Is Mandela Barnes Just Too Black, Too Woke, Too Dreamy To Beat Senate’s Dumbest Republican?
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes cruised to victory in the Democratic Senate primary last week. However, The Bulwark editor Charlie Sykes warns that Barnes is possibly an ideal opponent for barely sentient incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. Sykes claims Barnes is “someone who is not that well known in Wisconsin politics.” (We repeat: Barnes is the state’s lieutenant governor.)
On The Bulwark podcast, conservative James Wigderson argued that Barnes was the worst of the Democratic primary candidates. He should’ve shared this pessimistic appraisal with Democratic primary candidates Alex Lasry and state treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who voluntarily dropped like flies before Barnes could beat them.
Sykes went on about the "burning of Kenosha,” Wisconsin, but Barnes wasn’t involved in the unrest after a cop shot Jacob Blake in the back. He just spoke out against police violence and white teen vigilantism. Meanwhile, Johnson has minimized the January 6 insurrection. He also possibly aided and abetted Trump’s coup. But, hey, Barnes might just be too “woke” for Wisconsin.
Sykes told Wigderson:
I have a lot of questions about Mandela Barnes, who is unapologetically progressive, was the candidate endorsed by Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren has played footsie with the folks from the Squad.
Lots of ties to ‘defund the police,’ the famous T-shirt, whole, you know, picture of him holding up a T-shirt saying, "Abolish ICE."
So ... Barnes is a Democrat. That’s the simple answer to Sykes’s many “questions” about his apparent curious behavior of associating with — gasp! — known Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who’s never tried to fraudulently overturn a presidential election. The so-called “Squad” members (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib) are admittedly all women of color but they’re also duly elected members of Congress who actually support democracy. Sure, Sanders is a wacky socialist but he did win the 2016 Democratic primary in Wisconsin, receiving more votes than Republican primary winner Ted Cruz. Sanders isn’t a national security threat like Johnson’s buddy Donald Trump.
The Washington Post claims Barnes will have to “reckon with his liberal past,” which doesn’t involving tacitly endorsing an insurrectionist attack on the Capitol. No, Barnes visited a recycling center with Rep. Ilhan Omar and publicly danced with her. Their moves were good but this could upset voters who fear he caught Muslim from her.
\u201c\ud83d\udea8 ILHAN OMAR DANCING WITH MANDELA BARNES \ud83d\udea8\u201d— Brett "Solidarity 2022" Banditelli (@Brett "Solidarity 2022" Banditelli) 1565224150
As he runs in one of the country’s most closely contested states, Barnes has faced Republican attacks for the appearance with Omar, for once holding up a T-shirt with the phrase “Abolish ICE,” for saying he supports moving funds from police departments to community programs, and, in a speech referring to slavery and colonization, describing the founding of the country as “awful.”
This is all reasonable “both sides” commentary if the Republican side wasn’t full of of fucking fascists.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, hardly a political extremist, ran for president with an “Abolish ICE” plan. This isn’t some radical Left position. Gillibrand, if you haven’t noticed, is white, so it’s weird that Sykes and the Post would seemingly link “Abolish ICE” exclusively to Democrats of color.
Ron Johnson is a Russian stooge, perhaps willingly so. He’s a COVID denier who expressed skepticism about safe vaccines while promoting useless snake oil cures. He also suggested, like a gross racist, that the January 6 attack would’ve actually frightened him if the rioters were Black Lives Matter protesters and not a law-abiding white mob that almost beat cops to death.
But Barnes supports universal health care, wants to end the cash bail system, and thinks we should keep the planet inhabitable for future generations. Oooh, fetch the centrist fainting couch!
Look, even if voters can overlook that Johnson is personally repulsive, he’s still the same moron who wants to treat Social Security and Medicare as “discretionary” government spending. Grandma’s retirement and medical benefits would become like that vanilla latte or glazed doughnut you debate buying each morning.
If anyone's worried that Barnes’s association with other liberal Democrats will hurt him in the general election, they just need to remember that Ron Johnson is more radical than every member of the “Squad” combined.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."