The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel once dubbed Johnson Wisconsin's "most irresponsible representative" since Joseph McCarthy.
After months of ambivalence, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) announced Sunday that he will seek reelection in November. After a narrow win in 2016, Johnson has spent much of his time in the U.S. Senate spreading misinformation about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and supporting former President Donald Trump's agenda.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial board once called Johnson "the most irresponsible representative of Wisconsin citizens since the infamous Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy in the 1950s."
With his announcement, Johnson broke a promise he made before he was elected to limit himself to two terms.
Last June, Johnson suggested he no longer felt bound by his word. "When I made that pledge I meant that pledge," he explained to reporters. "I ran in 2010 because I was panicked for this nation. I'm more panicked today."
In recent months, Johnson has openly admitted that he does not really want to be a senator and that he "may not be the best candidate" for Republicans to run for the seat, which was previously held by progressive Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI).
Last July, Johnson told a conservative podcaster, "I want to make sure that this U.S. Senate seat is retained in Republican hands. You see what the media's doing to me. I may not be the best candidate. I wouldn't run if I don't think I could win, if I don't think I was the best person to be able to win."
He called the Senate "an incredibly frustrating place," and said, "I feel really bad that I've been here now probably 11 years and we've doubled the debt. Obamacare's still in place, and we've doubled the debt. I don't feel like my time here has been particularly successful."
In August, he told a conservative talk show host, "I'd rather be somewhere else. I'd rather do something else. I don't want to — it's not that I want to be a U.S. senator. I'm not seeking the title. It's because I so love this country, as do Trump supporters."
Johnson has made national news throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for pushing dangerous conspiracy theories about the virus and vaccines.
He railed against what he called "indiscriminate vaccination"; spotlighted unverified claims about coronavirus vaccine side effects; falsely claimed vaccines do not work; baselessly suggested gargling with mouthwash as a way to stop the coronavirus; and falsely claimed "over 19,000" deaths were linked to the inoculations.
Last week, Johnson argued that "natural immunity" was better than getting vaccinated. "Why do we think that we can create something better than God in terms of combating disease?" he asked conservative radio host Vicki McKenna.
Johnson has also defended the current tax system, saying the wealthiest 1% of Americans already pay their "fair share" in taxes, and pushed the racist "great replacement" conspiracy theory that holds that Democrats want lax immigration laws so that people of color coming across the border can outvote white Americans.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.