Conservative Republicans, Like Ron Johnson, Play To Under-Educated Base

There seems to be a race underway in the nation where elected conservative Republicans seek to dive deeper into absurdity in an attempt to be nuttier than the previous one.

In Wisconsin, we were offered more outlandish buffoonery from Senator Ron Johnson who stated in a town hall meeting he had an idea about combatting COVID.

“Standard gargle, mouthwash, has been proven to kill the coronavirus. If you get it, you may reduce viral replication. Why not try all these things?” (For the record this is not actual science and rebuked by medical professionals.)

Kentucky Republican Congressman Thomas Massie posed his family in front of a decorated tree with all hefting military-type assault weapons for a Christmas greeting, shortly after the Oxford High School gun massacre.

Meanwhile, Tom McMillin, a Republican from Oakland Township, proposed in a social media post that mandatory school attendance be removed in Michigan. He is a member of the Michigan State Board of Education!

I recall during my years as Door County Democratic Chairperson talking with a wide array of people at events such as the annual fair or when campaigning door-to-door for local candidates. At times, I encountered some of the most unbelievable sets of views and ideas that could be imagined. So what is being reported, all too often, in our newspapers and online is not new. Right-wing lunacy has long-been part of our political narrative.

What is so troubling now, however, is that instead of the tin-foil hatted folks being aberrations in the party they now are the base of the GOP. But that is not how I first came to know conservatives.

In my teenage years, I started watching Firing Line with William F. Buckley. He was a conservative with a vocabulary that reached out through the television set and made me sit up and pay attention. In my rural upbringing reasoned approaches to the world seemed utterly sound to me. Then I graduated from high school, left home, and encountered the world.

My first job was working in radio broadcasting in Door County. With a red streak that then ran very deep, the local politics was not for a faint-hearted liberal Democrat. I found, however, that the vast majority on the other side of the aisle were logical and reasoned with varying points and perspectives about the issues of the day.

The conspiracy-laden John Birch Society and the truly unhinged Posse Comitatus crowd were in the county, and not ashamed to spill their views when answering their front door during an election year. Tigerton Dells was then a topic in Wisconsin and those headlines concerning the Posse seemed to embolden that segment of the electorate. I was soon most aware that enlightenment liberalism was not spread evenly across our state.

But that element was a narrow sliver of the whole. Today, however, the under-educated within the GOP revel in their status and expect the rest of us to meet them at that level. Republican officeholders encourage the ridiculous ideas and notions so as to retain power, rather than seeking to better inform and lift up the voters.

There have always been times of great transition and uncertainty in the nation where politicians have used fear to spin a message and gain office. Today class divisions and market revolutions, continuing demand for power and rights among groups from Blacks to transgenders, along with a shifting electorate that is more brown and diverse provide the combustible elements for current conservative pols.

But what is most dismaying is the low level that conservative Republicans will dive into when playing to their base. Such tactics are dangerous to a democracy that does rely on educated citizens to make sound decisions about the path forward for a nation.

John Adams wrote the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. Though he penned that public education should be at the heart of that state’s understanding of government, it is easy to see how elected officeholders can, and should, also be teachers and ones who impart facts to the citizenry. He wrote that “wisdom and knowledge . . . diffused generally among the body of the people [are] necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties.”

I wish conservative Republicans would ponder the role they need to play when speaking to their base of support.

And so it goes.

Ron Johnson Pulls A Lyndon Johnson And Tells The Truth, Both Men Recorded

The front page of the Wisconsin State Journal on Wednesday, September 1st, was not only an account of the latest news to be reported. Above the fold on the front page was also a reminder as to why duplicity is never a good quality to be found in our elected officials.

Reporter Riley Vetterkind wrote that Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson recently said: “there’s nothing obviously skewed about the results” of the 2020 presidential election in the Badger State.

The weight of that remark from Johnson made to Lauren Windsor, who posed as a conservative when speaking to the Senator is most important. She recorded the conversation as executive producer of the liberal political web show The Undercurrent, and also runs Project Veritas Exposed, an effort to unveil the work of Project Veritas, a conservative organization that has secretly recorded Democrats and liberals.

Within hours after the close of presidential balloting across our nation in November 2020, a concerted effort started so to create a climate where a final and decisive outcome, within the minds of some voters, was not possible. There has never been such an unseemly display before in our country where the continuous peaceful handing off of presidential power was attempted to be thwarted.

The all-out attempt to delude and utterly confuse a sizable segment of Donald Trump’s conservative base into believing that chicanery and out-right illegal actions had prevented Trump from prevailing remains the darkest hours of his term. Those actions still pose a danger to the country.

To undermine a legally and unambiguous victory to the winner of the 2020 election remains a dangerous dagger to the heart of our democracy. Overtly adding doubt and fomenting chaos when an election is over erodes the faith in elections that must be retained by the citizenry.

Yet that is precisely what Ron Johnson did.

Johnson has elevated theories that have cast doubt on the election’s results.

In December, after Trump’s campaign had lost its Wisconsin election lawsuits in both state and federal courts, Johnson held a hearing where he invited one of the president’s lawyers, Jim Troupis, to testify. Troupis proceeded to assert the same theories that had been rejected in multiple courts.

Troupis testified that “more than 200,000” Wisconsin residents did not vote legally in Wisconsin, a number that included more than 170,000 residents who voted early at their local clerk’s office using a form that had been in place for more than a decade. Troupis himself was among those voters.

The duplicity can be then proved in Johnson’s recorded comments to Windsor.

“There’s nothing obviously skewed about the results,” Johnson told the woman. “There isn’t. Collectively, Republicans got 1.661 million votes, 51,000 votes more than Trump got. Trump lost by 20,000. If Trump got all the Republicans, if all the Republicans voted for Trump the way they voted for the Assembly candidates … he would have won. He didn’t get 51,000 votes that other Republicans got. And that’s why he lost.”

When I read the newspaper article I thought of another Johnson who talked publicly to the nation with one set of words, and then privately, also in a recording, had a much different view on the topic of the day.

President Lyndon Johnson was determined not to lose Vietnam on his watch to the communists. He made it clear to the nation he was going to be committed to victory. But in private Johnson was honest and knew he playing a losing game with the lives of the Marines he was then sending to South East Asia.

On Feb. 26, 1965, when Johnson orders his secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, to launch Operation Rolling Thunder, which will drop more bombs on the North Vietnamese than on all of Europe in World War II, he is melancholy. “Now we’re off to bombing these people,” he says. “We’re over that hurdle. I don’t think anything is going to be as bad as losing, and I don’t see any way of winning.”

A week later, when he decides to send Marine battalions to Vietnam, Johnson gloomily tells Senate Armed Services chairman Richard Russell, “The great trouble I’m under [is that] a man can fight if he can see daylight down the road somewhere. But there ain’t no daylight in Vietnam. There’s not a bit.”

I realize we ask a lot of any elected official. We want them to respond with helpful advice concerning constituent problems, support our views on the complex issues of the day, and arrive on time for the summer parades in our communities. We know that these men and women are human, and make mistakes.

But there is no way to rationalize away or pretend otherwise when it comes to the unconscionable way Johnson has played so loose and fast with one of the essential threads of the fabric which binds our democracy together. Being forthright and honest is a virtue that we try to impart to our children. It is certainly one that we must demand when it comes to a United States Senator.

History shows what happens when duplicity replaces honesty and candor.

And so it goes.

What If Ron Johnson Does Not Run For Senate?

If a politician were seeking another term in office would they say the types of things that Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has over the past year? While national politics can be overly frothy does not Wisconsin values hope for a more credible foundation from our top elected officials?

During the past months, I have reached a conclusion, based on his behavior, that Johnson is not seeking another Senate term. Whether he is tired, bored, or seeking another path in life no one looking to garner support among the electorate talks so bizarrely.

Perhaps the most over-the-top moment occurred when Johnson voiced support for using hydroxychloroquine against the COVID-19 virus, which forced YouTube to suspend his account. We, of course, have been treated to a number of such truly befuddling statements.

“This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me”

If you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?”

One could continue the listing of truly odd and troubling quotes from Johnson. My point is not to prove his lack of awareness about issues of the day but rather how adrift he is from acting as a serious contender for another 6-year term in office. Especially given that Johnson would be the only incumbent Republican running in a state won by President Joe Biden.

So what happens when Johnson makes an announcement about spending more time with his wife and taking long vacations rather than seeking re-election?

The Democratic Party will have no problem locating talent for the 2022 race. State Senators Chris Larson, and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes are but two names in the arena, and the base will be very energized to replace Johnson with one of their own.

Without an elder statesman of the Republican Party at this juncture, however, given Scott Walker was defeated and Paul Ryan retired, means Wisconsin’s GOP would be in a bind should Johnson see the election writing on the wall and depart, too. At that point, the Senate primary fight will be a very expensive venture.

Surely it will be mean-spirited, too.

Consider what will be required of a candidate to attract the Trump base in August, and still need the independent and middle-of-the-road voters in the general election. We have heard the type of remarks Johnson made to that base and one needs to ask how many other Republicans would be willing to act in like fashion? Is a Senate seat truly worth it if one has to sell out principles and common sense just to get the nomination?

The question will soon be–I strongly suspect–who among state Republicans wish to head in that direction and then think they can weave the stitch to capture the broader electorate in the fall race come 2022?

It will not be pretty, but it will be grand political theater.

And so it goes.

Hey Ron Johnson, Bipartisanship Is A Grand Way To Govern

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.

Mrs. Ron Johnson’s Main Embarrassment Is Her Clown Of A Husband

It takes a special kind of stupid to get kicked off YouTube for a week. But conservative wingnut Ron Johnson achieved that notoriety today.

YouTube suspended the most embarrassing politician from Wisconsin, since Joe McCarthy, from posting videos on the platform for one week over his remarks touting unproven treatments for COVID-19. That he is severely stupid is not a revelation, but placing the health and well-being of people in danger due to that stupidity must be stopped.

The reason for the smackdown was that Johnson did not even come close to abiding with policies not to promote misinformation about COVID-19. What Mrs. Ron Johnson’s main embarrassment did was promote experimental treatments for COVID-19 like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. To be clear, such ‘treatments’ are a joke, and worse yet, dangerous.

The Johnson video that was taken down showed the uneducated rube launching into the Biden administration over its response to the pandemic and then touting the two unproven, and potentially dangerous drugs.

Cutting to the core on this matter is if the American voters won’t deal with the corrupt and willfully misleading politicians like Johnson, then social media platforms have to do it. This is a most classic example. Protecting the health of the citizenry from the Trump cult, which Johnson proves to be a leading sycophant within, requires much stronger actions by the likes of YouTube.

I applaud the decision.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Ron Johnson is needing to hide her shame in public, once again, due to her idiot clown of a husband. One does have to wonder and ask if her parents warned, prior to the wedding day, about what she was doing?

Senator Ron Johnson Wants Honest Answers, And So Do We!

While we all should applaud the desire to have honest answers to questions asked it does make for snickers when that sentiment is expressed by Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson.

In a desire to learn of the origins of the COVID outbreak, a scientific undertaking that has been ongoing so to allow for medical experts to better learn about the pandemic, Johnson is hoping for honest answers. The degree to which China was aware, or not, of the virus outbreak prior to their original announcement of cases is important to those tracking where this outbreak first started.

While we all agree with Johnson about the need for honest answers it does sound rather hollow given his lack of candor along with his continuous obfuscation about a raft of issues. When it comes to COVID Johnson has undermined science and medical advice so as to further conspiracy-driven ideas. He has promoted vaccine skeptics and those who are critical of masking and social distancing.

So when it comes to the Senator’s stated desire now for honest answers pardon the rest of us for snickering.

The reason for our response to Johnson is his lack of self-awareness about not wishing to find out or reveal what the citizenry, and his constituents, have a right to know.

First up, an issue that strikes to the heart of our national government, and our American ideals. Plainly put, the nation must have honest and complete answers about the deadly insurrection and riot on January 6th. We need a bipartisan commission and a commitment from Johnson that honest and complete answers will be provided.

While Johnson is in the mood for honesty, he might provide some information about his stock sales made after an intelligence meeting in the Senate. It was too cozy that senators sold significant amounts of stock before the coronavirus decimated the financial markets. The rest of the nation just rode out the calamity in the markets without inside knowledge.

It is troubling that there needs to be such a point made about the desire for honesty and the complicated relationship an elected official from our state has with this virtuous trait. For too long Johnson has deceived and manipulated the truth, and purposely misled and distorted facts for his odd and strange designs. So no one can believe that his desire for truth now is based on, well, truth.

Vicki McKenna And Maxine Waters

This has been a week where lessons have been demonstrated as to why self-regulating First Amendment rights are necessary. In this politically fraught nation, the lessons came from both ends of the spectrum. In each case, a poor decision was made. Whereas, neither Vicki McKenna nor Maxine Waters would ever think they had anything in common, after this week they can no longer make such a claim.

At the start of the week, we heard about Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a Democrat who represents southern Los Angeles, making comments to protesters in Brooklyn Center as the jury was about to hear closing statements in the highly charged murder trial for Derek Chauvin.

“I hope we get a verdict that says guilty, guilty, guilty,” Rep. Waters said. “And if we don’t, we cannot go away. We’ve got to stay on the street. We get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”

There is more than ample evidence to prove that police reform in this nation is required and that Black Americans have received a disproportionate share of the abuses from unprofessional officers. But Waters is an elected official who took an oath to uphold our laws and support our democratic institutions, such as the judiciary. The jury process is central to the framework of that system. To make inflammatory statements at that moment of national tension and to in any way aim the comments at a jury for a specific outcome is not acceptable.

Period.

This week Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson was interviewed on Vicki McKenna’s radio show. True to form, Johnson, aimed the conversation for the most ridiculous in the listening audience.

Johnson stated he sees “no reason to be pushing vaccines on people,” arguing their distribution should be “limited” to those most vulnerable to coronavirus, and asking, “if you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?”

I heard the interview online–certainly not as a listener to conservative talk radio–and was taken aback when McKenna did not interrupt Johnson and explain “herd immunity” is necessary to end the COVID-19 pandemic, As such, it is absolutely necessary that higher numbers of people get vaccinated. Such vaccinations are not to be determined if one does, or not, consider themselves “vulnerable.” 

One can make a most compelling argument about the low level of intelligence that is housed inside of Ron Johnson. While Vicki McKenna is a harsh conservative I think she is intelligent but knows how to make money by pedaling her rhetoric for conservatives.

McKenna made a huge mistake by not interjecting facts and needed direction for her listeners, which polls and data prove are the ones most susceptible to being fearful and leery of getting the vaccine. In not using her smokey voice–as a former broadcaster my sense is her voice has been roughened from tobacco–she misused the First Amendment by allowing false and dangerous words from Johnson to go unchallenged.

Period.

This week two separate stories, and two politically divergent women, have proved why it is important to know how to use the freedom of the First Amendment when speaking to the public. Judgment is essential when we express ourselves. McKenna and Waters, in equal measure, have shown us what happens when that is lacking.

And so it goes.

Congressman Glenn Grothman Could Learn From Lyndon Johnson

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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.