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Ron Johnson Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson

Haley BeMiller
By Haley BeMiller December 28, 2020

Another year, another slate of politicians changing their tune on policy issues.

PolitiFact Wisconsin broke out its Flip-O-Meter a few times in 2020 to determine if officials had wavered on previously established positions.

Spoiler alert: They did. 

The Flip-O-Meter gauges whether a politician has been consistent on an issue. It doesn’t measure whether any change makes good policy or good politics.

Here’s a look back at the Flip-O-Meter in 2020. 

On whether the state should use surplus funds for ongoing expenses

-- Gov. Tony Evers

Earlier this year, Evers said he wanted to be cautious about the state’s projected $452 million surplus and not use it to fund ongoing expenses. A week later, he proposed using some of that money to boost school funding, which at least one outside expert said, as constructed, amounted to an ongoing expense.

At the same time, Evers had so far been consistent on what surplus money should be used for: Supporting education.

We rated this a Half Flip

On keeping inspectors general independent of the president

-- U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson

When inspectors general were up for debate in 2015, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican, spoke out strongly and repeatedly about the need for independence, saying they shouldn’t compromise their work "to appease the agency or the president." He specifically condemned the idea of retaliating against inspectors general for reports superiors didn’t like.

Of course, that was under a Democratic president.

When President Donald Trump, a Republican, removed several inspectors general for reasons many view as political, Johnson sang a different tune. He talked about inspectors general serving "at the president’s will," and how they "work and serve the president of the United States."

We rated this a Full Flop

On whether to nominate and confirm a Supreme Court justice in a presidential election year

-- Johnson and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin

Both Wisconsin senators, one from each party, changed course on this one.

The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg increased the temperature in an already divisive election cycle as Republicans scrambled to confirm a new justice ahead of Election Day. 

In many ways, the saga was a mirror image of 2016, when Republicans refused to hold a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland after conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died — much to the chagrin of Democrats who wanted a vote on then-President Barack Obama’s nominee. 

In 2016, Baldwin (a Democrat) pushed for a confirmation hearing while Johnson (a Republican) argued a nomination shouldn’t be made or confirmed in an election year. They both argued the circumstances were different this year, but at the end of the day, their positions changed.

We gave both Johnson and Baldwin a Full Flop. 

On the need for a smooth transition for the president-elect

-- Ron Johnson

Johnson has pushed legislation to streamline the presidential transition and called the process "one of the hallmarks of our democracy." But he was silent for weeks as the Trump administration held up the peaceful transfer of power amid a flurry of baseless lawsuits and wouldn’t acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the election.

We rated this a Full Flop.


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