When it comes to Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson there is really only one certainty we can say about the man. Without knowing what topic he will land on, we can be assured that what he says will challenge facts.
That is what took place this week when he undermined the act of bipartisanship on national television.
During a Fox News interview Ron Johnson once again came out against bipartisan infrastructure efforts that would positively impact communities across Wisconsin. However, Johnson didn’t stop at criticizing the bipartisan infrastructure efforts; he came out swinging against the very idea of working in a bipartisan manner saying, “I always warn people [to] beware of bipartisanship.”
One can calculate a couple scenarios as to why Johnson repeatedly wades into rhetorical swamps. He is either playing to a base of the Republican Party for an election in 2022, or he is finished with elected office and simply intends to say anything that comes to mind.
What can not be disputed, however, is the fact-less terrain on which he wishes to position himself. While we surely desire to have our top elected officials from the state be wedded to history and logic that is not what we are witnessing. As one who always likes to have the nation see the best exhibited by our state, such moments as this one troubles me.
The streets in my Madison neighborhood are named for the signers of the Constitution. When friends visit we go for a walk and given my interests a few quick stories are offered about the men who made history in 1787. Much of the document they created was based on compromise. For instance, William (Paterson Street) wanted a unicameral legislature, but the great compromise of creating a two-body congressional model allowed for the ultimate success of their larger document.
In so doing they did not think that such bending was a weakness but fully understood the greater good to be gained with mutual concessions. That is how the whole of our history has been conducted. Though Johnson was not elected in 1996 he surely heard of the welfare reform measure where Republicans achieved work requirements and Democrats placed education dollars and child care funding into the final bill.
No one got all they wanted. But that is is precisely what compromise is. It is the art of governing.
Whether we voted for Johnson, or not, it becomes central to his mission, once sworn into office, to work at representing the will of the people. I do not hear or read that the ‘folks back home’ are clamoring for more of the harsh rhetoric or the digging of an ever-deeper chasm between the parties. Rather it is most clear from letters to the editor and conversations on Wisconsin Public Radio that state residents want the rhetorical sniping to end and progress to be made on issues of the day.
Though the news reports several weeks ago all pointed to the fact both parties reached an agreement at making Juneteenth a federal holiday, and some even commented on how pleased people were over that mutual agreement, it also underscores what is wrong with congress.
Such legislative moments should not be so rare they merit headline attention. Compromise and governing should be the norm, not the exception. That mindset should be the way our elected officials act when conducting themselves on the national stage.
And so it goes.