IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Ron Johnson is the worst GOP senator running this midterm. And that's saying a lot.

All the disgusting things the GOP has said or done, Johnson has said or done
Image: Sen. Ron Johnson in Muskego, Wisconsin.
Sen. Ron Johnson R-Wis.) speaks to a reporter during a campaign stop in Muskego, Wisconsin, on Oct. 8. Scott Olson / Getty Images

In a powerful new campaign ad that hit the airwaves in Wisconsin this week, George Silverwood, a retired police captain, says, “I’ll never forget Jan. 6th, watching my fellow law enforcement officers defending the Capitol. And then, five officers died.” Then, speaking of the incumbent Republican senator on November’s ballot, an impassioned Silverwood says, “But Ron Johnson is making excuses for rioters who tried to overthrow our government, even calling them ‘peaceful protests.’”

There are 15 Republican senators running for re-election, and Johnson is far and away the worst of them.

Indeed, Johnson, who is locked in a tight race with his Democratic opponent, Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes, furthered former President Donald Trump’s election lies in the lead-up to the Jan 6 attack and then downplayed the insurrection as a “peaceful protest” disrupted by a few “agitators.” That’s just one in a tsunami of reasons that Johnson is, in a word, awful. There are 15 Republican senators running for re-election, and Johnson is far and away the worst of them. That says a lot given that Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida are on their states’ ballots.

Follow our 2022 midterm elections live blog at beginning Nov. 7 for the latest results, news and expert analysis in real time.

All the disgusting things the GOP has said or done, Johnson has said or done. As noted in a new ad released this week by Barnes, Johnson supports banning abortion even in cases of rape and jailing doctors who perform abortions. He says women who don’t like Republicans imposing their extreme religious beliefs as law and stripping women of reproductive freedom “can move” to another state.

What about Republican bigotry? Johnson said he wasn’t afraid during the insurrection because he knew the Trump-supporting attackers “are people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law.” But, he said, if the attackers “were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter … protesters, I might have been a little concerned.”

Get it? Those unleashing domestic terrorism on Trump’s behalf are not alarming, but Black people demanding that their lives be seen as valuable are inherently a threat.

Such bigotry also explains the ads for Johnson that attack Barnes, a Black man, as soft on crime. Those ads have featured Black people as suspects and have even darkened Barnes’ face to make him look even scarier to racists. Johnson has refused to denounce those ads placed by organizations supporting him. And why would he? He knows it’s the type of rancid red meat that animates GOP voters. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, an Alabama Republican, gets it, too, as was clear in the racist comments linking Black Americans with crime that he spewed at a campaign rally.

But back to how bad Johnson is. He downplayed the risk of Covid and spoke out against vaccines. He falsely claimed in December that gargling with “standard” mouthwash “has been proven to kill the coronavirus.” And in January, he told listeners of a conservative radio show that vaccines were killing athletes on the field — again a lie.

Johnson knows what GOP voters like, and painting a Black man as un-American is one of those things.

Truth and Johnson do not go together. Nor do civility and Johnson. When moderators in the Barnes-Johnson debate asked each candidate to name one thing he admired about the other, Barnes said it is “admirable” that Johnson is a family man. In response, Johnson said Barnes had “loving parents.” Then he said, “I guess what puzzles me is with that, with that upbringing, why has he turned against America?” The crowd rightfully began booing, but Johnson knows what GOP voters like, and painting a Black man as un-American is one of those things. Trump’s lie that Barack Obama hadn’t been born in the United States is an enduring example.

Johnson has gone further than some other Republicans in one way: He has called for ending Social Security and Medicare as we know it. While Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has proposed that Congress decide every five years whether these lifelines for older Americans should continue, Johnson wants them on the potential chopping block every year. Given that the GOP views government as the problem, the adoption of Johnson’s idea would very likely mean that more than 60 million Americans who rely on Social Security and Medicare would see their benefits decreased or come to an end.

And for good, er bad, measure, Johnson said in March that the Affordable Care Act should be repealed if Republicans regain power in Washington. That would mean the 35 million Americans who have secured coverage through the ACA would lose it. It would also mean the end of mandates that health insurance policies cover pre-existing health conditions without charging higher premiums. Johnson’s call to end the ACA should scare anyone with underlying health conditions because, if he’s successful, we would be returned to the pre-ACA days of insurers either charging outrageous rates to those with pre-existing conditions or denying them coverage altogether.

Despite all this, Johnson, the millionaire who supports ending the federal minimum wage, is running neck and neck with Barnes and even leads in some polls. Will the GOP’s bigotry and lies prevail, or will Wisconsin voters follow their state motto and move “Forward”?