Last weekend’s celebration of Juneteenth in Milwaukee was quite a sight to see. It was the 50th anniversary of one the nation’s longest running Juneteenth celebrations and it was the first time that the event commemorated a federal holiday. This was especially gratifying after the years of work to see this monumental day finally federally recognized.
One person no one expected to see show up at the festivities was Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, but there he was, calling a news conference to take credit for the new holiday, despite him being the reason that we had to wait until this year for Juneteenth to become a federal holiday.
But the Milwaukee Juneteenth crowd could see through the publicity stunt and greeted him with boos, chanting: “We don’t want you here!”
The response to Johnson should have surprised no one, especially Johnson himself.
Last year, Johnson was the only United States Senator to object to a bill that would have established Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Johnson’s objection resulted in Republican Senate leadership abandoning any effort to pass the bill, and the legislation died.
This year, on June 15, just four days before Juneteenth, Johnson finally lifted his objection to the bill establishing Juneteenth as a holiday and the Senate quickly passed the measure unanimously. The House of Representatives quickly approved the bill and President Joe Biden then signed it into law.
Even after Johnson lifted his objection, he still complained to reporters in Washington and questioned the need for Juneteenth at all. After the bill passed, he told reporters:
“While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter.”
But then after his usual racially charged antics in Washington, Johnson came back to Wisconsin to hold a press conference at Milwaukee’s Juneteenth Festival, apparently believing no one paid any attention to his actions or words in Congress. On Juneteenth, Johnson told a vastly different story saying, “I’m really glad this is a national holiday for all time so we can celebrate the emancipation of slaves.”
That’s when the crowd let him have it.
Many people in the crowd speculated that Johnson showed up at Juneteenth with the calculated expectation that he would be booed and that he called a news conference in order to make sure that the cameras captured it.
Johnson knows his role in blocking the Juneteenth holiday legislation is indefensible and instead of owning up to his bad actions, he wanted to play the victim and change the subject to the way he was treated by the crowd.
Johnson, now playing the victim, called those in the crowd that booed him “nasty” and said that the outcry was “unusual for Wisconsin.” He claimed that most people in Wisconsin say, “You are in our prayers; we are praying for you.”
Apparently, Johnson doesn’t interact much with the people in Wisconsin whose interests he consistently votes against.
Later that same day, now with his victimhood established, Johnson spoke at a Republican dinner in Kenosha using the day’s events to reprimand liberals and their attempts to ‘cancel’ him and the ideas they don’t agree with.