Senator Ron Johnson stopped representing the people of Wisconsin on January 20, 2017. The two-term Republican decided on that day that he would serve one man: Donald Trump.
Over the past four years, Johnson has done Trump’s bidding. No matter how reckless, extreme, or just plain crazy the presidential dictate may be, the senator has served as the boss’s most ardent lackey. And Johnson is not prepared to abandon his role as henchman.
So it is that, as Trump becomes more delusional, and more dangerous to democracy, so, too, does Johnson.
The chair of the powerful Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has now announced that he will convene a hearing to amplify the president’s false claims about “irregularities” in the November 3 election where voters replaced the Republican with Democrat Joe Biden.
The election was not close. Biden beat Trump by more than 7 million votes nationally, winning a higher percentage of the popular vote than any challenger to a sitting president since Franklin Roosevelt ousted Herbert Hoover in 1932. This coming Monday, the Electoral College will confirm Biden’s 306-232 victory and initiate the formal process of transferring power to the duly elected 46th president of the United States.
But Trump, the worst loser in American political history, is refusing to accept the fact that he has been well and truly rejected. The president is not just lying about supposed “voter fraud”; he is supporting legal challenges to the results, challenges that have been labeled “constitutionally, legally and factually wrong” by the Republican attorney general of Georgia and “insane” by conservative lawyer George Conway.
This is the time when Republican senators need to explicitly reject Trump’s electoral fever dreams, and some are. Senator Mitt Romney has described Trump’s attempts to discredit and overturn the results as “madness” and objected that it is “dangerous and destructive of the cause of democracy.” Other Republican senators, though less outspoken than Romney, are starting to acknowledge that the Electoral College vote should be decisive.
Then there is Ron Johnson, who intends to hold his hearing two days after the Electoral College votes. Why? Because, Johnson says, “a large percentage of the American public does not view the 2020 election result as legitimate because of apparent irregularities that have not been fully examined.”
The only reason anyone does not view the result as legitimate is because Trump and his lawyers keep lying about it. And contrary to what Johnson claims, allegations of irregularities have been fully examined, and fully rejected by the courts. So why is the senator from Wisconsin organizing this circus? The answer, unfortunately, is that Johnson seems to be setting himself up to launch a bigger circus next month on the floor of the Senate. On January 6, the Senate must certify the Electoral College vote. Republican members of the House, led by Alabama’s Mo Brooks, plan to object. If they are joined by a member of the Senate, presumably Johnson, that will force a contentious debate and vote on the certification—continuing the assault of reality, and democracy, into 2021.
Johnson claims that he’ll decide whether to object based on what he learns at next week’s hearing. “I would say it depends on what we found out,” he tells reporters. “I need more information. The American people need more information.” But that’s a lie. The information has already been gathered, reported, reviewed, and analyzed. The issues have been resolved, at the polls, in the counts and recounts of ballots, and in local, state, and federal courts. Johnson is simply looking for an excuse to continue serving Trump—and to reject the will of the people of Wisconsin, who voted to give their electoral votes and the presidency to Biden.
None of this is sitting well with Wisconsin officials.
Representative Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Madison who is the former head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says, “[Johnson’s] desperate need for Donald Trump’s approval is beyond being a sycophant and bordering on being a cult follower or stalker. Either way, not a good look for a US Senator.”
Newly elected Wisconsin state Representative Francesca Hong is just a bit blunter. Voicing the sentiments of Wisconsinites who have grown increasingly frustrated with Johnson’s allegiance to Trump over the state he is supposed to be representing as they struggle with a pandemic and mass unemployment, she says, “This delusional scum continues to crawl further into 45’s asshole instead of representing the people of WI who need survival checks and relief.”