GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin was asked a simple question on the campaign trail this week: Would he commit to accepting the results of next week’s midterm elections?
His answer was anything but simple.
“I sure hope I can, but I can’t predict what the Democrats have planned,” Johnson said. “You know, we are not trying to do anything to gain party advantages, we are doing everything we can to restore trust. It certainly seems that there have been many attempts in the past by the Democrats to facilitate fraud.’
Anything that isn’t “yes”. Or anything close.
Johnson, who is running for re-election against Democratic Gov. Mandela Barnes, offered no real evidence to support his claim that there were “many attempts by Democrats to facilitate fraud.”
Johnson was questioned at least in part because a top election official in Milwaukee was fired Thursday after he solicited military ballots for bogus voters and sent them to a Republican state lawmaker.
This is the only time Johnson has dabbled in conspiracy theories in recent years. Take into account:
* Johnson suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (and House Democrats) voted to impeach Donald Trump during the January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol as a way to cover up the blame for what happened that day. (There is no evidence to support this claim.)
* Johnson said he did not see January 6 as an “armed rebellion”. (There is plenty of evidence.)
* During a Senate hearing on the Capitol attack, Johnson read excerpts from a piece by J. Michael Waller published in The Federalist on January 14, 2021, saying that “a small number of cadres used the cover of a large rally to plan their attack,” and that “agents suggesting that these “provocateurs” were a) not Trump supporters and b) were primarily responsible for the violent attack on the Capitol. (There is no evidence to support this claim.)
* Johnson suggested in a 2021 virtual town hall that mouthwash could be an effective treatment to combat being infected with Covid. “By the way, standard gargling has been shown to kill coronaviruses,” Johnson said. “If you succeed, you can reduce viral replication. Why not try all these things?” (No!)
And while Johnson did not vote to decertify the 2020 election results, a House committee investigating the matter revealed on January 6 that Johnson’s chief of staff attempted to coordinate the transfer of fraudulent voter lists in Michigan and Wisconsin to Vice President Mike Pence. Johnson said his involvement only lasted “a few seconds.”
There’s more, much more, but you get the idea. Johnson is someone who doesn’t wallow in conspiracy theories, he bathes in them. And so it’s no surprise that Johnson is already sowing doubt about the upcoming election.
But what his eager response to accept the results should tell you is that the 2022 election without Republican claims of fraud is a fantasy.
The same people who continue to challenge the 2020 election again will see 2022 in the same light, especially (but not only) if their candidate loses. The denial of the 2020 election will move seamlessly into the denial of the 2022 election, and it will flow naturally into the announcement of Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.