How Talk Radio Unites Ron Johnson and His Wisconsin Voters
There’s a well-accepted narrative in American political discourse that the left tries to turn the clock back to the 1950s. To them, the Republican Party has regressed. The party was founded by big business in the 1890s, but it now lacks the conviction to pass a law that would protect unions, workers and the middle class. At the same time, the right is stuck in 1980s mode, blaming liberalism and the welfare state.
But that’s not the whole story. The center of political and cultural life is shifting, and Wisconsin is the poster child for it. The right’s attempt to go backward in order to save their fading ideological principles is a classic example. The state, where Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting is at a fever pitch, is also proving that the left’s efforts to restore America’s past may not work.
The GOP’s Wisconsin strategy is based on a notion of political identity that most people, especially those on the left, find profoundly unsettling. By contrast, what’s most American about Ron Johnson’s approach is that he’s trying to create something new — a new political narrative, one that unites political conservatives. And Wisconsin Republicans in particular.
It’s a narrative built on three pillars: traditional American government that is responsive to the electorate; self-reliance; and conservative ideals of individualism and economic freedom.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin was always the party of big business. Back in 1857, when a convention selected the party’s first candidate, the winner won 2 percent of the statewide vote.
But in the last 70 years of Wisconsin political history, the Democrats have won three national presidential elections — Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale and Bill Clinton — and only once has the Democrats won more than 13 percent of the statewide vote, in 1948, when Joseph McCarthy’s party took control of the state.
That party’s influence has extended into the state. A Marquette University Poll released this spring found Democrats outnumbering Republicans by a 2-to-1