This election season, Chad Olson of Eau Claire is worried civil liberties in the United States are being eroded.
"It’s just so important that we have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and all those kind of things," Olson said. "That almost sums up America."
Olson is a pawnbroker who identifies as conservative and is not a fan of politicians. At a gun show in Chippewa Falls he said he plans to vote to keep Democrats from taking over Congress.
"I used to love the Democrats, by the way, for a couple different things," said Olson. "They always stood up for civil liberties. Now the Patriot Act, they got more power with the Patriot Act. They should have called it the 'reduction of civil liberties act,' it probably wouldn’t have gotten so much traction. And, (former Democratic Congressman Russ) Feingold was the only one who voted against that."
Olson said he’s even confronted Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Jonson, a Republican, about his continued support of the Patriot Act, which allows intelligence agencies to conduct electronic surveillance on U.S. citizens. He said Johnson told him surveillance is vital in the fight against terrorism.
"It’s just so important that we have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and all those kind of things," Chad Olson of Eau Claire said. "That almost sums up America."
Olson said he once supported Democratic candidates. But now, he said he’s voting to keep Democrats out of Congress partly because he sees the far left wing of the party embracing Democratic Socialist candidates like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who he does not support.
Olson is a fervent supporter of the Second Amendment and gun rights. But he said even more important is the right to free speech. Olson said he feels that incidents of students shouting down conservative speakers on college campuses in places like Madison, Milwaukee and across the U.S. are stifling freedom of expression.
"You know, people that come to speak at colleges and you have a big riot," said Olson. "Since when do college students not want to expand their horizons or hear an opposing viewpoint. You know? Are they afraid they might agree with them? I don’t know what their fear is."
Last year, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents approved a resolution that allows for the expulsion of students who repeatedly disrupt freedom of speech or freedom of expression on campus, citing similar concerns. The vote was met with some scrutiny and protests. State Superintendent of schools Tony Evers, who is now running as a Democrat against Republican Gov. Scott Walker, cast the only vote against the measure, arguing it would harm free speech instead of protect it.