Conservatives, Meet Ron Johnson

Elisabeth Meinecke
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Posted: Feb 10, 2011 10:05 AM
The conservative senator who beat out Russ Feingold for a Wisconsin Senate seat last November had the honor of being the second speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference.  He shared a heartfelt story of how he entered the political arena:

"Now I realize many - if not most - of you, had no idea who I was prior to November second - or even five minutes ago for that matter.

Since winning the election, I am frequently asked two questions: first, “How did that happen;” and, second, “what made you decide to run?”  After all, I had never sought or held any public office. I had no political aspirations. This is not my life’s ambition - not by a long shot.  So let me try to explain.

Back in October of 2009, I was asked to speak at a tea party in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  As a businessman who had been running a manufacturing plant for the last 31 years, the organizers asked me to talk about the negative impact that government regulation had on business.  I told them I would be happy to speak, but as important as the topic of government overregulation is, that wasn’t what I wanted to talk about.

If you remember back then, we were in the middle of the debate over health care.  In order to help get this monstrosity passed, the liberals were beginning to demagogue and demonize doctors. President Obama even went so far as to suggest that some doctors would unnecessarily take out a set of tonsils for a few extra bucks.  They had crossed a line. I felt compelled to speak out.

So I gave a speech defending the producers of America, particularly doctors. In the speech, I told the story of our first child - our daughter, Carey.

Carey was born with a very serious congenital heart defect called Transposition of the Great Arteries.  Her aorta and pulmonary artery were reversed. Only a very small hole in the upper chamber of her heart allowed any oxygen to flow to the rest of her body. Without immediate intervention, she would not have survived.

So she was rushed to Milwaukee Children’s Hospital, where a wonderful man, Dr. John Thomas, was called into the hospital at 1:00 in the morning to perform a procedure to keep her alive until she was old enough for corrective surgery. You’ll notice, he came in at 1:00 am. That’s what doctors do. They don’t just work 9-5. They come in at any time, day or night, to save a life.

Eight months later, when her heart of the size of a small plum, another wonderful man, Dr. John Foker, totally reconstructed the upper chamber of her heart. Just take a moment to think about the skill and dedicated training that required.

The day of the surgery, we arrived at the hospital at 6:00 am. Dr. Foker was already there. The surgery lasted more than 7 hours. When we left the hospital at 6:00 that evening, Dr. Foker was still there. According to Carey’s nurses, he called in repeatedly that night, once at 3:00 o’clock in the morning just to check her progress. He was back in the hospital at 6:00 am the following morning to perform rounds and prepare for another lifesaving surgery.

You can see why I took such offense to the demagoguery. Our daughter was saved by a group of medical professionals that were now targets of a coordinated liberal attack.

That was 27 years ago. Carey’s heart now operates backwards, but she has led a perfectly normal life ever since. She was inspired by her doctors, and became a nurse herself in a neo natal intensive care unit and is studying to become a nurse practitioner. Now she is taking care of little babies, and providing inspiration and comfort to other parents like Jane and me.

This is a powerful example of the types of individuals that have made America great: doctors dedicating their lives to saving other lives. Instead of recognizing this, liberals were once again waging class warfare in order to pass a bill that would create greater dependency and increase their power over the rest of us.

It's a shame anyone would pit one group of Americans against another. Instead, we should encourage and incentivize all Americans to achieve their maximum potential. That's what propels an economy forward. It's a key ingredient to our nation's success.

Days and weeks after that speech, folks would come up to me, say they enjoyed it, and ask me: “why don’t you run for office?” My reply was pretty consistent: “I’m not that crazy.”

But then, on Christmas Eve, in the middle of the night, in a tawdry display of backroom deals, and with a total disregard for the wishes of a majority of Americans, they passed Obamacare. I couldn’t believe it.

I viewed the passage of this bill as the single greatest assault on our freedom in my lifetime. It is absolutely designed to lead to a government takeover of our entire health care system -1/6 of our economy. Does anyone here actually think that the federal government has any capability of doing this?

We don’t have to theorize what the results will be; we can look to Britain and Canada. Obamacare will lead to rationing. It will lower the quality of care. And it will discourage the medical innovation we have come to expect in this country - the type of innovation that saved Carey’s life, and the lives of millions of others around the world. By and large, it is America where medical miracles are created, and I knew those future miracles and the finest health care system in the world was at stake.

So I started to talk to people. By the end of April, I discovered that in fact, I was that crazy. I stepped up to the plate and began my campaign to become a citizen legislator."