Last month on the Jay Leno Show, Hulk Hogan thought he would make some news, but he did not. Too bad the media missed his presentation because he seemed very serious about what he was saying.
Hogan “announced” his official retirement from professional wrestling, adding that his children were well taken care of by the considerable wealth he has amassed over the years. He then said that he was intently thinking of running for President of the United States. It was as if his mind was already made up.
You laugh, wondering what this country’s politics have come to — perhaps farce replacing tragedy.
But they laughed at Jesse Ventura, who in a three way race defeated both the Democratic and Republican candidate to become, next month, the Governor of Minnesota. When Ventura roared from behind in late October to overtake the two major Party candidates and win going away, I sensed that something new was about to happen in electoral politics.
Other professional athletes have run successfully for federal office — former Senator Bill Bradley (formerly of the New York Knicks) and no-hit pitcher, Senator-elect, Jim Bunning, to name two. But winning the Governorship as a little-known professional wrestler, not on his prowess in the ring, but because voters liked his candid, common sense talk.
A prominent attorney in Minneapolis told me that several of his colleagues confided that they voted for Ventura, even though state Attorney General Skip Humphrey and cigarette industry-fighter, was on the ballot. They just were tired of tired political talk, by tired political parties.
Ventura got a couple of breaks. He was able to use public finance monies to put some very funny and memorable ads on television. And Skip Humphrey graciously insisted on Ventura (representing the Reform Party) was invited on the state-wide televised debates with the other major candidates. That gave him exposure, and he made the most of it.
Hogan told Jay Leno that every time he wrestled with Ventura, he beat him. So why not run for President? Leno started asking him about his political positions. Hogan mentioned his being for “America First” and for a flat tax.
Before you recall television images of the “Hulk” going through his practiced rantings and ravings as the most exhibitionist of well greased wrestlers, remember who doesn’t vote in this country.
There are potential voters — often blue collar laborers who hunt, drive motorcycles and sport tattoos or more silent types who turn off politics even though as a result, politics is more likely to turn on them which makes them turn off even more — who will respond to a rough-hewn, no-nonsense talker. Especially a talker who is well known by millions of wrestling fans who don’t vote. Especially a talker who could command media and raise substantial money.
Already, slick campaign consultants have used Madison Avenue techniques to create the images that sell their candidates. Politics, Madison Avenue, Hollywood, Clinton/Lewinsky, adultery-based resignations all mix the real with the unreal, the serious with the entertaining, the foibles with the fables. Who says there is no room for a Hulk Hogan getting around 10 percent of the vote?
That turnout could affect the dynamics of the other major candidates. It could tip certain federal and state races, fuel satire and make mockery a frequent voter reaction.
The velocity and volatility of today’s politics make a Hulk Hogan candidacy appear something short of absurd, assuming he wasn’t putting Jay Leno on. People, who chronically disrespect politicians and their corruptive process, are prone to want to ridicule them, to laugh at them. Hogan would be the caricature of the moment.
Just think of all the wrestling metaphors that would leave a deep imprint. A reporter asked Jesse Ventura how, if elected Governor, he would deal with the two legislative Houses, each of which is controlled by one of the two major Parties. Silently, he slowly raised one of his bulging biceps. That was a funny gesture far more memorable to television viewers than his post as a small time mayor outside of Minneapolis.