Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Answering the critics: Jesse Ventura, Al Franken and The Terminator

I've talked in the past about hyperreality and the surreal in politics. It's a hurdle Celebrity candidates often need to overcome. As it is a logical point of attack, candidates will often build the critique into their messaging. Hoping to turn a perceived weaknesses to their advantage.

Al Franken - a satirist, SNL alum and former Air America Radio Host has always traveled in Democratic circles. His bid for the Minnesota Senate however has been met with skepticism by voters and every bit of press Franken has received has an underlying arc of "Is he serious?".
a) New York Times - Al Franken, Seriously So
b) The Atlantic Magazine - He’s Not Joking
c) Time Magazine - Not So Funny

Al Franken has effectively used the predictable charge of his "seriousness" by Jujitsu-ing it into a string of talking points.
Those delegates knew that I'm serious... the people of Minnesota are going to get to know me and know that I'm real serious about this. I'm serious about having an Apollo program for renewable energy and energy efficiency. I'm serious about getting to universal health care and I'm serious about getting early childhood education for every kid who needs it.
VIDEO: Al Franken with CNN's Campbell Brown

Arnold Swarchenegger in his bid to be California Governor in 2003 was met with incredulity and much international fanfare. Arnold had originally built his reputation as the Action King of Hollywood, hoping to convert his name into a Governorship under the Republican banner. Though political life might seem an incongruous proposition for the musclebound Austrian, Arnold had married into American Political royalty. His wife Maria Shriver is a member of the storied Kennedy family.

Arnold successfully became Governor by deploying lines that proudly embraced his Action-hero persona. In a debate with fellow Celebrity candidate Arianna Huffington (running as an Independent) Arnold had quips like:
1. "Arianna. Your personal income tax is the biggest loophole. I could drive my Hummer through it." (calling attention to the hypocrisy of Arianna's proposed tax plan)
2. "I have a perfect part for you in 'Terminator 4'" (referencing his popular Action movie serial where he demolishes the opposition)
Read the full article from the New York Times - Live, the 'Arnold and Arianna Show'
Update: Watch Arnold proudly integrating his Bodybuilding and Hollywood past whilst stumping for John McCain

Though never actioned, the award for most audacious use of a candidate's celebrity past goes to Jesse Ventura. One might expect an ex-wrestler to distance themselves from their frivolous past if they were running for President, but Jesse isn't your conventional politician.

In his latest book - Don't Start the Revolution Without Me! - the former Minnesota Governor had planned to run for President by enlisting the help of an unlikely political source. He would run as an independent, planning to get ballot access on all 50 states by using a "fake" Wrestling storyline on WWE television to spawn a "real" presidential bid.

Jesse Ventura explains his ambitious wrestling plot for the Presidency
... the WWE who had been involved in the 'Get out the Vote' movement... would be dissatisfied with both candidates and they were going to run their own candidate which of course would be (WWE owner) Vince [McMahon] ... I would come onto the scene representing the people saying McMahon represents corporate America, he's never held office. I'm a legitimate candidate, I'll take him on... all this time Vince is sending his people out gaining ballot access for his new party across America... at the time of WrestleMania I would announce that this was for real. I am now a candidate for President.
Listen and Download the full Jesse Ventura interview from

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