Mike and Me: The journey of becoming all in

Jun 17, 2020 at 10:02 am
Mike Broihier is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.
Mike Broihier is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

Mike Broihier and his wife Lynn were leaving a teacher’s rally and protest for social justice a week or so ago when Mike slipped down his mask and a young woman noticed him. She asked, “Aren’t you running in the Kentucky Democratic Primary to go up against Mitch McConnell”?

Mike answered, “Yes, I am.” The lady then questioned, “Why didn’t you speak today, then”? Broihier replied, “I’m here as a teacher, not as a candidate.”

And he went on to say, “There is nothing I can add to what was said so elegantly by the speakers on the podium. I am here to stand with them and listen.”

There it is in a nutshell. The reason why Mike Broihier will beat Mitch McConnell this coming November and win Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seat that has been occupied by a despot for the last 36 years. Character.

In McConnell’s previous six elections, he has never run against a candidate like Mike Broihier. There are no gimmicks in Mitch’s bag of dirty tricks he can play against Mike’s unimpeachable character.

I don’t haphazardly make character judgments of political candidates. I was burned once before trusting a politician who turned out to be a flake. I let my emotions get in the way instead of being more wise and thorough in my research. Now, I do my own homework on candidates. I don’t allow partisan politics and big-money ads tell me how to think.

My journey of becoming all in for Mike Broihier has been a deliberate one.

I was finishing up my first year as a sixth grade teacher in the Jefferson County Public Schools system. Originally, I supported Amy McGrath, until I became disenchanted with her series of gaffes and flip-flops that included a vow to help enable Trump’s agenda and that she would have supported Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination and then not.

I voiced my frustration to fellow Army veteran and friend, George Wright, and he asked if I’d checked out Broihier. I hadn’t, but said I would.

I started with his website where I learned Mike and I had a lot in common. We’re both teachers and retired career military officers who served in combat. We’re writers, and Mike was an editor of his hometown newspaper in rural Stanford, Kentucky. He is also a farmer (and I like to eat).

What struck me was Mike’s depth of unique life experiences no other candidate possessed. In addition to being someone comfortable working with his hands, he was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley where he taught leadership. Mike is an intellectual.

I watched a March 5, 2020 debate of the then-four candidates. I viewed the video twice, observing Mike’s delivery, listening to his position on the issues juxtaposed against the other candidates. It was a no-brainer for me.

Broihier commanded the stage convincingly communicating that McConnell is an existential threat to our republic. More importantly, he was the only person who took the time to develop policies ranging from his support of Universal Basic Income, single-payer healthcare and criminal justice reform.

I think there are various levels of involvement in our democracy; the most basic is to vote. Part of that obligation is to perform your due diligence on the candidates you choose to support. I did that but felt the need to go one step further and really get to know the candidate I felt had the strongest possibility to win.

I reached out to Broihier’s campaign team to volunteer and support Mike. My intimate involvement in the mission led to my absolute conviction that Mike Broihier is the only candidate who can beat Mitch McConnell.

When I spoke to Mike’s staff, I told them up front I was a registered independent, having voted for Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians in past elections. I cast my ballot for the person — their character ­— and their platform, not the party.

It was inspiring working with Mike’s team, many of whom served on the Andrew Yang campaign team before Yang ended his run to be the Democratic presidential candidate. Andrew Yang endorsed Mike, along with former presidential candidate Marianne Williamson.

The Yang connection was an important one for me because I think Universal Basic Income is a game-changer to help eliminate many of the obstacles to attaining economic and social equity in America and create greater overall well-being for our most at-risk populations.

Another insight I gained from working closely within the campaign was the plan to defeat McConnell, which aligned perfectly with Mike’s strengths.

In the past, candidates running against Mitch focused almost exclusively on the 500,000 registered voters of the urban core in cities — Louisville and Lexington. In contrast, Mike would expand his reach into the rural areas where the other 3 million registered voters resided and where Mike lived and worked in Lincoln County since 2005 after he retired from the Marine Corps.

It’s a strategy focusing on all 120 counties in Kentucky, and that leverages Mike’s depth of experience as a farmer, teacher, veteran and former newspaper editor to connect with people of similar backgrounds and interests.

Mike prides himself on being a “bent-back asparagus farmer,” and that is something the majority of Kentuckians can relate to.

If you look at the demographics of voters in any past election, you have to win rural Kentucky. There’s no way around it.

However, understandably the focus of many voters right now is on what’s happening in our cities, particularly Louisville and the unrest there.

Herman Melville wrote in his book “Billy Budd,” “Let not warm hearts betray heads that should be cool.” And this is where I am currently in my journey with Mike and being all in for his candidacy to run against and defeat Mitch McConnell. As the June 23 primary approaches, we reside in a world that seems to be burning down around us with hate and divisiveness that Mitch McConnell is partly responsible for.

These are dire and soulful times as we demand justice for Breonna, David and George.

This is when we must take action by ensuring our nation is safe from six more years of Mitch McConnell. To defeat McConnell is both an immediate and long-term step to dismantling institutional racism and ending economic and social injustice that are so destructive to our republic.

This moment, this primary demands that we choose the right person to run against McConnell. We all must be all in and I believe the candidate to take that journey with is Mike Broihier.

Fred Johnson is a Jefferson County Public Schools teacher, 29-year Army veteran and volunteer with Mike Broihier’s election campaign and Restorative Justice Louisville, and he is co-founder of Shakespeare with Veterans.