Former Gov. Jesse Ventura takes on 'gangs' in government

Jesse Ventura
Jesse Ventura visits the Minnesota Public Radio News studio to talk about his new book, "Democrips and Rebloodlicans," Wednesday, June 13, 2012. Ventura says the word "party" is not an accurate way to describe the Democrats and Republicans. Rather, he compares the two groups to street gangs.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura has published a new book criticizing the two-party system. It's called "DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans: No More Gangs in Government."

Ventura shared his views on the influence of money on politics with Tom Crann of All Things Considered on Wednesday.

An edited transcript of that interview is below.

Tom Crann: DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans.' It seems confrontational to me. Are you making a point here to get our attention, shock value? Or do you really compare these political parties to what criminal gangs do?

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Jesse Ventura: I compare them completely to the criminal gangs because these two parties are criminal. You also have to read the subtitle underneath, 'No more gangs in government.'

I compare them because of this: they have created an entire system in our government of bribery. Now, if we do bribery in the private sector, what happens to us? We go to jail. Yet their entire political system is based upon the concept of bribery. You pay them off, you get access to them. They call it a campaign contribution — well, it's bribery. If you bribe them, you get access to them, and as we show in the book, you'll get favorable things from them if you pay the bribes.

Crann: In the book, you're pretty sweeping of your condemnation of both sides, both parties. Aren't there people who do get elected whose hearts are in the right place, they're there to serve their constituents, they're there to, as they see it, make the country better?

'DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans' by Jesse Ventura
'DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans' by Jesse Ventura
Courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing

Ventura: I don't think so. Because if they buck their political parties, then they're on the way out.

Crann: Money has always been a part of politics. It was a part of politics when you ran. And you point out in the book that we have been warned about this back to Teddy Roosevelt, John Adams. What would you say has changed in the last ten years or so, since you've [been] out of office?

Ventura: It's even worse. If you go to either the Democrip or Rebloodlican convention, I like to refer to them as that. You'll see the same corporate lobbyists at both, paying off both sides. Barack Obama chastises Wall Street; then his biggest contributor is Goldman Sachs.

It's all lip-service. It's like pro-wrestling. In front of the people and on TV, they're adversaries. Behind the scenes they're going out and doing business together and having dinner and continuing their control for their power.

Crann: Have you become more liberal?

Ventura: I've always been socially liberal; I'm fiscally conservative. That's why I don't fit either party.

I believe in less government, I believe government is far too intrusive in our lives. I just told you the story off air. I went to buy a surfboard in the state of Minnesota and you have to license a surfboard. I mean, how ridiculous is that? And then they require you to wear a life jacket. I'm a former competitive swimmer, I'm a Navy frogman. If I drown it's my fault. I don't need the government to tell me and look after me every step of the way.

Crann: But you do make an argument in the book for stricter financial regulation?

Ventura: Absolutely. We saw what happened when the Republicans took them off. Wall Street went amuck. These guys were allowed to swindle. Not one of them is going to jail. And yet, get caught with a bag of marijuana and it's 'Hasta la vista, baby.'

Crann: In your time here as governor, you certainly spoke to the Chamber of Commerce. You took a trade mission to China, to Cuba. Is it the system here that you are decrying when you're decrying the big banks, or just the extremity of it?

Ventura: Government's role is to contain them, otherwise you're going to have rampant crime. Let's face it, money is a very good thing, but it can be very, very evil. In the case of Wall Street, I think it's become very evil there.

And I'm all for Wall Street, I'm a capitalist. I just don't like the people that are the criminals out there that get away with it. CEOs of these health care places are getting paid millions upon millions of dollars, where our healthcare rates are jumping 38 percent to the average person.

I have no problem with government-run health care. In fact, my viewpoint is this: I believe that every citizen in this country should be entitled to the same health care that congressmen and senators get. Aren't they hypocrites when John Boehner sits out there and derides government-run health care? And what do you think he has? In fact, he has five choices of health care made available to him and his family.

My view is this on health care: If we didn't fight these wars, we would have more than enough money to provide health care for everyone. My belief is that everyone should be allowed to go to the doctor if they're sick. In a country like ours, it's shameful that people cannot go to the doctor if they don't feel well.

Crann: Now you lay out a pretty detailed case here for what's wrong with the system, whether it's lobbying, campaign contributions, the media. But I want to hear your prescription. If the book is a diagnosis, what's the prescription for a post-party America? What does that look like practically?

Ventura: Why do we allow the gangs to put their names on a ballot?

Crann: You mean the parties?

Ventura: Yeah, the gangs. Let's call them what they are. I'm a former outlaw motorcyclist. I rode with the Mongols Motorcycle Club. If you look at... the motorcycle groups in the country, on the back of their colors, they have MC. That stands for motorcycle club... Now what are they really? Well, we know what they are. But that's the way it's perceived. And the same thing is done the other way. They're gangs here, they're not a party. A party is a festive occasion. They are a gang, they are no different. Like I said, they wear Brooks Brothers suits. That's the only difference.

Crann: What would you like to see here?

Ventura: I would like their [party designation] taken off the ballot. Put only the candidate's name because it's all set up for the party. You don't even have to know the candidate. If you're conservative, what do you do? You walk in the voting booth and you're look for Republican. If you're a liberal, you walk in the booth and you look for Democrat. Let's remove that. Then it's inherent upon the voter to educate themselves.

The parties could still endorse. You could get the Republican endorsement, the Democratic endorsement, the same way that you can get the teachers' endorsement, the firemen's endorsement, but why put them on the ballot? Keep them off the ballot and put only their names down.

Crann: You've also said that well you're no big fan of PACs and super PACs, that you'd like to see that parties treated like PACs. How is that different?

Ventura: Right now, they can take unlimited money and they don't even have to say where they got it from. You're going to laugh at this one: I think all presidential candidates should be required to wear NASCAR racing suits.

If you look at Jimmie Johnson, the best driver in NASCAR today. All over him is every sponsor he has. That way as a voter, we'll be educated. When this candidate comes up to talk, we'll know who owns them. Goldman Sachs on the front of the racing suit. Whoever it is that gives them their big dough. But we could limit it because there wouldn't be enough room for all the patches. I know I'm being funny there, but I hope people get the reality of what I'm talking about here.

Crann: What will it take for a president who's not a Republican or Democrat, for that to happen?

Ventura: 2016 for Jesse Ventura to run.

Crann: Are you announcing it right here for us?

Ventura: No. I'm just saying that's what it would take. It would take someone like me who doesn't have to buy name recognition, so I don't have to spend money.

You know what I'm most proud of? My father said to me when I was a teenager — he was a World War II veteran, — he said, 'You know, all politicians are crooks.' I said, 'Come on dad, you can't say that.' And he said, 'Yes, I can, you know why?' He said, 'Because they pay a million dollars for a job that only pays $100,000.'

Well, my father could look down today at his son. I only raised $300,000 to be governor, and I made $480,000, $120,000 a year as governor. You name me one other politician in 50 years who made more money on the job than what he spent to get it.

Interview transcribed and edited by Jon Collins, MPR reporter.