Jesse Ventura feels the "Bern."
The professional wrestler turned former Minnesota governor wrote on Off The Grid that he would help Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders anyway he could and hopes he's successful in his longshot presidential primary challenge to Hillary Clinton. It's just short of an endorsement, but not by much.
"I think what Bernie Sanders is doing is extremely healthy," he wrote. "I love the idea of somebody throwing a fly in the ointment. I'm sick and tired of the handpicked two candidates."
Ventura, who ran and won a third party bid in 1998, doesn't go for the conventional political picks; in 2012, he endorsed Ron Paul in part because of the Texas Republican's anti-war and pro-audit-the-Fed views. Paul and Sanders might have their disagreements and run as candidates for opposing parties' nominations, but for Ventura to go from libertarian-turned-Republican Paul in 2012 to Socialist-turned-Democrat Sanders isn't that big of a stretch.
Both tap into a growing frustration with voters over the two-party system, the influence of money in politics, and the prospect of another dynasty election. They also each claim grassroots support with small-dollar donors. About three-quarters of Sanders' campaign donations were $200 or less in the first three months of his campaign; 45 percent of Paul's 2012 campaign donations were $200 of less.
The relative success of Paul and Sanders is a product of a time when identifying as politically independent is more popular than ever. A January Gallup poll found 43 percent of Americans described themselves as independent, a record.
There's frustration with the system, and voters are showing it with who they're supporting for president and how they identify themselves. But does that mean we're going to soon see Socialists, libertarians, or third-party candidates in the White House? Not exactly.
Sanders and Paul both might have avid fanbases, but Paul fell far short of the nomination, and Sanders still trails Hillary Clinton by a significant margin. And despite both of their third-party pasts, both Sanders and Paul ran as candidates for major party nominations.
That move by Sanders is something Ventura believes was a savvy move. "By jumping in and going for the Democratic nomination, he'll have to be included in all the Democratic debates and that'll put him on TV, that'll get his face out there, so in a way, it's kind of a brilliant tactical move," he said.
It's not just a matter of getting on TV, though. For as much as voters say they're independent, a 2012 Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 63 percent of independents actually act like "disguised" Democrats or Republicans. Americans increasingly want to change the status quo, but a lot of it's just lip service. That means a lot of hype and support for candidates like Sanders early in the race, but it doesn't bode well for them come Election Day.