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The 3rd congressional district in western Wisconsin has been represented or contested by accomplished legislators: Democrat Al Baldus, Republican Steve Gunderson, Democrat Ron Kind and Republican Dale Schultz. However, GOP candidate Derrick Van Orden has nothing in common with them. Bluntly put Van Orden is too extreme for Congress. There is nothing in his background to indicate that he would be a problem solver. And his volatile temperament disqualifies him. Congress is supposed to solve problems. Extremists like Van Orden just bloviate.

I think Van Orden knows this. He dodges the press, refuses to answer questions, runs away from debates and engages in character assassination. What is he hiding? This is anything but a normal political race. Van Orden’s campaign website is full of bromides and glittering generalities. There are no thoughtful policy positions. No specifics on the economy, farm issues, healthcare or Social Security-Medicare. Out of touch.

Van Orden does not hear dairy farmers crushed by market forces beyond their control, regular folks fearful of losing their jobs, healthcare coverage or pensions and retirees anxious that GOP politicians will slash their hard-earned Social Security-Medicare benefits. But Van Orden does hear conspiratorial voices. He pretends to be a patriot who attended the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. He downplays his involvement and mischaracterizes the violent mob assault: “The crowd was peaceful, many families with small children, elderly people, and others from all walks of life were mingling. The mood was festive.” Van Orden now claims that he was appalled by the “mob” violence.

Laughably comparing himself to Lincoln, Van Orden said he was there “to stand for the integrity of our electoral system as a citizen and at the behest of my neighbors here in western Wisconsin.” Code for lying that Trump won the 2020 presidential election and somehow Biden stole his way into the White House. But Wisconsin GOP Representative Mike Gallagher correctly described January 6: “I mean, this is banana republic shit. … This is the type of stuff I saw in Iraq… .”

Gallagher was not alone. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, National Young Farmers Coalition, National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Retail Federation all condemned the seditious assault on the Capitol and our democracy. But Van Orden still refuses to come clean about his involvement in the January 6 assault.

It does not matter to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. Unlike national conservative business groups, the WMC had zip to say about January 6. Instead, it donated to Van Orden’s campaign and invited him to speak. Fortunately other Wisconsin business leaders are speaking up to condemn violence and accept election results.

Van Orden served in the U.S. Navy SEALS. His attendance at the January 6 riot violated his military oath to support and defend the Constitution. Don’t be fooled. As Samuel Johnson said: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Van Orden is too extreme for Congress. Out of touch.

Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

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