Was he a passing sideshow, or an indication of Americans' yearning for something other than two-party politics as usual?
Minnesota's bigger-than-life Gov. Jesse Ventura is calling it quits after one term. Back in 1998, he personified many voters' desire for freshness and candor. All too soon, however, it became clear Mr. Ventura's gifts did not include the ability to form coalitions, make compromises, and get things done.
In the end, he couldn't translate alternative politics into good governance. One could wonder whether Ross Perot, say, or Ralph Nader would do better if given a chance to govern.
Third-party candidates often voice ideas that stir voters. But the rare politician who succeeds outside the two-party structure often finds a way to work within it as well. Gov. Angus King of Maine, an independent, comes to mind.
Still, third-party movements and candidates freshen US politics. Their ideas often are adopted by the major parties. So while Jesse's opting out, may others join in.