made it appear something different from what it was. In the last recession, 99 percent of us have lost wealth, but did you know that the top 1 percent increased their wealth five times? It tells you they create recessions so they get wealthier. Why do you think they were so terrified of Occupy, and why do you think Democrats tried to coopt the movement. It's like the Tea Party, which started out good and then got coopted by the Koch brothers. People should have supported the Wall Street movement even if they disagreed with it, because they were just exercising their right to assemble. In Minnesota, I went down there five times. You know, I only raised $300,000 to become governor. I made more money doing the job than I did getting it -- I made $480,000. They don't want the public to know that it can be done without money. They're going to attempt to never let it happen again.