Do the sports countries play and which they admire say something about their essential character? I hope not. In an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal I am afraid that Canadian columnist Michael Taube has lurched uncontrollably into an observation that is sadly true:
Glenn Jacobs, the WWE pro wrestler known as “Kane,” was just elected mayor of Knox County, Tenn. A Republican with libertarian leanings, he received 66% of the vote, easily defeating Democrat Linda Haney.
For anyone who follows pro wrestling (disclosure: that includes me), the result isn’t surprising. Mr. Jacobs is educated, intelligent and well-spoken. He’s supported libertarian ideas for years, spoken at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the Free State Project’s New Hampshire Liberty Forum, and endorsed Ron Paul for president in 2008. In a Republican-leaning state like Tennessee, he was an entirely plausible political candidate.
Interestingly, media organizations are focusing more on Mr. Jacobs’s status as the second WWE wrestler to hold elected office. The first was Jesse Ventura, who shocked the political world when he was elected governor of Minnesota in 1998.
More interesting is the longstanding connection between pro wrestling and the GOP. Although Mr. Ventura ran as the nominee of Ross Perot’s Reform Party (and later joined the Independence Party of Minnesota), and there are wrestlers/managers who generally favor the Democrats (Mick Foley, Jim Cornette, Dave Bautista), the majority of people associated with WWE either are or have been Republicans.
The best-known is Donald Trump, inducted in 2013 into the WWE Hall of Fame. Linda McMahon, wife of WWE chief executive Vince McMahon, ran twice as a Republican Senate candidate in Connecticut, losing in 2010 to Richard Blumenthal and 2012 to Chris Murphy. Last year President Trump appointed her head of the Small Business Administration.
There’s also former world champion Ric Flair, a longtime Republican donor who campaigned for Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential run and supported Ted Cruz in 2016. Bob Backlund, another former world champion, unsuccessfully sought a congressional seat in Connecticut as a Republican in 2000. WWE star Terry “Rhyno” Gerin ran unsuccessfully in 2016 for the Michigan House in a heavily Democratic district. Former WWE wrestler William “Big Cass” Morrissey has been a vocal Trump supporter.
Several other former world champions are on this list.
Jerry Lawler and Kevin Nash publicly supported Mr. Trump in 2016. Jim “The Ultimate Warrior” Hellwig, who died in 2014, espoused libertarian and conservative positions. John “Bradshaw” Layfield, who served as a commentator on CNBC and Fox News, has long been associated with conservative politics. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is currently an independent, but was an active Republican until recently. Hulk Hogan, who supported Barack Obama in 2008 but switched to Mitt Romney in 2012, praised Mr. Trump in 2015 and was reportedly courted by political consultant Roger Stone as a possible GOP candidate in this year’s Florida Senate race.
Although, clearly, as Mr. Taube documents, the Republican Party and professional wrestlers have an affinity for one another, I don’t think it stops there. I think our politics more generally resemble nothing so much as professional wrestling. There’s the same highly staged, script quality; the agonistic affect; the same lack of sincerity. The same essential meaninglessness of all of the posturing.
Lord help us. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? I think we were better off when baseball players with all of their failings and weaknesses were our national heroes rather than professional wrestlers.