In reporting on his decision to seek re-election, the New York Times described Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson as “the Senate’s leading purveyor of misinformation about elections and the coronavirus pandemic.”
If anything, this understates the case.
Johnson’s nutjobbery ranges from his various takes on the “deep state” and the January 6th insurrection, to his musings on the efficacy of modern medicine vs. God. (“Why do we think that we can create something better than God in terms of combating disease?” Johnson said, ignoring the progress of medical science since the 12th century.)
In a rational world, RonAnon would be a political dead man walking, and indeed, pundits immediately proclaimed him the most vulnerable Republican on the ballot. His poll numbers are abysmal. The Marquette University Law School poll has been tracking the trajectory of his unfavorables:
However improbable it may seem, Johnson — who beat Russ Feingold twice — can still win in the nation’s ultimate purple swing state.
As I’ve written, I go way back with Johnson, so mea maxima culpa.
I like to think I knew him in the Time Before he went batshit crazy. But here we are, and it gives me no pleasure to inform you that despite it all, Ronjon has to be considered the favorite for three reasons: (1) the national political environment, (2) the track record of “out-party” incumbents in midterm elections in Wisconsin, and (3) the very real chance that Democrats will nominate a weak (read “unelectable”) challenger.
Let’s start with the political environment.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert notes that last October’s Marquette University Law School poll found that Joe Biden’s approval rating in Wisconsin was underwater by 10 points — 43/53. “Intensity of opinion is also working against Biden: 20% “strongly” approved of the president while 42% ‘strongly’ disapproved,” he reported. “Biden’s numbers are even worse on the economy, and concerns about inflation are high.”
Of course, life moves fast and things could change, but right now, the environment is not friendly for Democrats in 2022.
Then there is the track record of “out-party” senators in Wisconsin. As Gilbert notes, very few senators from the incumbent president’s opposition party have been defeated in midterm elections, “and most of those who did were in states dominated by the opposing party, not competitive states such as Wisconsin.”
In Wisconsin, the pattern is clear:
There have been three losing Senate incumbents since the 1960s: Democrat Gaylord Nelson lost to Republican Bob Kasten in 1980 (with Jimmy Carter in the White House); Kasten lost to Democrat Russ Feingold in 1992 (with George H.W. Bush in the White House); Feingold lost to Johnson in 2010 (with Barack Obama in the White House).
All three belonged to the party in power — the party of the president.
Over the past 100 years in Wisconsin, Senate incumbents in the president’s party are 9-4 (a 69% re-election rate) while Senate incumbents in the “out party” (the party opposing the president) are 17-1 (a 94% success rate).
But these are not normal times, and RonJon has not been a normal senator. His extraordinary devolution scrambles normal political calculations. Which brings us to the third factor that may work in his favor: the Democrats may blow it.
The leading candidate — in fundraising and polling — for the Democratic nomination is Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, who is campaigning as a progressive “true believer.” (Other candidates include State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski; Milwaukee Bucks veep Alex Lasry; and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson.)
Even though Emily’s List has endorsed Godlewski, national Democrats seem poised to embrace Barnes. Elizabeth Warren has endorsed him; so have Jim Clyburn and the progressive group Democracy for America.
Barnes, who favors progressive policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, is a staunch supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and he has expressed admiration for such far-left Squad members as Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Those affinities have already drawn conservative attacks that are sure to intensify if Barnes advances to the general election.
“Republicans are, I think, salivating to face Barnes,” said Jessica Taylor, a Senate elections editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “They argue that he’s too progressive for the state.”
The conservative editor Charlie Sykes, who lives in Milwaukee, offered an even blunter assessment. “If Mandela Barnes is the Democratic nominee, then Democrats can take Wisconsin off the board,” asserted Sykes, a founder of The Bulwark. “I could put that more diplomatically, but that’s what I believe.”
“For Republicans, the anti-Mandela Barnes playbook is already written,” Anthony Chergosky, an assistant professor of political science at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, told JI. “What I’m wondering is if Mandela makes some movement back to the ideological center or if he doubles down on his progressive views.”
As a counterpoint, some Democrats will point to the success of Wisconsin’s other senator — Tammy Baldwin, a strong progressive who was re-elected handily in 2018. But Baldwin is actually a pragmatic and skilled politician, as well as a known quantity in Wisconsin politics. Barnes, in contrast, is a relative neophyte … with a lot more baggage.
Some Democrats seem to be aware of the problem.
“I do worry personally that if we put forward the most progressive candidate in a tight year for Democrats, that may not be the best strategy,” said one Democratic consultant in Wisconsin who is not active in the primaries. Barnes will “very clearly be seen as the most or one of the most progressive members in the Senate,” the strategist added. “He would have a big national profile in that role in the same way that the Squad members do in the House.”
“But knowing that’s what’s coming, it could work against him.”
This could make Barnes the wrong candidate, at the wrong time, in the wrong state. Via NBC News:
“Wisconsin is on the razor’s edge and the margin of victory tends to be decided by a very small number of swing voters, who have recently, mostly been relatively centrist voters in the suburbs, so I’m not sure his formula is the right one,” said Charlie Sykes, a former conservative talk radio host in Wisconsin and editor-at-large of The Bulwark.
Exit take: One of Barnes’s Democratic challengers, Sarah Godlewski, is touting a Public Policy Polling survey that finds her narrowly leading Johnson “after voters are given more information about the candidates and their backgrounds.”
Following descriptions of each of the candidates’ vision, plan and records, Godlewski leads Johnson by 2 points (48-46), with 5% undecided. Mandela Barnes is losing to Johnson 50-47. Prior to learning about the candidates, both Godlewski and Barnes trail Johnson, both within the margin of error.
Are the Democrats Trying To Lose? Part 1
In this morning’s Bulwark, Mona Charen dives into New York City’s decision to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections.
ICYMI: the topic came up on television yesterday:
Acts like New York City’s cheapen the meaning of citizenship. Voting is not just a transaction. It isn’t just a matter of deciding which candidate will better handle snow removal or trash collection. Voting is an act of affiliation, a statement of solidarity with the nation you’ve adopted as your own…
It’s a lead-pipe cinch that this will become a major campaign talking point for Republicans. They will depict this as proof that Democrats only favor immigration because they want to pad the number of Democratic voters (leaving aside that Hispanic voters have been trending toward the Republicans in recent elections). And they will likely find that most Americans agree.
When San Francisco considered a measure that would have given non-citizens voting rights in school board races, 91 percent of Republicans opposed the plan, along with 54 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of independents. That New York’s law was passed with the acquiescence of one of the Democratic party’s marquee moderates (when even Bill De Blasio hesitated) is icing on the cake for Republicans.
This is an own goal for Democrats.
Are the Democrats Trying to Lose? Part 2
Because we definitely associate sexism, racism, and misogyny with … Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot?
1. Tim Miller Spent Insurrection Week Listening to Steve Bannon
For three hours every day, the Republican coup plotters who inspired the domestic terror attack at the U.S. Capitol last year gather to discuss their next move. On their January 6th anniversary program, the Dead Cops Society beseeched their great patriotic listeners to “Seize The Day. We’re ashamed of nothing. We’re proud of the work we did on January 6th.”
Their scheming does not take place in caves in the Hindu Kush mountains. Nor in a vacated Florida flophouse with an acid-filled bathtub. In fact, it doesn’t happen in secret at all.
You can find these enemies of democracy livestreaming across multiple platforms for your convenience. Dish channel 219. Samsung TV Plus Channel 1029. Roku. Apple TV. Pluto TV. Amazon Fire! You can livestream the proceedings on the web at AmericasVoice.com or catch clips on Rumble. Or listen through IHeartRadio.
If you are a regular working American who wants to overthrow the regime but can’t sneak away from your day job, not to worry, Apple Podcasts is platforming daily mutiny discourse for your convenience 24/7. And as it turns out, Insurrection Radio does big numbers. Last I checked it was the #9 News Podcast in America on Apple. According to the hosts—and these guys would never lie, obvi—the show has gotten an eye-popping 125 million downloads.
Insurrection never paid so good…
What I found was that their effort to overthrow the government has been undeterred by the initial setback of Joe Biden being inaugurated. While Republican elites try to minimize the events of Jan. 6th, the War Room and their minions have continued to take the coup both literally and seriously. In their view the Biden “regime” is illegitimate and the regime’s medical establishment has covered up nearly a half a million deaths from the COVID “vaccines.”
2. Ted Cruz’s Humiliation Isn’t the Worst Part
Cruz says it’s okay to call violent left-wing protesters “terrorists” when they assault cops, but understands now why he can’t call violent right-wing protesters “terrorists” when they assault cops.
Because of “politicization.”
We have a very real, recent application as to how these politics play out. Their thugs bad. Our thugs good.
So while I understand the urge to dunk on Cruz, what happened on Carlson’s show is more than just an example of Cruz’s weaselly pleading being worthy of a laugh. It’s ultimately not funny at all.
Cruz once strove to convey that he cared about justice and truth. He used to believe that violence was violence, and that the rule of law (and the rules of language) should be equally applied.
That’s no longer the case. What he did on Jan. 6th himself last year and what he said on Carlson’s show last week goes far beyond pandering.
Cruz’s humiliation is hardly the point. His radicalization is far more frightening.