Is Ron Johnson Working To Re-Write The History Of The Violent Coup Attempt--Or To Just Own The Libs?
Last Wednesday, the House voted, 413-12, for Nancy Pelosi's H.R.1085-- To award three congressional gold medals to the United States Capitol Police and those who protected the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The dozen no votes were all far right Republican secessionists who support the rioters and domestic terrorists against the police: Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Michael Cloud (R-TX), Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Bob Good (R-VA), Lance Gooden (R-TX), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Andy Harris (R-MD), Thomas Massie (R-KY), John Rose (R-TN) and Greg Steube (R-FL). They say they voted no because they objected to the word "insurrectionists" in the resolution. Too close to home? It hurt their feelings.
There hasn't been a sister bill before the Senate. But you can probably guess who would vote with the domestic terrorists and against the U.S. if it did-- Tommy Tuberville of Alabama (a so far unindicted coup plotter himself), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rand Paul (R-KY) and, without any doubt, Ron Johnson (R-WI). Last night CNN reported on how Johnson-- a Wisconsin extremist who married into a super-wealthy family and suddenly became a multimillionaire-- is undermining the U.S. by going on the media and insisting there was no violence on 1/6 and that the domestic terrorists and seditionists were just patriots.
CNN: "Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson falsely claimed there was no violence on the Senate side of the US Capitol during the January 6 insurrection, the latest in his continued attempts to downplay the severity of the attack. Johnson described the events of January 6 to a group of conservative Wisconsin residents at a local political event on Saturday and falsely stated the rioters were more active on the House side of the Capitol than the Senate side. Johnson also repeated he did not feel threatened that day, even after learning rioters had breached the Capitol building. 'One of the reasons I'm being attacked is because I very honestly said I didn't feel threatened on January 6. I didn't,' Johnson said. 'There was much more violence on the House side. There was no violence on the Senate side, in terms of the chamber.' Security cameras and videos from witnesses showed insurrectionists broke windows on the Senate side of the Capitol and stormed through the halls near the Senate chamber shortly after. One video showed Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman confronting protesters just outside the Senate chamber and leading them away from the room while senators were sheltering in place inside."
Johnson, an outspoken racist, is up for reelection next year. A neo-fascist of the Joe McCarthy stripe, he refuses to say whether or not he will run gain. Meanwhile, he has become one of the Senate spokesmen for the insurrectionists. Or is Johnson just trying to "own the libs," a pathetic concept dealt with by Derek Robertson for Politico magazine this morning. "To 'own the libs,' wrote Robertson, "does not require victory so much as a commitment to infuriating, flummoxing or otherwise distressing liberals with one’s awesomely uncompromising conservatism. And its pop-cultural roots and clipped snarkiness are perfectly aligned with a party that sees pouring fuel on the culture wars’ fire as its best shot at surviving an era of Democratic control."
In one sense, this is the natural outgrowth of the Trump era. Inasmuch as there was a coherent belief that explained his agenda, it was lib-owning-- whether that meant hobbling NATO, declining to disavow the QAnon conspiracy theory, floating the prospect of a fifth head on Mt. Rushmore (his, naturally), or using federal resources to combat the New York Times’ “1619 Project.”
But in a post-Trump America, to “own the libs” is less an identifiable act or set of policy goals than an ethos, a way of life, even a civic religion.
“‘Owning the libs’ is a way of asserting dignity,” says Helen Andrews, senior editor of The American Conservative. “‘The libs,’ as currently constituted, spend a lot of time denigrating and devaluing the dignity of Middle America and conservatives, so fighting back against that is healthy self-assertion; any self-respecting human being would… Stunts, TikTok videos, they energize people, that’s what they’re intended to do.”
“I can envision a time where [pro-Trump Florida Rep.] Matt Gaetz could pin a picture of [Democratic New York Rep.] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to his own crotch, and smash it with a ball-peen hammer, and he’ll think it’s a huge success if 100,000 liberals attack him as an idiot,” says Jonah Goldberg, editor-in-chief of the anti-Trump conservative outlet The Dispatch. “It’s a way of taking what the other side criticizes about you and making it into a badge of honor.”
And in a world where polarization driven by social media has equipped every smartphone-wielding American with a hammer, every political dispute looks like a nail. A year into the Covid-19 pandemic, viral videos of mask burnings and other forms of lockdown protest proliferate. The arch-conservative, troll-friendly webmagazine The Federalist more than doubles its traffic each year. Pro-Trump students are bending reformicon-minded College Republican groups to their will. In certain parts of the country, modified pickup trucks “roll coal,” spewing jet-black exhaust fumes into the air as a middle finger to environmentalists. Popular bootleg Trump campaign merchandise read simply: “Fuck your feelings.”
...Trump has repeatedly professed his desire for a party of “fighters”-- that is to say, inveterate lib-owners-- and the fact that he’s still the most popular Republican politician of the past decade ensures he’ll have his way. It may be on a foundation laid by McCarthy, Buckley, Limbaugh and their followers, but today’s ownage-obsessed Republican Party is ultimately the house that Trump built.