Jesse The Cheesehead
by Ted Rueter

I'm driving back from Madison, after a weekend of scalping Badger tickets, setting off fireworks, 2:00 am bar-hopping, and driving my studded snowmobile through a national forest, and it hits me: Jesse wants Minnesota to be more like Wisconsin!

You remember Wisconsin--where the four food groups are beer, pizza, bratwursts, and ice cream? Wisconsin--where you can spend Friday night filling up on cheese curds and fish sticks at a supper club, then spend Saturday night polka dancing at a bowling alley. Wisconsin--home to Luverne and Shirley, Richie Cunningham, and the Fonz. Wisconsin--the sort of place where bare-chested, pot-bellied football fans drink Old Milwaukee from a Big Gulp cup.

How does Jesse propose to Wisconsinize Minnesota? Let's count the ways:

Snowmobile studs: Governor Jesse has already signed a bill repealing the state's ban on snowmobile studs. Resort owners complained that they were losing tourist dollars to Wisconsin--where they wouldn't THINK of restricting the rights of snowmobilers to dig up trails.

Fireworks: In Minnesota, fireworks are banned. Not to worry, though. Each July, thousands of Minnesotans head to Hudson for their Roman candles and bottle rockets. Jesse thinks they shouldn't have to make the trip.

Ticket scalping: During the Vikings' knee-shortened season, the former James Janos commented, "Scalping? I have no problem with that. I find it a victimless crime...We live in a capitalistic society. It's what someone's willing to pay." In Badgerland, ticket scalping is big business--and you never have to worry about getting busted.

Car registration: In 1998, our governor was forced to fork over $820 to the state of Minnesota for tabs for his Lexus and Porsche. And that makes his hair stand up. Because in the cholesterol state, every car tab costs $45--Ford or Ferrari, Rambler or Rolls Royce. That's why tens of thousands of 10,000 lakers illegally register their cars there.

Bar closing: Governor Turnbuckle argues that closing Minnesota bars at 1:00 am is ridiculous. In Packerville, taverns close at 2:00 am on weeknights and 2:30 am on weekends. (However, Jesse might want to be careful with those extra hours, since he's admitted that "I've done way more stupid things on alcohol than I have on pot.")

So Jesse loves Wisconsin. Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, there's much to admire.

The Packers, for instance. They play outdoors, on natural grass. The community owns the team, rather than some car dealer from San Antonio. During LOSING seasons, the line for tickets stretched from West Allis to West Bend. Packer players are not a regular presence on police blotters.

And Jesse would be a good fit for Wisconsin voters. Wisconsin has had its share of colorful politicians--from Senator Joseph McCarthy and his list of 209 Communists in the State Department to Governor Lee Dreyfus and his ever-present red vest. Paul Soglin, the former mayor of Madison, was a 60s campus radical. Senator William Proxmire had hair implants, jogged 20 miles a day, issued monthly "Golden Fleece" awards, and never spent more than $200 on a campaign.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin may not meet all of Jesse's needs. For example, does the First Lady of Wisconsin get a salary? Does the state own a casino? Are drugs legal? Do farmers specialize in industrial hemp? Is Milwaukee full of drunken Irishmen? Was anyone from Beloit involved in the JFK assassination conspiracy?

Overall, though, Jesse may be more of a Wisconsinite than a Minnesotan. Do residents of Lake Wobegon wear leather boas and leather pants, take steroids, say "Hooyah" instead of "Uffda," tell college students to "lose if you must but always cheat," belong to a motorcycle gang, and lament that "what I should have did" was cut in on the President while he danced with the First Lady?

Sounds like someone from Oshkosh. (And Jesse was once spotted wearing a cheesehead hat during a Vikings game.)

Several months ago, Garrison Keillor (radio host, satirist, cheater) moved from western Wisconsin back to St. Paul (near Jesse's gubernatorial mansion). This creates a problem: Is this town big enough for the two of them?

I have a solution. Memo to Jesse: Escape to Wisconsin. You'd be among friends.

Published in Minnesota Law and Politics, May 1999

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