In his new book DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans, Jesse Ventura argues in favor of abolishing all political parties within what he calls a corrupt two-party system.
From my perspective, I can’t advocate anymore for third-party politics. We’ve got to face the reality that the two parties control the system to such an extent that, to be viable, a third party would have to sell out and become just as bad.
Ventura asserts that corporations have bought the American electoral and legislative process through the power of lobbyists, campaign contributions and political action committees.
As the book jacket blurb advertises: Ventura “exposes how two major parties, acting like gangland cabal (Crips and Bloods), have allowed corporations, businesses, and politically motivated wealthy individuals to manipulate elections, bribe elected officials, and in short, silence the average American voter.”
In the opening chapter, Ventura makes a comparison between politics and pro wrestling — the latter being a subject in which Ventura, a former wrestler known as “The Body,” is well versed: “The two gangs pretend to be adversaries in front of the public…but ultimately, they’re both working for the same things: maintaining their power, getting richer, and making sure their wealthy backers keep control of the ship-of-state.”
When his wrestling career drew to a close, Ventura garnered even more fame — some would call it infamy — by becoming governor of Minnesota, and he has remained an outspoken and entertaining public figure. He has played many roles in his life — Navy SEAL, wrestler, politician, movie star, conspiracy theorist, visiting fellow at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and New York Times best-selling author.
Rock Cellar Magazine tracked down Ventura for a chat — the gift of gab is perhaps his most enduring talent — and he enthusiastically dished the dirt on the state of American politics and shared words of wisdom for the average citizen.
Rock Cellar Magazine: What kind of response have you been getting for the new book?
Jesse Ventura: I’ve been told by a few people that this is the best one yet. And that’s great because I think me and Dick Russell worked harder on this book than any of the others. But what’s interesting is I’m being censored with this book. Fox News won’t have me on, MSNBC won’t have me on, and Don Imus won’t have me on.
RCM: Why is that?
JV: Because who owns them — the big corporations. And in this book I’m pretty hard on the big corporations and their buy-out of the politicians. They won’t have me on their shows to promote the book, and what they’re saying is: “We don’t want people to read this book because it exposes us for what we are.”
RCM: In the first chapter, you say that you are often asked what has gone so fundamentally wrong with the United States, and your response is that the Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty.
JV: Yeah, because they’ve been in charge for over 150 years. And they’ve created a system based on bribery. The two parties operate like gangs in that all their members are loyal to the gang first, it’s not loyalty to the people or the country. It’s gang loyalty first, and then it’s loyalty to where they get their money – just like a street gang. How do we make our revenue? How do we get rich? Well, in the case of street gangs, they may sell drugs or do other things to make their money. Whereas these two gangs sell out to the corporation and to all their donors. Did you hear how they recently overruled Montana?
RCM: You mean Montana being the only state to challenge the Supreme Court’s ruling that allows unlimited corporate spending in politics?
JV: Yes, and how Montana challenged the thing on the corporations being individuals — along with these Super PACS (Political Action Committees). They tried to outlaw it in their state, and I commend the state of Montana for taking that position. But our Supreme Court just overruled them, so they snuffed down what the state wanted basically and said it doesn’t matter – it’s what we want at the federal government.
RCM: That a corporation has the same rights as an individual…?
JV: Exactly, and it’s obscene! They’ve also stated that money is free speech. Now, I’m all for them if they want to raise all the money they want from whoever, okay, but they need full disclosure and we’re not getting that. They don’t even have to disclose where their big money comes from, these Super PACS. They hide it all.
RCM: These new Super PACs are basically a beefed-up version of candidate campaign committees, right?
JV: Right, but they don’t have to abide by the same rules. And what that means is, now the sky’s the limit. It’s a jungle out there, one that includes Federal PACs and Leadership PACs, aligned with issues and parties and candidates, and so-called non-profit groups that give freely to Super PACs. And Super PACs raise and spend whatever they choose, with an unlimited ability to lie in order for their candidate to get elected.
So, let’s say hypothetically, if the country of China wanted to control our government, they could pump all the money into these Super PACS and literally decide who’s going to run the United States. And where would the allegiance be then? To the country of China, because they put up the money? That’s how dangerous this is and we’re going down a slippery slope. And I don’t even know if the United States can recover from this when it’s all over.
The loose definition of fascism is when corporations take over government. And I think in the United States, we’re right on the brink of that, if we’re not already there.
RCM: Many have said the Occupy Movement worldwide has no unified message…
JV: Oh, it has a unified message but the media’s just not giving it. The message is: Stop buying our elected officials, Wall Street! Quit bribing them! Like I said, the two parties created an entire system based on the concept of bribery.
Now, if we do that in the private sector, we go to jail. And yet, they do it blatantly in their public sector and it doesn’t even end there! How about the chapter in my book where we catch them with their insider trading on the stock market? They know what stocks are going up by the very rules they make, so they’re privy to inside information. Again, if we do that we go to jail – ask Martha Stewart! But they don’t, and the average return is 12 per cent – that’s higher than Warren Buffett gets! I always wondered why congressmen and senators could go in and not be millionaires, but they always come out as millionaires.
RCM: The chapter What the Politicians Get and Get Away with that You Can’t is an eye-opener, especially when it comes to health care…
JV: In Canada they have government-run health care, but here they rail against it. They tell us we don’t need it or want it. And yet what do veterans get? Government-run health care! So, if it’s so horrible, why do we make the veterans get it? And if it’s not horrible, why can’t everyone else get what the veterans get?
And when you look at the hypocrisy, how the congressmen, senators and two parties get government run health care, we found out they get five different options on what they want to choose for their health care. We’re lucky, in the private sector, if we have one choice. Many people have none. And I don’t believe elected officials should get any benefit more than what the average public is entitled to.
RCM: In that same chapter, you also shed light on the retirement benefits politicians get that the American public doesn’t.
JV: Well, why should politicians get a retirement for public service? That’s another little thing we dug up on them. If you took away retirement, you’d have term limits because nobody’s going to spend 25 years getting elected and not get a retirement out of it. So if you took away retirement — which you shouldn’t have for public service anyway — you’d get term limits and we found out, get this, 20 or 21 of them have been convicted of felonies. And some of them have actually gone to jail and they’ve still got retirement while they’re in jail!
I mean, what a sweet deal that is! On top of that they get raises without even voting them. They voted years ago that every two years they get a raise, without even having voted it! Wouldn’t that be sweet in the private sector? Imagine what it would be like if everybody at your company you work for could vote himself or herself an annual raise in pay. Wouldn’t that be a gas! You simply get a job and know you’ll be getting a raise every two years and not even have to worry about it.
RCM: Why do you think Americans are often blind to the fact that elected officials have more perks than the populace they govern?
JV: Well, I’ll give you my version of it — and you can laugh at it if you may — but I think it’s in the water. Do you know what I mean?
RCM: Not really…
JV: Back in the ’50s, they told all of us that we had to put fluoride in the water for our teeth. Well, first of all, why do you need the government doing that? Shouldn’t your parents teach you how to brush your teeth and use mouthwash? You don’t need the government doing that.
So, here’s the real reason for fluoride…You know who were the first people to put fluorinated water into society? Nazis. The Nazis did it first, because fluoride is roughly 90% the main ingredient of Prozac. So when you’re drinking fluoridated water, you’re drinking liquid Prozac. What does Prozac do? It dumbs you down, calms you, makes you unemotional — just the perfect way to turn you into a lemming, so you can be marched off the cliff and not look left or right.
RCM: Haven’t you been drinking fluoridated water all these years as well, though?
JV: No, because the weird thing about me is – not by design because I only learned this a few years ago – all of the homes that I’ve owned had their own well. So I haven’t been drinking fluoridated water all my adult life, with the exception of drinking from a water fountain occasionally – a little bit, but not enough to affect me. I’ve always drank regular well water without any chemicals in it. And they force it! The city of Brainerd (Minnesota) didn’t want to do it and the federal government came in and made them put fluoride in the water.
It’s the truth – fluoride is the major ingredient in Prozac.
And why would the government wants to put it in our water? For tooth decay? Give me a break! That’s the government, in my opinion, completely overstepping their bounds. So I ask, what truly is their ulterior motive? It certainly isn’t for tooth decay. That’s a load of shit!
RCM: In the chapter The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Poorer, you reveal some intriguing facts about the famed top 1 per cent owning 40 per cent of all the wealth in America…
JV: Well, overall, the richest 400 people in America – all of them billionaires – possess as much money as the bottom 50 per cent of Americans combined, some 154 million. It’s mind-blowing!
And what happened is during this 2008 recession, as they call it, everybody lost wealth. I lost wealth. My home isn’t worth what it used to be. Everybody lost some form of wealth, except – just like the Wall Street people said – the upper 1 per cent of the 1 per cent of billionaires. They actually increased their wealth five times! So, if you were worth 10 billion dollars, you’re now worth 50 billion. Now that tells me that they orchestrate these recessions so that they can get even wealthier, while making the rest of us even poorer.
RCM: How does this affect America’s middle class?
JV: The middle class is dying, but it’s mostly because of this attack on unions here. The government has used propaganda to make people think that unions are evil. Now, can unions be evil in some cases? Yes, they can, because they’re run by humans and anything humans do can end up evil. But as a whole, unions built the middle class. That’s why the United States was so exceptional, because we had this middle class and unions.
I saw a chart the other day where the median wage and union membership were the same line. As union membership goes down, so goes the median wage and income – and people aren’t paying attention to this. If we lose all the unions, you’re going to be back to sweat shops. You’ll have no rights and you’ll have no collective bargaining. And people don’t realize that.
RCM: Back in the ’80s, you tried to form a union for professional wrestlers, right?
JV: I just had this discussion with Fran Tarkenton, the great quarterback who’s got a show on Sirius (XM Radio). He knows I come out of pro wrestling, and he was railing a bit on unions and I said, “Fran, wait a minute – you have a union in the NFL that protected you!” I said, “In pro wrestling, we never had a union. I wrestled one time 63 consecutive days in a row without a day off, because there was no union.”
There’s no parameters of how hard they can work you. They can work you like a dog and there’s nothing you can do about it because they’re in charge. I used to have to pay – this was back in the early ’80s – $5,000 a year for health care for my family. And if we’d had a union that could have been dropped to maybe $1,500 a year because there’s strength in numbers.
RCM: Pro wrestlers today have it better than the guys in your era though, don’t you think?
JV: They do, but they’re still wrestlers – they’re not financial planners. Although today they get a lot more college graduates than back in my day, that doesn’t mean they necessarily know how to invest their money. You work so hard, how do you have time to learn how to invest your money when you’re on the road every day? If we’d had a union when I wrestled, then they could say, you can only wrestle a guy five days in a row, then you get two required days off. Then you can set parameters to what bosses and executives can do to the workers.
And here’s the final thing I told Fran Tarkenton. I said, “Fran, wrestlers don’t even get retirement. You can spend 25 years in wrestling and at the end, you’ve got nothing. Where at least in the NFL, you get a retirement because of your union.” So I said, “Don’t sit there and say unions are horrible. Yes, they can get out of hand and they can be bad in certain aspects, but to destroy all the unions in America systematically, you are then going to destroy the median income – and you’re going to destroy the middle class. Which is what I believe the government wants to accomplish.
RCM: That sounds like a conspiracy theory…
JV: Well, that’s what I see happening. I may be out blowing in the wind on this, but I see them trying to drop the U.S. economy so that we’re just like Mexico – with only rich and poor. Then what you’d have is us, Mexico and Canada, and I see them trying to put us under the same currency of globalization.
RCM: Would you agree the biggest conspiracy today would be the whole world bank situation and the Federal Reserve Fund?
JV: I do because it goes completely against our constitution. The constitution of the United States clearly states that there shall be no central bank. But that scoundrel Woodrow Wilson found a way with the bankers to loophole the constitution. They created the Federal Reserve and that’s truly who runs the country, because if you go by what Deep Throat said in Watergate: “Follow the money.” And the Federal Reserve prints the money, so they’re the boss. If you make the money – you’re the boss. Politicians are nothing but puppets, it’s the Federal Reserve that runs the United States of America – not your government. That’s my opinion, anyways.
RCM: Jon Stewart said on The Daily Show a few months ago that we live in a unique time in that both U.S. political parties are actually getting what they want, even though we can’t afford it.
JV: He’s right. When I was at Harvard, I taught a class called How Pro Wrestling Prepares You for Politics, and I made the comparison that politics is just like pro wrestling, and I talk about that in this book. I said that in front of the media, they’re adversaries. But behind the scenes, they all go out to dinner and they’re all working together.
So the whole thing is a fraud. They love to call wrestling fake; well, I like to say that politicians are the ones who are fake, not the wrestlers. When we get bodyslammed on the mat or get thrown into a turnbuckle, it hurts! Now, we may be ballet with violence, but you still have to take those moves when you get slammed to the mat. So these guys, the politicians are the ones that are fake – not wrestling. I’ve been out of that business for 22 years now, it’s hard to believe.
RCM: What steered you into politics after you retired from wrestling?
JV: My father, I guess – I attribute politics to him. My father, he had only an 8th grade education, he was a World War II veteran with six bronze battle stars for the battles he was in – he was in all of them. And my father was very political at the dinner table. I remember there were times when my mother sent him down to the basement because he got so worked up. “Come on, go downstairs and get cooled off!” she’d say (laughs).
In fact, he said something that has stayed with me forever. One day in high school I came home and my dad said to me, “You know, all politicians are crooks,” and I said, “C’mon dad, you can’t make a blanket statement like that – they can’t all be?” He said, “Yes they can, and do you know why?” And I said, “Why?” and he said, “Because they spend a million dollars for a job that only pays a hundred grand!”
And that always resonated with me, and I can see today that my father would look at me differently, because I’m not a crook in my dad’s eyes. Because I’ll tell you why: When I ran for governor of Minnesota, I accepted no PAC money, no special interest money, and I only raised $300,000. Well, I was paid $120,000 a year which means I made $480,000. So I actually spent less than what I made doing the job – so my dad could say I wasn’t a crook. And I bet I’m the only one who can say that in the last 50 years.
RCM: Howard Stern has said that you’re his hero.
JV: (laughs) Howard Stern and I get along great. I love doing Howard! When we do the book tour, we’re going to do a full media blitz on the book when the fall comes because right now is not really the time for a political book like this, ’cause it’s summer. I know in Minnesota, nobody pays attention to politics until the state fair is done, and that’s Labor Day. And so, we’re going to go out with another media blitz probably the end of September or early October. Because with this book we’re going to hit hard, right before the election and hopefully the book will have some influence on how people vote.
RCM: One of the themes of the upcoming election will likely be the Republican Party painting President Obama as a socialist. What do you think?
JV: Well, they’re going to try to win but I’ll tell you what, Mitt Romney, if they elect him, you’re going to get (fictional character of the 1987 film Wall Street) Gordon Gekko. Because Baine Financial that he worked for, that’s what they did – they were corporate raiders! They went in and bought up corporations, made millions of dollars, broke them up and put people on the unemployment line. So when Mitt Romney says he creates jobs, yeah, he creates jobs – employment line jobs! But to me, again, like what the late, great Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead once said: “If you’re made to pick the lesser of two evils, you’re still picking evil, aren’t you?” Well, there you go.
[Related Article: Is Obama a Socialist or Not?!]
RCM: What do you say to someone who believes that most any federal-funded social program is socialism?
JV: I say, what’s wrong with that? Let me give you an example: We just got a taste of pure capitalism when they took all the bounds off of Wall Street and they took all the restrictions off. What happened? Rape and pillage! People lost their value, lost their income, they lost their wealth, and that was done because of pure unadulterated capitalism.
Now, on the flipside, we saw what happened to the Soviet Union which had communism or total socialism – they fell also. So, clearly any right thinking person will say that you need capitalism and you need socialism at the same time. You need to have the correct balance of both.
RCM: What would be the correct balance of capitalism and socialism?
JV: I don’t know what the percentages would be, but I believe that the way you achieve that balance is by looking out for your poorest of people. And not just necessarily holding them up, but giving them the opportunity to be successful. And in order to do that you have to have socialism.
My goodness, building highways is socialism! There’s certain things – things that are the government’s job – that are done for the common good so that they can pave the way for us to be successful in a capitalist society. But you’ve got to have some socialism.
And as far as health care goes, the United States should be ashamed of themselves. We’re the biggest industrial country and the only one that doesn’t have health care for their citizens. As rich as we have been, there’s people out there who can’t even go to the doctor! Now there’s a place where I don’t think health care should be for profit. I share that in the book, how the average health care costs have gone up like 36 and 38 per cent, yet these CEOs of the health care businesses are making 15 million a year in bonuses. Obscene!
RCM: At its worst, though, isn’t the United States a better place to live than most countries?
JV: Sure we are, but we’re falling! And the other countries are gaining! Certainly, we probably have the highest income and the highest standard of living in the world, but it’s disappearing because the middle class is going.
RCM: Have you seen some semblance of a better model somewhere else in the world?
JV: I haven’t even had the time to look around (laughs), so I really can’t answer that. I can just say this: my friend Carlos Santana – Carlos and I talked once and I told him about living in Mexico, like I do for five months a year – he told me, they claim New Zealand is the best place to live in the world now with the best standard of living. Now, I don’t know that – that’s strictly what Carlos told me, but I respect his opinion. I’ve since heard this from multiple other people as well.
RCM: Do you still have hope for true reform in America, despite the proliferation of Super PACs, with all politicians on the take?
JV: Well, there’s always hope because I tell people it’s as simple as the nose on your face. But it’s as difficult as climbing Mount Everest. And the reason that is, is because people still vote for Democrats and Republicans, even though there are alternatives out there. So I ask the question in this book: to what level can we take abolishing all political parties? Do we have the ability to remove them from the ballots, to where people simply run by their names?
RCM: And not be identified by a party?
JV: Yeah, wouldn’t it then become incumbent upon us, the people, to know who these people are, rather than simply going out and voting for a specific party line?
RCM: Who are you supporting in the upcoming election?
JV: New Mexico two-time governor Gary Johnson. He used to be a moderate Republican. He was the governor when I was the governor of Minnesota. I know Gary well and he’s running under the Libertarian banner.
And I’m urging everyone, if you want to strike out, then he’s the choice for people who really want to rebel. Right now our congress’ approval rating is about 10 per cent, so you’ve got 90 per cent of the country who doesn’t even like what’s happening in congress. So I ask, then why go along with it? Vote for governor Johnson.
RCM: If the system is rigged in favor of the two major parties, what would it take for an outsider like governor Johnson to win?
JV: It’s going to require a revolution where people mass outside these things and chant and demand. But of course, with the mainstream media down to about four corporations now, they won’t cover it – just like the build up to the Iraq war. I didn’t even find out there were massive peace protests before we invaded Iraq. It was never covered in the news media.
RCM: Plus, there hasn’t been a debate that included a third candidate since ’92 when Ross Perot ran, right?
JV: Again, that’s because of the gangs! Perot scared them so bad in ’92 because he got one out of five votes. Up until then all presidential debates fell under the National League of Women Voters, and they determined who would be allowed to debate. Well, the Democrats and Republicans then took the debates from the National League of Women Voters and they formed the Federal Debate Commission which, ironically, is headed by the two former heads of the gangs.
So now they totally control the Democrats and Republicans, who is allowed to debate, and they put this high water mark of where you have to be polling 15 per cent. Well, you can rig polls and even if you were polling 15 per cent, I guarantee they would then raise it to 20.
RCM: How did it work when you ran for the governor of Minnesota?
JV: When I ran at the primary I was polling 10 per cent. I was allowed in the debates and seven weeks later, guess what, I was the governor of Minnesota. I rose from 10 per cent – it was a three-person race – to win it with 37 per cent. So, it can be done if you’re allowed in the debates.
But they’re not going to allow governor Johnson in the debates, and that’s why it’s so unfair. See, that’s how they’re controlling the whole system and they do it just like a street gang would.
RCM: Do you think these same politicians exploit button-pushing emotional issues like gay rights, immigration, and gun control just to keep the 99 per cent fighting each other, rather than fighting for income equality?
JV: Oh, absolutely they do! Those are all red herrings that they throw at the public. But they are real issues too.
Here’s a thing that I’m gravely concerned about that came to my attention when I got a letter from senator Rand Paul – y’know, Ron Paul’s son? He made me aware that the United States is going to go with the United Nations on this particular treaty, and we need to stop it because part of the treaty is international gun registration – which would overrule our 2nd amendment.
We would then fall to the international community to determine gun registration. And as you know, as much as the Liberals want to disarm us – that’s their job, the Liberal side – the Democrats, that’s all they talk about is taking away our guns. And that would be fine and dandy if nobody else had them. But if you use Mexico as an example, where I live five months a year, guns are banned. You can’t have one. Well, who has them?
RCM: The cartels…
JV: Exactly, and they’re killing 20-30,000 people a year down there! So there’s your example of what’s wrong with the Liberal side saying, “Oh, take away the guns.”
I’ll give you another example: I was in the Philippines the day Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law and became a dictator in the early ’70s. The first thing he did was he put out a memo stating that the people of the Philippines had two weeks, or something, to turn every gun over or else it would be the death penalty. Now, why would a dictator do that? Why would that be number one on his list?
Well, because of the fact of our 2nd amendment, they always like to say, well, we’re not going to take away your hunting and fishing. Back when they wrote that, the Bill of Rights, if you didn’t hunt and fish – you didn’t eat. That was a given. The reason the 2nd amendment is there is so people have the ability to defend themselves if the government were to become oppressive. And now you’ve got government and the Liberals trying to disarm us by taking all the guns away.
From people, I used to always hear, “Well, we couldn’t stand up to the U.S. military, so what good are our guns going to do?” Well, excuse me, I seem to remember and participated in something called the Vietnam War, where all you had was a bunch of rice farmers and a few AK-47s. And we dropped more ordnance on them than we did in World War II, and we could not beat them. We won every battle, but we could not win the war.
RCM: So how do we win a war against political “street gangs?”
JV: Vote for somebody else. Like I said, I’m going to vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. I’ve never voted for a Democrat or a Republican. The vote matters, I tell everyone.
RCM: What about those who say that voting for a third candidate is a wasted vote in a two-party system?
JV: I like to reverse it and say, “No, if you vote for a Democrat or a Republican you’re wasting your vote because you’re going to get the same thing – it doesn’t matter. Look at President Obama for a moment – he rails on Wall Street, and yet his biggest contributor is Goldman Sachs. I mean, what hypocrisy! It’s all lip service! They want us to believe what they say, but “Don’t pay any attention to what we do!” That’s the way it works.
RCM: What else can the average citizen – especially young people – do to fight back for real systemic change in America?
JV: Be involved – it’s as simple as that. Thomas Jefferson said, “Dissention is the highest form of patriotism,” and I agree with that. You are not unpatriotic if you oppose your government. It’s the opposite – you are patriotic! And that used to be the great thing until the last decade – the U.S. people have been brainwashed into thinking, “Well, you’ve got to go along with the government and if you speak out or oppose anything the government does, then you’re unpatriotic.”
They need to understand that patriotism is about criticizing your government, because they’re only people and if you don’t hold their feet to the fire, you will get a bad government. And so you’re a patriot when you pay attention, when you speak out if you disagree with something. We used to be a country where you could voice disagreement, but it seems as though that’s been taken away now. I’ve said it before, we’re not the United States of America anymore – we’re the Fascist States of America. Mussolini would be proud of us today.
RCM: Any final words of inspiration as we head towards the 2012 presidential election?
JV: Well, I give hope to the young people of America, but there was hope when I was young too. I’m a product of the ’60s and we fell apart. The heavy and unpleasant truth is they absorb you, as you get older and your values change somewhat. I thought we would change the world and we really didn’t. We did for a short time, but it wasn’t permanent.
It’s going to take a whole lot of detailed nuanced thinking and action to get out of this mess. First, we must make politicians understand that we aren’t going to rubber stamp their actions anymore based on lies. And if they try to make suckers out of us, they must understand that we’re going to turn them on their heads. We won’t be dumbed down, manipulated or sold out anymore. Those days are coming to an end. Let’s take our country back!
So let me leave you with a great quote from Jimi Hendrix, the greatest guitar player who ever lived on the planet. Jimi Hendrix said: “When the power of love overtakes the love of power, then the world will know peace.” And I think that’s phenomenal because, at the time, he was speaking when the Vietnam War was going on. But I think it still applies today. What Jimi said is completely true.