When it comes to dangerous misinformation about the pandemic, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is among the most ridiculous politicians in the country. It was just last week when the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was pushed over the edge by Johnson's hostility toward science, describing the Republican senator as "the most irresponsible representative of Wisconsin citizens since the infamous Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy in the 1950s," and telling the people of Wisconsin that Johnson "is not fit to be your senator."
But the GOP senator's anti-science posture isn't limited to COVID-19. CNN reported yesterday:
"I don't know about you guys, but I think climate change is -- as Lord Monckton said -- bulls**t," the Wisconsin Republican said, without uttering the expletive but mouthing it, and referring to British conservative climate change denier Lord Christopher Monckton. "By the way, it is."
The report added that Johnson went on to argue that "there are more and more scientists" writing books "just laying this to waste" and questioned why the US was focused on the climate crisis at all. The senator also described efforts to combat the climate crisis as "a self-inflicted wound."
Remember, Senate Republicans thought it'd be a good idea to put this guy in charge of the Senate Homeland Security Committee -- for six years.
At this point, we could talk about Johnson having recently denied being a climate denier, and the degree to which this latest report proves otherwise. We could also talk about his years of willful ignorance on the subject, including Johnson's claim during his first campaign that global warming could be blamed on "sunspots." (He bolstered his theory at the time with nonsense about Greenland.) We could even kick around how weird it is to see Johnson become such a weird, reactionary conservative as his second term nears its end.
But what first came to mind after seeing the senator's climate comments was a New York Times report from last week that noted, "[M]any in the Republican Party are coming to terms with what polls have been saying for years: independents, suburban voters and especially young Republicans are worried about climate change and want the government to take action."
As a result, a growing number of GOP officials are at least pretending to take the climate crisis seriously, if for no other reason than they don't want to keep alienating reality-based voters.
And yet, there's Ron Johnson, flaunting his indifference toward evidence, data, and science. Some in the Republican Party may be coming to terms with the fact that voters expect the GOP to take climate change seriously, but Wisconsin's confused senior senator clearly doesn't care.
Update: In a new Politico report published this morning, Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), who leads the new Conservative Climate Caucus, insisted his party is starting to evolve on the issue. Johnson's rhetoric suggests otherwise.