Sen. Ron Johnson is being accused of racism for saying recently that he wasn’t afraid of the pro-Donald Trump insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but that he would have been worried had they been Black Lives Matter protesters. The Wisconsin Republican’s critics have a point, but the racial debate regarding his comments has overshadowed another aspect that shouldn’t be ignored: In bizarrely casting the mob as “people who love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break a law,” Johnson has demonstrated that conservatives are still living in a delusional, alternate universe about what happened on that day and why it was such a uniquely dangerous moment.
Let’s review: Congress was convened in a joint session Jan. 6 to formalize Joe Biden’s election victory — which was clear and uncontroverted, according to election officials and judges across the country, but which then-President Trump falsely claimed was rife with fraud. In a lie-laced speech to thousands of supporters near the Capitol, Trump implored them to “fight like hell” to “stop the steal.”
Immediately afterward, many from the crowd stormed the Capitol, breaking through police lines, scaling walls and smashing windows to gain entry. They beat police officers, sprayed them with chemicals and erected a noose near the building. Once inside, they searched for lawmakers, who had to be rushed to safety, along with Vice President Mike Pence, who Trump’s supporters had deemed a traitor for failing to halt the vote certification — something Pence had no legal power to do.
Unable to find lawmakers on whom to vent their fury, the mob rifled through desks, stole computers and furniture and, for the only time in U.S. history, marched a Confederate battle flag through the halls of Congress. By the time it was over, five people were dead, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, who’d been assaulted with an unknown chemical spray.
More than 300 people have been criminally charged so far. These are Johnson’s law-abiding patriots.
On a conservative radio show last week, Johnson said he “never really felt threatened” by the mob. “Now, had the tables been turned … and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned.”
Antifa has been blamed for sporadic violence during protests last year, but Black Lives Matter events have been almost entirely peaceful. Yet in Johnson’s twisted view (undoubtedly shared by many in his extremist corner of the GOP), those who peacefully protest police brutality are somehow more of a threat than those who storm the Capitol attempting to overturn democracy — and kill a police officer in the process.
Is this howl from the fever swamps of a once-rational political party evidence of racism? Of course it is. But it’s also just plain nuts.