In 1950, in response to the demagogic tactics of Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine gave a speech on the floor of the Senate: A Declaration of Conscience. In the speech, Chase Smith challenged her fellow Republicans not to rely upon “the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear” to bring them victory.
“I don’t want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people,” she said. “Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one party system.”
The speech by Chase Smith was in response to a speech by McCarthy four months earlier in which he claimed, without any evidence, that he had the names of 205 members of a Communist spy ring in the State Department. McCarthy could never back up the claim, prompting Chase Smith’s speech criticizing McCarthyism.
“As a United States Senator, I am not proud of the way in which the Senate has been made a publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism,” Chase Smith said. “I am not proud of the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from this side of the aisle.”
Just over 70 years later, a Republican senator from Wisconsin is attempting to justify disenfranchising millions of voters, including those in his own state, using wild, unsubstantiated charges of vote fraud. McCarthy would have been proud of his successor.
Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) is one of 13 Republican senators who will vote on Wednesday against certification of the 2020 Presidential Election. Like his infamous predecessor, Johnson has no evidence of the massive voter fraud it would have taken for Democrats to “steal” the election. Despite this, he is still willing to throw out the votes of millions of his fellow Wisconsinites in a desperate attempt by some members of his party to keep President Donald Trump in office.
Sadly, we should not be too surprised by the senator’s decision. Johnson has been the monkey dancing to Trump’s organ grinder, entertaining die-hard Trump supporters for peanuts, since the senator’s re-election in 2016. From providing cover for Trump during the impeachment to a fruitless search for political dirt on Hunter Biden, Johnson has served Trump loyally in the Senate.
But since the election, Johnson has taken his sycophancy to a new level. Despite publicly stating that he believed former Vice President Joe Biden won the election, Johnson used the Homeland Security Committee to “investigate” the election, airing Trump’s grievances as if they had not been heard and rejected in every state and federal court in every so-called “contested” state.
The fact that Trump’s campaign itself did not offer any evidence of vote fraud in any court case did not deter Johnson. He was fanning the flames of doubt in our election processes because that’s what was required by his president.
“Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear” – Trump used them all in this campaign to undermine democracy after the election, and during the election, while Johnson was his all-too-willing accomplice.
The late William F. Buckley, the father of modern conservatism and the founder of National Review, wrote in 2000 on the possibility of Trump running for president. Buckley said if given the choice between a “narcissist” demagogue and a candidate who wanted to spend federal money to give free health care to children, “…it becomes more necessary to discourage cynical demagogy, than to advance free health for the kids.”
“That can come later, in another venue; the resistance to a corrupting demagogy should take first priority,” Buckley wrote.
Johnson has not only failed in his priorities, he has actually embraced the “corrupting demagogy” at a cost far more dear to our republic than the excess federal spending Johnson claims to oppose. Conservatives are under no obligation to support someone who cannot recognize that his main priority should be the protection of our constitutional order.
During his last campaign for office, Johnson said he would not seek a third term. Supposedly he has been telling Republicans behind the scenes he does not plan on running for re-election.
With the election results in Georgia, it’s very likely Johnson will be in the minority in his last two years as a senator. Perhaps the experience will discourage him from considering re-election, or seeking any other public office.
Regardless, Chase Smith was probably correct about what the public will tolerate. Surely the voters will not reward Johnson for the reckless path he has trod to this day’s vote to throw out the votes of his fellow citizens. It is unlikely Johnson could win re-election, or become governor if he set his sights on state office instead.
Given Johnson’s decision to side with those opposed to democracy in a mad attempt at temporary partisan gain, the end of his political career will be good news. The Republican Party deserves a better candidate, and the state deserves better representation in the U.S. Senate.