Congressman Glenn Grothman Could Learn From Lyndon Johnson


One of the first news articles I read this morning was written by John Nichols regarding how Wisconsin’s Congressman Glenn Grothman is vying for attention with Senator Ron Johnson over who can stoop lower with racist statements. With the all-out openness that the Republican Party now exhibits their racist statements and sentiments it should come as no surprise there is competition over who can get deeper into the muck when playing to the base.

But there is another way to use competitiveness in politics other than going deeper into the basement. As such, I offer an idea for Grothman. As the Cap Times article makes clear the congressman needs some solid advice, as his image is needing repair.

On Wednesday, during the debate on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, Republicans were struggling to come up with justifications for opposing necessary relief for Americans who have been hit by a pandemic and an economic downturn. So Grothman, an awkward communicator with a penchant for convoluted reasoning, was allowed to speak.

The Glenbeulah Republican made two arguments against the measure.

“First, one of the things that hasn’t been mentioned, the increase in the earned income tax credit for single people has a marriage penalty in it. I bring it up because I know the strength that Black Lives Matter had in this last election. I know it’s a group that doesn’t like the old-fashioned family,” Grothman said, claiming to be “disturbed that we have another program here in which we’re increasing the marriage penalty.”

Clearly, a competitive streak and the need for attention are at the heart of what Grothman is doing. Johnson, however, has a larger ball field from which to play his race cards so it would seem Grothman must find another way to stand out.

The leaders who have stood out in their own place and time are those who contributed mightily to bending the arc of history towards progress. Such names come to mind as Peter the Great, Benjamin Disraeli, Abraham Lincoln, and Lyndon Johnson. Now, I am not suggesting Grothman place aside his harsh Darwinian thinking and walk upright into the 21st century. I am not even suggesting he entertain overly enlightened thoughts.

But instead of offering the racist echoes of Ron Johnson why doesn’t Grothman place meaningful legislation into the congressional hopper? How about competing in the arena of ideas rather than racist rhetoric?

When President Johnson was elected in 1964 he wanted to be more than just a mere election winner. Rather, he wanted to achieve more than his political hero and mentor, President Franklin Roosevelt. As such, he was determined to have more bills passed in the first hundred days than was achieved in 1933. Granted, FDR was urging action in the midst of a depression while LBJ was working for laws in the midst of prosperity.

But at the end of the hundred days, Johnson had passed 12 bills, while FDR had passed 11. When it came to the thrust of the measures most historians place the scales being heavier in 1965. Then as we know on August 6, 1965, Johnson signed the voting rights bill into law. On the same day, it needs to be noted a hundred and four years earlier, President Lincoln had signed a bill emancipating black slaves who had been conscripted to fight in the Confederate Army.

Competition can be a very creative force, and when used artfully one that can achieve a great deal. Instead of going for the racist lines, Grothman could instead earn headlines for ideas that brought people together.

Now I very well know Ron Johnson is no FDR, and Glenn Grothman no LBJ. But would it not be nice if they strived, even at the margins, to be better men and elected officials than they are now showcasing to the state and nation?

History offers advice how it can be achieved.

And so it goes.