Well, the Friday night Senate debate between the two candidates was cheaper than a night at an actual theater. But then again, we got what we paid for. There were, however, several strong impressions that were made in the hour-long event from Milwaukee between Ron Johnson and Mandela Barnes.
First, it was very evident that Mandela Barnes presented himself as having the gravitas to be the next elected senator. It always serves an opponent well when demonstrating the ability to stand alongside an incumbent and never miss a beat. While I still am not sure the lack of a tie was the correct look for a statewide debate, the effortless command of facts and the ability to think quickly and fashion the conversation in a way that answered questions while also broadening an understanding of Barnes’ positions surely places him in good stead in the minds of voters.
There was one issue in the debate where I strongly disagreed with Barnes, as I remain one of those old-fashioned citizens who can not accept the idea that marijuana poses no harm. I reject the idea that government should strongly embrace pot sales or pardon those who broke drug laws. I find it problematic that marijuana’s negative ramifications are not taken seriously, even to the point that a senate nominee can say there is no problem with the drug.
But what really stood out with glaring alarm in the debate was the suggestion, made twice by Ron Johnson, that protests in places like Kenosha that turned violent in 2020 were somehow on the same level as the seditious insurrection that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. It was a calibrated way to deflect from the outrageous and illegal actions of Donald Trump and his supporters. But even more concerning to me, in so doing, Johnson allowed for a most dangerous denial concerning the gravity of the calamity to our democracy that almost occurred.
How is Johnson, with much time to reflect and ponder that day not yet able to grasp a branch of the federal government was threatened by terrorists, a threat to the heart of our national government not seen since 9/11? Why was it so hard for Johnson to gather up enough steam and outrage during the debate to wade into the harmful impact of the armed and angry Trump base who invaded the Capitol as he did with those who rioted in a small city? How and why was Johnson so timid about addressing this matter in a statewide debate, given it was his very own workplace that was attacked? If one cannot stand up 34 months later (if my math is correct) to the ruthless and barbaric mob at the Capitol one must ask if there is enough courage left for him to undertake even the simple aspects of a senator’s job?
By the end of the debate, it was clear the two candidates had shown the public very much, indeed. One proved that he was able to do the job if elected, and the other demonstrated a fear of being honest about what every voter knows to be true, since we all watched the Capitol riot live on Jan. 6th.