Here in Michigan, it’s the time of year when the atmospheric chill is rivaled elsewhere only by the one at the Clinton’s dinner table. Because of the cold, we’re forced to stay indoors and spend a great deal of time on premature speculation. The latest in these speculations is that an informal poll in the state reflects a large movement building to elect Ted Nugent as Michigan’s governor in 2006.
The 2002 elections may still be fresh in the night sweats of a few Democrats in the rest of the country, but in Michigan, they found some success. Among the winners, Democrat and State Attorney General Jennifer Granholm defeated Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus. The defeat of Dick Posthumus is due partly to a failure to convey a cohesive message to voters, and, perhaps, partly because his name is a turnoff, since it sounds like it could be Latin for “genitalia after death.”
This past election, many Michigan Republicans were considered to be nothing more than stand-up urinals at Vassar College – unnecessary. This has left Republicans in the state looking for another direction. With the feeling that nobody has a better compass than a lifelong hunter like Ted Nugent, many think they have found their political way in the likes of the Motor City Madman.
Why will Nugent succeed, presuming he runs as a Republican, in a place that is, on a statewide basis, predominantly Democrat? With the exception of the Detroit Lions and Tigers, Michigan is full of sportsmen and women. Many of those who fall on separate sides of the political aisle can still find commonality in the fact that they both bow toward the hunting and fishing Mecca that is the Mitten state.
Celebrities getting elected to public office is nothing new. Jesse Ventura, Fred Thompson, Sonny Bono, that guy who played Gopher on “The Love Boat,” Ronald Reagan and more have all received the push needed due to prior name recognition. People sometimes criticize or mock those actors, wrestlers, singers, etc., who later attain public office. I disagree. I’d much rather see somebody go from celebrity to politics than the other way around, gaining fame because of politics, and on our dime to boot.
One other rock star I’d like to see run for Senate is Bruce Springsteen. The Boss is popular in his home state of New Jersey. Though he’d probably run as a Democrat, I’d donate to Springsteen’s campaign just so I could get a chance to see the hilarious primary debate between him and Frank Lautenberg. Bruce would be slightly stooped over the podium and bobbing from side to side like a first generation hominid who’s just been introduced to bipedalism, and grunting in acknowledgement reminiscent of a waiter taking a dinner order at Che Caveman. Meanwhile, Lautenberg’s answers would relay a message so scrambled and disjointed that it would make the German’s Enigma code read as easy as a Dr. Seuss book.
Unlike many of these other celebrities, Nugent will get elected not because of his fame or notoriety in one particular area. “Uncle Ted” – as he’s affectionately known to many of his fans, or those who just want to pretend they have a different uncle – would gain Michigan office by speaking not from a platform built by rock stardom, but from a platform more widely understood here: a hunters tree stand. That’s one platform that, in Michigan, crosses all ethnic, religious and economic boundaries.
From the wealthy residents of Bloomfield Hills, whose idea of racial integration is having a Hispanic gardener, to the autoworker at the GM factory whose third shift is the reason you see full parking lots at the bar at seven o’clock in the morning (my car being there for research purposes only), Nugent’s schooled and forceful articulation of the issues confronting Michigan voters will resonate not for any party affiliation, but because he is “one of us.” A hunter, conservationist, businessman, fisherman and a rock-and-roll maniac. In short, there’s something for every Michigan voter. In a well-played campaign, Nugent’s diverse following would be a newer, Peavey amplified version of the “Reagan Democrats.”
My money is on Ted running in 2006 – and winning big. I’ll go a step further and say that the example his reign as governor will provide is going to prompt all former Michigan politicians to scratch their heads and wonder why they didn’t try the “Nugent Method” before. Soon, you may even see politicians all across the country taking guitar lessons, learning the words to “Wango Tango,” and weilding Oneida bows.
Take heed, America. The birth of the “Gonzo Party” is imminent.