David Irwin
Op Ed

GOP Needs Alternative to Ron Johnson

Wisconsin faces highly partisan race between Senator who weakens democracy and far-left Democrats.

By - Feb 9th, 2022 03:09 pm
Ron Johnson. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Ron Johnson. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America. (CC BY-SA)

In 1973 the Arab Oil Embargo had Americans lining up to buy gas, and I was starting first grade outside the United States due to my dad’s job. My new friends admired America because it fought tyranny abroad and promised opportunity here at home. I learned about America’s enemies while playing in an Austrian field under the gaze of soldiers on the other side of the Iron Curtain. To the east, Vladimir Putin had just joined the KGB and Xi Jinping had been admitted to the Communist Party on his tenth attempt.

As an adult, thanks to the blessings of liberty, I went into business, helping to start a software company in Atlanta, then moving happily to Milwaukee to join Wisconsin’s greatest tech success, Fiserv. In seventeen years there, I got to build and run businesses, including new ventures in Latin America and Asia – where, again, I felt the uniqueness of being American. 

The problem with America’s faltering global image isn’t merely one of likability. When America is in turmoil, the world is increasingly dangerous. In addition to opposing US interests and helping other autocrats, Putin and Xi find common ground in sowing discord inside America. It is not without their help that American politics have become so tribal, extreme, and given to conspiracy theories. 

Wisconsin is shaping up to be ground zero of extreme partisanship in 2022. Over $100 million will be spent on dividing us between conspiracy theorist Ron Johnson and a Democrat slate that the Wall Street Journal describes as “lining up on the left of Joe Biden.”

All but the most ardent of Wisconsin Democrats are skeptical of the socialist trends in Washington. This is a fiscally conservative state, whose people have the second-highest credit scores in the entire country. Most of us know that the “Build Back Better” bill is loaded with wasteful spending. It would cost much more than advertised, centralize more power in Washington, and create new and unaccountable bureaucracies. Most of us believe in local control of public schools. We are proud of American history and our progress in building an ever more perfect union. While most of us take climate seriously, we don’t like subsidizing electric cars for the wealthy or asking the Saudis to pump more oil after we’ve plugged American wells and killed pipelines. We think defunding police departments is a terrible idea. 

Unfortunately, rather than effectively countering the left, Ron Johnson is now best known for perpetuating covid quackery and false claims about our elections. This should be very troubling to all of us, including – perhaps especially – my fellow Republicans. Even his long-time supporters know his electability is hurt by the fantastical things he has said. 

Deeper than that, Johnson’s actions to undermine trust in our electoral and medical systems is anti-conservative and ethically wrong. Conservatives are often skeptical, but they fundamentally believe in the integrity of institutions that have been built up over long periods of time, through the rule of law and our system of checks and balances. 

Conservatives believe in personal responsibility. However, it is the height of irresponsibility to cultivate votes from the conspiracy-prone and grow their numbers. America’s enemies love to see us fall for conspiracy theories, whether they are about vaccines, elections, social justice, or anything else.

Wisconsin is not naturally a state of extremes, but that is the choice that is shaping up for our Senate race in November. The ways to get a better option would be through a conservative third party or a Republican challenge to Johnson. My guess – and hope – is that a quiet majority of non cult-of-personality conservatives can lead a coalition of Independents and centrist Democrats into a movement of substance, perhaps within the GOP. 

This strategy won the Governorship for Republicans in Virginia last year and almost did the same in New Jersey. Without a shift of this nature America will not move beyond acrimonious stalemates on issues like public safety, healthcare, immigration, climate, and the economy. 

Wisconsin can embrace rational, effective conservatism and help lead the way. 

David Irwin is a business executive from Elm Grove, Wisconsin

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

2 thoughts on “Op Ed: GOP Needs Alternative to Ron Johnson”

  1. GodzillakingMKE says:

    They all take from the same brain trust, I don’t think there is an alternative at this point.

  2. czirbe says:

    I love that this starts with reminiscing about 1973, the same year that the CIA backed a fascist coup by Pinochet against socialist Salvador Allende in Chile. Tens of thousands of union leaders and activists were arrested, tortured, disappeared, and (again, with the blessing of the United States, the blessings of liberty David Irwin is so proud of) publicly executed.

    That’s the America that “the quiet majority” of conservatives want to return to: an empire of terror supporting a nation of big houses, big cars, and big ideas about personal responsibility, while the shadow of the state looms large over the rest of the world.

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