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Jesse Ventura
Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura testifies recently before a Senate Transportation Committee in St. Paul, where he outlined a roads and transit package worth nearly $10 billion. (AP photo)

This is one of a series of political profiles produced by political psychologist Aubrey Immelman and his students in the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn.


February 6, 2000

Dauntless, determined style defines Ventura

By Joshua Jipson
and Aubrey Immelman
St. John's University

Gov. Jesse Ventura is nothing if not predictable.

What makes him so is a clear-cut personality style — a venturesome, dauntless pattern that makes him a formidable political contender who defies convention.

Dauntless personalities typically are adventurous, fearless, and daring, attracted by challenge and undeterred by personal risk. They do things their own way and are unafraid of the consequences. Not surprisingly, they often act hastily, failing to plan ahead or consider alternatives.

This penchant for shooting from the hip — or the mouth, in Ventura's case — can signify boldness and the courage of one's convictions as easily as it may constitute shortsighted imprudence and questionable judgment. But whatever the case, the governor's acts and utterances are entirely consistent with his underlying personality pattern.

That brings us to Ventura's infamous "Playboy" interview, whose sequel hits the streets this week. The fascinating thing about the interview is how precisely Ventura's own words convey the core elements of his deep-rooted, enduring predispositions, which in turn serve as a basis for predicting his actions.

Fighting words

Ventura: "When people attack me, I attack back."

Dauntless personalities are rugged individualists, not compromisers or conciliators — such as Bill Bradley, for example. Like a John McCain — another dauntless type — they take clear stands on the issues that matter, backed up by self-confidence and the requisite personal skills and talents to prevail.

Lawrence Grobel, who conducted the Ventura interview for "Playboy," writes: "What I found most refreshing about Gov. Ventura was his willingness to defend his positions and attack his interrogators. ... He's an imposing man who's not easily intimidated, and he's convinced he has the aura that will take him to higher places."

Ventura: "Drugs and prostitution, those shouldn't be imprisonment crimes."

Dauntless personalities are original, independent-minded, and unconventional. At their best, these personalities are enterprising, innovative and creative. They are nonconformists first and foremost, and are disdainful — even contemptuous — of traditional ideals and values.

Moreover, they shirk orthodoxy and typically believe that too many rules stand in the way of freedom. Where a more conventional person might say, "Those are the rules, and you and I should follow them," a dauntless personality like Ventura might scoff, "Who the hell made that rule up? I ain't following it, because it don't make sense."

Don't fence me in

Ventura: "I unsheathed the knife in front of ["Predator" producer] Joel Silver one day. He had become infatuated with my wife, Terry. ... I calmly took out the knife and started filing my thumbnail with it."

Dauntless personalities are untroubled and easygoing, but quickly become irritable and aggressive when crossed. They are cool, calm, and collected under pressure, restless and disgruntled when restricted or confined.

This facet of Ventura's personality has both good and bad implications for situations requiring diplomacy: while he likely won't be fazed by a tough-talking adversary, he easily could become belligerent when angered or obstructed.

Ventura: "Why are you eligible for parole after seven years? Life should be life. And there should be no three strikes. Should be one strike."

Dauntless personalities are tough-minded and unsentimental. They display their feelings. Based on our study, it's easy to predict that Ventura will resist positions that can be construed as signifying weakness and revile policies that trigger his contempt for human frailty and dependence.

On his own

Ventura on government assistance: "The Constitution guarantees our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That's all. It doesn't guarantee our right to charity."

Ventura: "The best thing [about being governor] is that there's no one who can tell me what to do."

Dauntless personalities view themselves as self-sufficient and autonomous. They pride themselves on their independence, competence, strength, and their ability to prevail without social support — and they expect the same of others.

Ventura: "If I could be reincarnated as a fabric, I would come back as a 38 double-D bra."

Dauntless personalities are unconstrained. They express their impulses directly, often in rash and precipitous fashion, and generally without regret. Only rarely do they refashion their thoughts and actions to fit a socially desirable mold.

Ventura, in response to former Minnesota first lady Barbara Carlson's contention that Ventura "can dish it out but can't take it": "Consider the source. ... This is a woman who struck the former governor with a frying pan. ... She's also a woman who's had her stomach cut out so she don't eat as much. What happened to will power?"

The inner drives and impulses of dauntless personalities are notably unruly and rebellious, giving rise to unfettered self-expression and low thresholds for emotional discharge, particularly those of a hostile nature — and personal criticism merely adds fuel to the fire.

Serving the public

Ventura, in response to the question of what is most important for him to accomplish as governor: "To prove that I can govern now."

Though fundamentally driven by self-serving motives, dauntless personalities are capable of incidentally advancing social causes in the service of their own ambition. Arguably, this may well be par for the course in the politics of public service.

Taken together, these personality dynamics may generate sufficient motive force to catapult Ventura into the 2000 presidential election, provided there is a groundswell of grass-roots support or a strong "Draft Jesse" movement.

John McCain, in his landslide double-digit victory over George W. Bush in last week's New Hampshire primary, may have tapped into the same cultural forces that propelled Ventura to victory in 1998 — and in the present political climate this historical tide shows no sign of subsiding.

Will Ventura — who, after all, is a natural for the Reform Party nomination — attempt to ride this wave all the way into the Oval Office?

We'll have to wait and see, but one thing's for sure: with some politicians, what you see is what you get.

Joshua Jipson is a sophomore English major from Lakeside, Wis. Aubrey Immelman, associate professor of psychology at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University, directs the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics.

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Article Index

Bill Bradley

Pat Buchanan

George W. Bush

Hillary Clinton

Elizabeth Dole

Steve Forbes

Rudy Giuliani

Al Gore

John McCain

Ralph Nader

Jesse Ventura

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