Republican Sen. Ron Johnson shouldn’t be desperate for issues on which to attack his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. But he sure looks desperate now.
Johnson is going after Barnes for using a lot of security in his first three years in office. And, in fact, Barnes has rung up over $600,000 in security costs, about 10 times more than his predecessor. But it’s notable that this attack is a deviation from Johnson’s theme to this point, which has been to use Barnes’ own words against him to link him to his party’s unpopular hard-left.
Maybe it’s not working because it seems to me that the security costs thing is pretty weak tea.
For one thing, Barnes’ campaign has pointed out that it’s the state’s security team that decides when to protect the Lieutenant Governor. Though I suppose Barnes can request protection whenever he feels the need, security officials could deny the request if they feel it’s not justified.
But Johnson’s attack only goes to underscore the ugly realities that RoJo himself has helped foster. Mandela Barnes is a high-profile Black man in a society awash in guns and nutty conspiracy theories, many of which Johnson has pushed himself. When armed insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, Johnson said he didn’t see any guns and he never felt threatened. I guess it was just a school tour group that got outside the ropes. Nothing to see here.
And Johnson has continued to echo Trump’s lies about voter fraud and stolen elections, which has led to widespread threats against honest election officials just trying to do their jobs. Moreover, this is an environment in which two men, with ties to Wisconsin, were just convicted of plotting to kidnap and murder Michigan’s governor, mostly because of her actions to protect her citizens against COVID. And, here again, Johnson has pushed crazy theories about quack treatments and contributed to the hostility toward public health officials.
As for all those guns, Johnson even voted against mild, bipartisan gun safety measures that were supported by 15 of his conservative GOP colleagues.
When their constituents tell him something unhinged, it’s the job of a United States Senator — or any responsible leader — to set them straight, not feed into their paranoia. Remember John McCain in 2008 disagreeing with a supporter who wanted to claim that Barack Obama was an “Arab”? McCain took the mic away from the woman and said, “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].”
But John McCain is gone and so is the old GOP. RoJo is a full member in good standing of the new Party of Trump, where no conspiracy theory is too crazy and no lie is too brazen.
Make no mistake about it. Ron Johnson has played no small part in creating the dangerous environment in which Mandela Barnes needs near round the clock protection. If he wants to complain about the costs he might write a letter to himself.