U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says his decision to delay announcing whether he will seek reelection is saving Wisconsinites from a long campaign.
The Oshkosh Republican told a Milwaukee Press Club-WisPolitics.com virtual luncheon Thursday the public won’t be paying attention this year to Senate campaigns, adding he feels there’s still plenty of time for anyone else who wants to run for his seat even if he waits until next year to make a decision. He said his short 2010 campaign that led him to unseat three-term incumbent Russ Feingold is proof other candidates can run a viable race if they announce later on; Johnson announced his Republican bid in April.
And he says he may change his mind on his 2010 pledge to not serve more than two terms. He said circumstances have changed and Republicans losing majority status in the House in 2016 showed him he has a greater responsibility than just following through on that promise.
Johnson said former House Speaker Paul Ryan’s critical assessment of the current Republican Party is “just misdiagnosing the situation here.”
He said those who elected Donald Trump president were attracted to the Republican Party by policies more aligned with Tea Party ideals such as “America first,” increasing the size of the Republican voting base.
“From my standpoint, President Trump seemed like he was, to a certain extent, a continuation of the Tea Party movement,” Johnson said.
He also noted he feels more closely aligned to the Tea Party than the Republican Party right now.
Ryan in an address at the Reagan Library said Republicans must choose a path more focused on conservative policy ideals rather than personality.
But Johnson said many Trump voters picked him because they agreed with Trump policies more than just his personality.
“The fact of the matter is the ‘America First’ agenda is embraced by an awful lot of Americans,” he said. “So I just believe it is far more the agenda that President Trump pushed and promoted.”
See more on Ryan’s address here.
Johnson also said the current $928 billion GOP infrastructure proposal spends too much money and should be scaled back to spend the roughly $720 billion he says is leftover from past COVID-19 spending packages.
He says the leftover funds should be plenty to cover repairing and rebuilding roads and bridges around the country and he doesn’t want to spend more money because he’s concerned about inflation from the infusion of federal funds.
“I think that’s more than enough,” he said. “Give us a really good start until we can get our economy moving forward.”
The two-term senator also said schools should not be teaching critical race theory because he said America does not have a systemic racism issue.
Johnson added he wishes leaders of civil rights movements “would really go back and reread Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches and his approach to achieving greater racial equity.”
He said teaching about “horrible” race massacres such as those in Tulsa and Chicago is important, but American society has come a long way since those incidents.
“I realize we still have racism present in this nation, but we have come a long, long way, we have,” he said. “And we should do everything we can to heal this nation.”
He also said President Biden’s address about the Tulsa Race Massacre was “so incredibly divisive.”
During this week’s speech in Tulsa, Biden said what happened there “was an act of hate and domestic terrorism with a through-line that exists today, still.” He also called white supremacy “the most lethal threat to the homeland today,” noting the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and the violent protest at the U.S. Capitol in January.
“I don’t think you can sit there and say ‘and things haven’t changed at all, nothing’s changed, we’re still the same hate-filled systemically racist nation.’ We’re not; that’s a falsehood,” Johnson said.