Conservatives used to argue, with some merit, that too many Americans possessed a hair-trigger victim complex. In 1989, columnist George Will decried “the growth industry of victimology.” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told law school graduates at Liberty University in 1996, “Be a hero, not a victim. You can't be both at the same time. It's one or the other.”
If Thomas is right, then Wisconsin U.S. Sen Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, is asking citizens to forfeit their hero status.
Johnson wants citizens to openly parade their victimhood by announcing his “Victims of Government” project. He invites anyone “who has been dealing with excess regulation” to submit their stories to his government website.
Not just anybody is invited to join the victim party. If you served 10 years in federal prison for a crime you didn’t commit, don’t bother. Nor is the Senator interested in victims of lax government oversight — the 26 people who died in grain bin accidents in 2010, hourly workers who increasingly feel compelled to work off the clock by unscrupulous employers or anyone who got sick after eating tainted meat. The only victims Johnson bothers to champion are those who own land or own businesses.
The fact that Johnson feels compelled to use the resources of his Senate office to solicit victims undermines the validity of his case. If there are victims out there, why don’t they appear organically? Johnson actually needs to use taxpayer funds to root them out?
If Johnson really were committed to honest inquiry, he would hold town hall meetings and let citizens of all backgrounds and ideologies share their stories and perspectives.
Why not come to the Tomah High School auditorium and conduct a listening session that’s open to all? The feedback wouldn’t be preordained, but it would have the virtue of spontaneity and diversity. The Senator would hear from victims, no doubt. But he might hear from some heroes, too.The last two paragraphs are particularly biting -- as Johnson has yet to conduct virtually any townhall type dialogues or listening sessions in his 2+ years in office. He prefers canned speeches to friendly crowds when he does deign to speak to his constituents (as opposed to the august Ayn Rand acolytes at the Atlas Society).
Johnson has a poor record of following through on his various beginning-of-the-year projects. It will be interesting to see what Episode 2 looks like ... or if he even bothers.