Friday, April 27, 2012

Is the Ron Johnson Model the New Normal?

In 2010 a rich political newcomer won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.  Ron Johnson went on to avoid tough questions from the media, preferring to instead preach his fundamentalist Ayn Rand Gospel to the already converted.  Johnson married into wealth and certainly used a part of his personal fortune to bankroll his campaign.  The only opportunity most Wisconsinites had to see this political unknown was in his many misleading TV ads.

Now that Johnson has undoubtedly proven himself to be a know-nothing ideologue, you have to wonder if he would have ever been elected had voters known more than what showed up on TV.  You don't have to take my personal assessment of him, check out what some of his own Republican colleagues recently said about him in Roll Call:
“He’s an interesting case study of someone who has talked more than he has listened, lectured more than he has developed relationships with his colleagues, and now he’s having a tough time because of that behavior in advancing his policy goals,” one senior GOP aide said. “It’s kind of like watching a temper tantrum by a 2-year-old in the middle of the grocery store.”
Now Wisconsin is preparing to vote for U.S. Senate again and we have yet another filthy rich political newcomer spending gobs of his own money to get the job.  Like Ron Johnson in 2010, Eric Hovde is using his own personal wealth to flood the airwaves with ads.  Just before Hovde officially launched his campaign it was reported that he would be able to tap his own wealth gained through family real estate holdings, banking and hedge fund management to the tune of $10 million.

Like Johnson, he has not been properly vetted by voters and if he continues using the Johnson model that may never happen.  Right now the only thing that most people know about Eric Hovde is that he keeps giving us the evil eye, wearing white pants and running up stairs. Call me old fashioned but I really think that voters should get the chance to actually know the candidates well beyond this kind of gimmicky TV ad persona.

Hovde's new bio ad tries to make it seem like he is just one of us regular folks. But is it really the "American Dream" to find yourself born into a wealthy lifestyle and then simply use that inherited leverage to add to that wealth? Despite the perception that Hovde's new ad tries to paint I don't know many people that fit his actual real life profile.
  • Growing up as a privileged son of a real estate developer that was also an official in the Reagan administration.
  • Hedge fund manager that has lived for decades in Washington D.C. before conveniently moving back to Wisconsin just in time to run for U.S. Senate.
  • In one 1980's media report he was described as a "Washington D.C.- based S&L industry consultant"
  • To this day he appears to buy banks like most of us buy groceries (including bailed out banks, even though he was allegedly against TARP)
Don't get me wrong, we've had many wealthy candidates that have lived privileged lives and some have done outstanding work in public office.  But the problem here is a combination of factors taken as a whole : 
  1. An unknown, untested, unvetted and unpredictable candidate 
  2. No real policy track record of any kind 
  3. Using vast personal wealth to create a fictional TV character. 
That was essentially the Ron Johnson Model to office and I don't want to see it repeated by anyone of any ideology or party.   The growth of this phenomenon should be concerning to everyone of every political stripe.  It may be good for a candidate's own ego, it may be good for their wealthy cronies or for their political party but it is certainly not good for the future of our electoral system or for the governance of our nation.  

1 comment:

krshorewood said...

On top of that, Johnson is not going out to mix with Wisconsin voters.

One night I was sitting in a hotel room in Newark doing some work and my phone rings, with one of RoJo's staffers on the line.

I was invited to a "telephone town hall" with the Senator, which he proudly announced was his 13th?

Why isn't this coward live, visiting all 72 counties like Russ Feingold did. Is this what we want in a leader?

BTW it was instructive listening to him go one for about an hour. The guy is an empty suit, with no demonstrable grasp of the issues beyond wing nut talking points.

Wisconsin deserves better.