On Ron Johnson

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has joined several other Republican Senators (currently 11) in announcing that he will vote against the electors from “disputed states” in the 2020 Presidential election. Those disputed states include Johnson’s home state where voters elected Joe Biden by more than 20,000 votes. The difference was confirmed in a partial recount requested by the Trump campaign–of only the two most heavily Democratic and diverse counties in the state, Dane and Milwaukee. State and federal courts have thrown out several lawsuits intended to disenfranchise Wisconsin voters, both for lack of evidence and lack of standing. Johnson is joining these Senators despite stating in the past that he was elected not to advance his own causes but to represent the people of Wisconsin.

Johnson has rarely represented the wishes and desires of the people of his state. He originally ran as a Tea Party candidate in the one year that those right-wingers gained ground in elections. He was elected during the Tea Party wave in 2010 when barely over 50% of voters went to the polls in Wisconsin. In the campaign he was very vocal in his opposition to Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

He ran for the United States Senate portraying himself as a successful businessman, after marrying into a wealthy family and starting a plastics business with his brother-in-law. The business did grow to become a successful company and Johnson is a very wealthy Senator, unlikely to understand or care about the needs and opinions of the majority of the Badger state. He was recently reported to be worth $39 million, one of the nation’s wealthiest Senators.

A quick search of Johnson online brings up link after link in which the Senator’s positions on various issues show him out of touch with his constituents and with facts. He has long been opposed to same-sex marriage, is rabidly anti-abortion and is one of the most vocal climate change deniers in Congress.

Here are a few other things found in a short search online. There are likely to be dozens of similar stories that would have come up if it had been a lengthier search.

Prior to running for office, Johnson testified to the Wisconsin legislature at the encouragement of a deacon of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay against the Child Victims Act, a bill that would remove the statute of limitations for civil suits of victims of child sex abuse. Currently victims must sue before the age of 35. Most sexual assault agencies understand that it sometimes take decades for child sex abuse victims to come to terms with what happened to them as children.

The opposition to the Child Victims Act was noted in an August, 2020 article in the Daily Kos, which also noted the following nuggets from Johnson: “labeling Social Security ‘a Ponzi scheme‘, saying that the 97% of climate change scientists who say the phenomenon is man-made were ‘crazy’, the real cause of climate change was sunspots, and that Greenland is covered in snow and ice because we’re actually witnessing ‘global cooling‘. In 2013 that Ron Johnson answered criticism from the League of Conservation Voters that he denied climate change by accusing them of waging ‘environmental jihad’ and has compared politicians and activists trying to prevent climate change to Joseph Stalin, Hugo Chavez, and Fidel Castro.”

During a radio interview in the summer of 2015 he used the phrase “idiot inner city kids” in a discussion of school choice. He later said he regretted the use of the word and that he was actually describing how liberals feel about inner city youth. He adamantly supports school choice, which is basically transferring funds from public schools to private charter schools.

In 2016 Johnson made news by stating that teachers could be replaced by Ken Burns’ videos.

In April of 2017 Johnson agreed to a question and answer session with Madison East High School students, probably assuming they would not ask any tough questions. They did pepper him with intelligent and insightful questions, and one of the students recorded the entire session and posted it online. They hammered him on his support of charter schools, his positions on LGBTQ rights, and more. In an October visit to New Berlin High School in October, he told students that healthcare was a privilege–like food and shelter–not a right.

In the summer of 2019, Johnson continued to support Donald Trump and as chair of the Homeland Security Committee did nothing to prevent, stop, or even investigate the migrant detention camps on the southern border.

Through much of 2020, Johnson’s Homeland Security Committee held hearings investigating the Hunter Biden and Burisma conspiracy theories that Trump supporters were trying to use to damage Joe Biden’s campaign for the presidency. In August, he more or less admitted that his hearings would be beneficial to the Trump campaign, essentially acknowledging that he was using his power as chair of the committee to advance the campaign of his party’s candidate. He was referred to at the time as a “useful idiot” for accepting and echoing the same stories as the Russian disinformation campaign.

Like his hero, Donald Trump, Johnson has consistently downplayed the seriousness of Covid-19, noting in the spring of 2020 that shutting down the economy due to the virus would be like shutting down the economy due to traffic deaths. He said that the disease was not a death sentence, except for maybe up to 3.4% of the population. With a population of 328 million, 3.4% would translate to well over 11 million deaths, which would be a devastating number.

In August of 2020, he accused Google of gearing their get out the vote promotions to liberals and Democrats, without any evidence to back up the claim.

When Trump’s Attorney General William Barr announced that the Department of Justice had no evidence of widespread election issues, Johnson said that there was no proof that there was no fraud, the opposite of how evidence works. Republicans need to prove there was fraud rather than Democrats having to prove there was no fraud.

In December, he presided over a sham Congressional hearing in which he invited guests to present evidence of voter fraud, including lawyers whose cases were dismissed for lack of evidence. Because dozens of courts had dismissed cases, it appeared he wanted to present the case for massive voter fraud to the public. No evidence had convinced any court and his ridiculous hearing did nothing to provide any convincing evidence either.

Most recently, Johnson insisted that due to budget and debt concerns he could not support $2,000 checks for American citizens suffering from Covid and its effects on the economy. Earlier in the year, he was the one who blocked $1,200 checks in the Covid relief bill (twice). Yet, this is the same man who voted for Republican tax cuts for the wealthy and who was one of the Senators who oversaw the nation’s debt balloon by more than 35% to more than $29 trillion during the four years of the Trump administration. This quote from Mehdi Hasan sums it up: ““I guess Ron Johnson wasn’t so concerned about our children’s future when he voted to spend around $2 trillion on the Trump tax cuts, which by the way increased his own $39 million fortune.”

Ron Johnson does not represent his constituents. He represents Donald Trump. wealthy men and women across the country, big business, and other conservative, right-wing radicals. His politics and personal beliefs are not in line with regular Wisconsin folks. Unfortunately, he is not up for re-election for a couple more years and even though he promised not to become a life-long Senator he is now considering whether to run again in two years. If he does, Wisconsin needs to show him the door. He can go back to selling plastics instead of a right-wing bill of goods.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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