I first met the former governor of Minnesota just over a decade ago in Mexico, where he and his wife had recently bought a home down the road from where I was visiting friends. We ended up working on five books together over the ensuing years. I didn’t always agree with his politics, but we saw eye-to-eye on most social questions. I came to respect greatly not only Ventura’s integrity, but his creative thinking. He wrestled with the issues and never shied from controversy, as in the ring that made him famous.
Nobody expected Ventura to win running as an independent in 1998, tapping into a dissatisfaction with politics-as-usual that Trump parlayed to the presidency almost twenty years later. Had Ventura decided to challenge the two-party system this time, I think he could have made it to the White House – if he’d been allowed into the debates. That was what convinced the Minnesota public to vote him in, and the consensus is that he did a commendable job as governor.
Six weeks after Trump’s alleged victory, I touched base with Ventura for the first time in awhile. (Although they know each other, he did not vote for Trump, as some have speculated). And today, as the inauguration happens, I thought I’d share some of his thoughts on where we go from here.
Like many of us, Ventura sees the electoral college as antiquated and needing to be abolished. The fact that two candidates over the past sixteen years won the popular vote (Al Gore and Hillary Clinton) but didn’t get into the Oval Office galls him.
He says: “I’m worried about Trump’s picks for certain departments, I don’t like them, but until they do something, I have to give them the benefit of the doubt. The rest is media speculation.”
Ventura believes “we’re a war culture now, no two ways about it. The military-industrial complex has continued to grow like a cancer, to proportions where it truly runs our country.” So he has an alternative to Trump’s proposed border wall. “If they’re so afraid someone’s going to invade us and take away our freedoms, let’s bring all the troops home from around the world and let them guard our borders. Be a whole lot cheaper than building a wall, and we’ll be the safest country on the planet. But I mean both borders, Mexico and Canada.”
He offered a unique analogy about what the Republicans want to do to health care. “It’s like walking into a casino. They want you to have twenty options for where to buy, but every game is set up for you to lose. Some will benefit, but 75 percent goes to the house. That’s what you’re gonna have if they strip Obamacare and go to all this competition shit. Every game is rigged against you because it’s all written by the insurance companies. It’s so corrupt it’s ridiculous – all because Obama didn’t have the guts to go to single payer.”
In truth, Ventura thinks “the only one we should fear taking away our freedom is our own government.” And he sees the battle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Sioux’s Standing Rock reservation as where the first big test is likely to come. At the moment, the project has been halted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, pending completion of an Environmental Impact Statement. But if the Trump administration lets the pipeline go forward – threatening the water supply for thousands in the event of a leak – Ventura sees a last stand by the tribe and its supporters that could spark civil war.
He is a proud veteran, like his parents before him. When some 4,000 veterans began assembling alongside the Native Americans in December, Ventura planned to join them “but my back acted up on me. I gave them my support and told them to use my name if they desired to, that I’m with them all the way. I loved that startling moment when all the veterans got on their knees and asked the Native Americans for forgiveness. That was mammoth. The Indians forgave them, because they knew the soldiers were not at fault, but being ordered [in the past].”
Ventura continued: “What a showdown coming up, because Trump allegedly supports those pipelines – so the big oil companies can make more money, by selling to other countries! I’ve got a feeling the thousands of veterans will continue to stand with the Native Americans. All these people are doing is exercising their First Amendment right. The military guys have pledged to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. They are simply carrying out the oath they took, which happens to be domestic.
“Are we going to turn troops on our own veterans?”
Is it merely coincidental that earlier this week, the company looking to lay pipe under the tribe’s Lake Oahe asked a U.S. District Judge to block the Army Corps study? The corporation, Energy Transfer Partners, had a key backer in 2015 – Donald Trump, who invested somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million. Among the Texas company’s paid board members? Rick Perry, the former governor now nominated to run the Department of Energy.
Trump didn’t bother to mention the environment in his inaugural address. As he assumes the presidency, proclaiming “Now arrives the hour of action!” – I tremble at what the future may bring, and take a personal oath to fight the onrushing tide that would destroy democracy in the name of freedom. The Un-Reality Show begins.
In a curious footnote to Trump’s espousing that “we will be protected by God!”, did anyone notice that the one time he stumbled in his speech was over the phrase, “stir our souls.” The word “souls” came out garbled, almost unintelligible. A Freudian slip?
The Apprentice is now the Sorcerer.