WWE and Linda McMahon: How Politics and Wrestling Mix
As many WWE wrestling fans have gathered by now, CEO Linda McMahon is running for the US Senate in this year's US midterm elections as a Republican candidate.
Up until now, however, much of the press and TV coverage that has appeared in the national and international media has viewed this from a purely political or "mainstream" perspective and any mention of her WWE history has barely scratched the surface of it. Many news reports simply describe her as a "businesswoman."
As a result, this piece is just going to be shedding light on her Senate run from an ex-wrestling fans' perspective by trying to gauge how McMahon might fare in the Senate race and then the implications on her political career in general should see her continue her political career regardless of the results in the election.
I think the first thing worth highlighting about McMahon is how her history in wrestling has informed her policy positions today.
For example, it seems likely her company's history with its various steroids and wrestling scandals have contributed to her negative view of regulation, saying in an interview last month: "I don't think regulation is necessary".
To give you some idea of the regulatory pressure the WWE was facing before its implementation of the (to her credit, largely successful) WWE Wellness Policy, here are a few grim statistics wrestling fans anywhere can attest to or may know about over the past 30 years in the WWF/WWE:
- 70 percent of wrestlers that have died passed away before the age of 50.
- 11 percent of all wrestlers (including jobbers and temps) that featured prominently for the WWE died in the 1980-2010 period.
- During the 80s and 90s, at at least 30 percent of matches involved a now-deceased wrestler.
- 52 percent died from heart problems which many relate to heavy painkiller and steroid usage.
- Valet, manager and/or other WWE employee deaths were not included but have also happened.
The shocking thing abut these statistics is that many of the wrestlers involved were not just jobbers or temp workers, but often star performers in their prime. Of course, the statistics don't even include data on permanent injuries, or other physical and mental conditions incurred in the workplace.
Under McMahon, WWE might legally and justifiably charge that it is not obligated to provide a safe workplace as most wrestlers are independent contractors (self-employed). Linda has also pointed to how crowds are now separated from the wrestlers with barricades and padding has been put outside the ring.
Unfortunately her arguments that regulations have added unnecessary costs to business seem hollow when put in light of the massive profitability of the WWE during this period. Her support of deregulation now also broadens from workplace safety to anti-environmental and financial regulation stances.
McMahon may have been influenced in her social moderateness as well from her wrestling background, especially regarding issues such as abortion or gay marriage (I say this because Republicans seem to largely support government intervention in people's relationships and bedrooms often based on religious views).
WWE has had some wacky storylines and characters in its time, particularly before the purgatory that is the PG era now. Fans might remember Billy and Chuck's 2002 wedding, for example, that was hailed by mainstream media as wrestling challenging a major taboo in such a macho profession. Likewise, Chyna's run in the WWE centred largely on a theme of female empowerment—even if Vince later tried his best to undermine this by having Trish Stratus bark like a dog in public.
Nonetheless many the extensive tv time given to female performers and female personalities,often in positions of power like Stephanie McMahon and Vicky Guerrero reinforce a pro woman agenda at times. At one stage the WWE had 2 women wrestling championships for instance.
A final policy position that wrestling fans might understand is her stance on American foreign policy. After WWF World Champion Sergeant Slaughter's treacherous defection to the crazed Saddam Hussein in the early 90s during the first Iraq War, and, of course, the invasion and anti-American sentiment of Hassan and Daivari, it seems certain that the Arab/Persian world can never be trusted in WWE land.
To this end Linda has proposed staying in Afghanistan until victory is secured and considering military options against Iran.
The foreign policy analysis here has been tongue in cheek but one has to wonder whether the CEO of a company that promoted such cartoonish versions of American foreign problems consistently throughout its history would be able to offer anything substantive at an international level.
A final WWE legacy is probably the most obvious—her money. Not having to accept much money from special interests has probably been an overall benefit to McMahon. It has meant her opponent has been unable to tie her to anything outside her company.
Although she has no idea what the minimum wage is but would like to see it "reviewed" (i.e. decreased), working class money matters don't seem a big problem in the simple world of Reaganomics that she is proposing we enhance.
Strangely, wrestling fans haven't really asked what, if anything, WWE/pro-wrestling gets from this. Aside from the increased publicity and perhaps votes towards maintenance of low-business, Bush-era tax rates and regulation, which may or may not help the WWE shoot itself in the foot over the long run, would Senator McMahon layeth the Smacketh Down in Washington? Would she make politics more interesting for fans? Linda never struck me as the most charismatic speaker.
Another thing McMahon's run has got me interested in is the political affiliation of the wrestlers themselves. Going out on a limb here, I would think Undertaker, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle and perhaps Stone Cold are safe bets as Republicans. On the other hand The Rock, Mick Foley, Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho and likely Bret Hart strike me as Democrats based on their sentiment and backgrounds (Canada is a lot more liberal than Texas for instance).
Does wrestling deserve a place in politics? Would entertainment skills in wrestling translate well for wrestlers that decided to run in the future? (As Jesse Ventura showed.) Would you vote for somebody from a wrestling background? Please leave your comments below. I'd be very interested to hear them.
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