AN OPEN LETTER TO SENATOR RON JOHNSON
Dear Senator Johnson,
I remember a time, not so long ago, when there was a man who held the senate seat that you currently hold who broke with his party and voted to hear from witnesses in an impeachment trial. The year was 1999, and that Senator was Russ Feingold. The president on trial was Bill Clinton.
There are many significant differences between that impeachment trial and this one. First off, it needs to be said that Bill Clinton won both the popular vote and electoral college, where as Donald Trump only won the electoral college. All this rhetoric coming from Republicans about the will of the people is a bit off-key, because Hillary Clinton received 2.8 million more votes than Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Furthermore, in 1998, 64% of Americans opposed impeachment; in 2019, 52% of Americans supported impeachment.
Then there is the matter of what each man actually did. Clinton lied about a sexual relationship with an intern, that while consensual, was clearly inappropriate. Trump withheld aid to a foreign ally in exchange for information on a political opponent. But for me, a Wisconsin voter, the biggest difference is that in 1999, the person holding your senate seat put the United States Constitution before party, and you have clearly sent the message that you put party before country.
Once again, it appears that you and so many of your colleagues are okay with foreign governments influencing our elections. Given the party’s stance on several issues, whether it is gerrymandering, exaggerating claims of voter fraud, or flat out permitting tampering with election results, members of today’s Republican Party must be convinced that they could not possibly win an election without engaging in some form of cheating. How sad. If the only victories I achieved in life were the result of cheating, I would find it very difficult to sleep at night.
I look at the public records of people seeking public office. As a voter, I feel that I am making a decision about who to hire to carry out the important business of acting in the public interest as well as maintaining the values and principles of our republic and representative democracy, so I run a background check. So much of the time, I find out that Wisconsinites running for office as Republicans have been taken to court over unpaid debts. It seems like the Republican Party has become a gathering place for people who believe they are above the law.
I also look at public interest polling and compare it to the voting records of elected officials. So much of the time I find myself asking, how is it that so many elected officials are able to hold on to their seats when they seem to do the exact opposite of what most of their constituents say they want? I realize that many people do not have the time to look into the full voting records of their elected officials and are likely to only hear about a small percentage of actions or inaction on the part of their senator or representative via the news. One action that will not go unnoticed is voting against calling witnesses in an impeachment trial, and that decision will be noted in the annals of history. I hope you realize the gravitas of that.
Even though I voted for Bill Clinton in 1996, the first presidential election I was able to vote in, I felt proud when Senator Feingold put country before party and voted to hear witnesses in that impeachment trial. He displayed uncommon virtue and integrity in doing so. I guess that maybe it is because of Feingold that I expect more from my fellow Wisconsinites. I am deeply disappointed that you felt you owed more to this president than your constituents.
I do not want a reply. There is nothing you could say that would excuse your actions. I have written several letters to your office over the years to only receive the most callous responses.
I hope that going forward, you will work with other senators to give aid to our allies and protect our democracy from foreign adversaries. It is clear that we cannot count on this president to do this, so we must rely on our legislators to do so.
One of your constituents,