In Debate, Mandela Barnes Dismissed Union Members in 49 Other States (Analyzing the Lie)

I couldn't let this go without comment. In last night's election debate (October 13, 2022) between U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R) and challenger Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes (D), Barnes began his opening statement with a lie. 

"My story is a Wisconsin story, only possible here, being raised in a union household."  (Emphasis mine; video below.)

Mandela Barnes: "Only in Wisconsin"

WAIT, WHAT? Let's get this straight. NOWHERE ELSE in America, but "ONLY IN WISCONSIN," can someone be raised in a union household? Really? Is it possible that there are no "union households" in other states? Well, no, it's not.

Barnes's lie might seem like an innocent exaggeration. But it's not, really. It shows a willingness on his part to distort the truth, to fabricate his own version of reality, and to knowingly mislead voters. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about it is that some Wisconsin voters heard that lie, raised their clenched their fists in the air over their couches, and screamed, "Yeah, man, only in Wisconsin!"

According to a January 2022 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

"In 2021, the number of men who were union members, at 7.5 million, changed little, while the number of women who were union members declined by 182,000 to 6.5 million. The unionization rate for men decreased by 0.4 percentage point over the year to 10.6 percent." 

Put more simply, in 2021 there were 7.5 million men and 6.5 million women who were union members, for a total of 14 million. But the population of Wisconsin in 2022 is just under 6 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In other words, the number of union members in the U.S. is more than twice the total population of Wisconsin. But according to Mandela Barnes, his "story is a Wisconsin story, only possible here, being raised in a union household."

Only in Wisconsin? Nope. Let's return to that Bureau of Labor Statistics report:

Union Membership by State
In 2021, about 30 percent of the 14.0 million union members lived in just two states (California at 2.5 million and New York at 1.7 million). However, these states accounted for about 17 percent of wage and salary employment nationally.

There are, of course, union members (and union households) in every state, not just in Wisconsin. And, as the BLR report tells us, nearly one in three union members (30 percent) live in California and New York. So much for "only in Wisconsin."

The Barnes - Johnson debate was broadcast nationally by C-SPAN. I can't find the ratings numbers to see how many people watched, but I imagine there were some union members beyond the Cheddar Curtain who tuned in. Did it occur to those union members that they, too, live in union households and that Mandela Barnes had managed – albeit unintentionally – to dismiss their stories as meaningless and even non-existent? Let's hope the voters in America's Dairyland do not send Mandela Barnes to the U.S. Senate, thereby keeping him "only in Wisconsin." 

Barnes's opening statement begins at 3:21 in this video:

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