McMahon Senate Run: Life Imitates Art, Badly

In the run-up to replace Democrat Chris Dodd in the US Senate, Connecticut’s Republican Party endorsed former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon at its convention on Friday.

She’s never held political office before (and she still faces a primary fight in August), but if she’s elected this November McMahon’s 30-year career in professional wrestling will make her a strong contender for the “Most Experienced Politician in American History” belt before she ever even sets foot on the Senate floor.

Professional wrestling, as exemplified by WWE, is the purest imaginable distillation of the political ethos as art, specifically theater. Its executives have created a fantasy world in which they and the other actors fight an ongoing series of epic battles — extended wars, even — over imaginary issues.

Every week, old story arcs play out and new arguments get started.

Who’s sleeping with whom?

Did Wrestler A spike Wrestler B’s electrolyte drink with a sedative before that big title match?

Hey, look, Wrestler C just abandoned his heel coalition with Wrestlers D and E and has formed a new alliance with face Wrestlers F and G! It’s time for a grudge tag-team match as Wrestler C shows how he’s turned over a new leaf … but wait … no, it was a trick! C, D and E are all in the ring, they’ve thrown salt in G’s eyes, they’ve got F on the ropes and are pounding him senseless … until Q comes out of the crowd to save the day!

All of it completely fake, of course — but just try to take your eyes off it once you start watching. You can’t do it. The story may be ridiculous, but it sucks you in and gets you deeply emotionally involved, or at least jonesing for more fake blood on the turnbuckles.

Which pretty much describes the Senate debate on ObamaCare, only with better camera work and more visually appealing special effects.

I’m not putting down professional wrestling, mind you. I grew up in an extended family where you didn’t dare get between certain people and the television when Skandar Akbar was beating on The Masked Assassin with a folding chair. I’m proud to count a professional wrestler — Glenn Jacobs, a/k/a “Kane” — as a fellow libertarian and friend.

Unlike government, pro wrestling is clearly and unambiguously marketed as entertainment, purchased by willing customers who feel strongly that they’re getting their money’s worth. And who can say they aren’t? Under the leadership of Linda McMahon and her husband Vince, WWE knocked down revenues in excess of $500 million in 2008.

There are only two ways to stay in business for as long as the McMahons have, and to make as much money as the McMahons do: Deliver a product that customers are happy with and want more of, or find a way to force people to buy your product whether they want it or not.

Which, of course, is the key difference between the US government and World Wrestling Entertainment.

WWE’s customers voluntarily shovel their money at the McMahons hand over fist for more of that there wrestling booyah.

The US government, like all governments, rifles its “customers'” pockets at gunpoint, and for a show that’s not nearly as entertaining to boot.

It’s for that reason that a career in the US Senate is, in my opinion, a step down for Linda McMahon. After 30 years dedicated to the production of exquisitely crafted collaborative fiction, she’s settling for the opportunity to produce shabbily crafted coercive dishonesty.

Then again, who knows … maybe we’re seeing the opening stages of a new WWE story arc. Will it all end with Kane assaulting the Senate rostrum to rescue McMahon from Christian’s Coalition?

I can think of worse things than a takeover of the US government by WWE. But please, please, please — no Spandex® on Harry Reid.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory