Wineke: Ron Johnson Courts the yahoo vote

Senator Ron Johnson
Senator Ron Johnson at Fort McCoy on August 25, 2021 (WISC-TV/

If I were a betting man, I’d bet on Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s reelection.

Last week, when Oshkosh Defense, a truck manufacturing company in, yes, Oshkosh, announced it will build new US Postal Service trucks in South Carolina rather than Wisconsin, Johnson said, in effect, that that’s fine with him since Wisconsin manufacturers are having a hard time finding workers anyway.

When insurrectionists smashed through the nation’s Capitol, Johnson said they seemed like well-meaning tourists to him, though if they had been from Black Lives Matter he might have been concerned.

When a Holocaust scholar, Deborah Lipstadt, replied that Johnson’s position seemed racist to her, our senator took offense and delayed a federal appointment until she apologized. Johnson said she couldn’t know what was “in my heart.”

I don’t know what’s in Johnson’s heart, either. I do know that his position on the January 6 Capitol riots is racist.

If I were a betting man, I’d bet on his reelection.

I’d bet on his reelection because Johnson appeals to a certain kind of Wisconsin voter.

That voter is not particularly racist and that voter is not particularly stupid. In fact, when you encounter that voter in person, he or she is most likely to be a kind, friendly person. That voter is probably your neighbor and he is probably a very good neighbor.

At least, that’s the kind of qualities about my friends who vote for Johnson.

But there’s something about the Wisconsin voting public that has an affinity for yahoos, men and women who appeal to our less attractive instincts.

We voted for Joseph McCarthy and for Donald Trump and for Scott Fitzgerald. We voted for Ron Johnson over Russ Feingold twice.


We knew who Ron Johnson was and we preferred him to one of the smartest men we’ve ever elected to the Senate. Twice.

Frankly, I wish that were not so because these guys do some real damage to national policy and right now they are a real threat to our national democracy and those of us who vote for them seem willing to take that risk.

But, there they are and there we are.

What’s also true, however, is that Wisconsin voters have sent some of the finest representatives and senators the county has ever seen to Washington, often by some of the same voters who also sent the yahoos.

You just have to kind of hope that things turn out well.