Republicans settle on a Speaker – Somebody named Johnson

October 25th, 2023 by Tom Lynch

If it wasn’t apparent before, it certainly is now. The Republican Party, in electing Louisiana’s Mike Johnson Speaker of the House of Representatives, served notice today that its preferred position is filial, with heads bowed, genuflecting before the throne of Donald Trump.

Johnson’s qualifications for the post are minimal. A 51-year-old former conservative talk radio host and one-term Louisiana state representative, he is now in his fourth term as a Member of Congress. He ran the Republican Study Committee, a group of socially conservative lawmakers, and served as vice chair of the House Republican caucus, a low-ranking party-leadership post. Johnson has never chaired a congressional committee and will be the least experienced speaker in 140 years.

As Speaker, Johnson will need to oversee a large staff and manage a substantial national fundraising apparatus—and he is far from a prolific fundraiser, which is a key responsibility for party leaders. His campaign raised about $1.3 million in the 2022 election cycle, a fraction of the $28 million raised by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s campaign.

But Speaker Johnson does have one supremely important qualification for his new job—he is a dyed-in-the-wool acolyte of Donald Trump and the cult of MAGA.

So, what’s his record in Congress?

Johnson was a key player in former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. He not only voted against certifying the 2020 election results, he also helped rally over 100 House Republicans to sign a brief in support of a Texas-led effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn election results in four states won by then-candidate Joe Biden. Asked last night by a reporter about his role in attempting to overturn the election, Johnson responded “next question” as Republicans beside him booed.

Johnson supports rigid restrictions on abortion rights, as well as the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans. He has won consecutive A-plus ratings from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a Washington-based nonprofit that opposes abortion rights.

Last year, he introduced legislation that would have banned federally funded institutions from even discussing sexual orientation and gender identity. He has been a fierce opponent of gender-affirming care for trans youth.

Before arriving in Congress, he worked for a socially conservative legal advocacy group, wrote for his local paper defending laws that criminalized same-sex sexual relations, and expressed fervent opposition to same-sex marriage, CNN reported today. “Homosexual relationships are inherently unnatural,” he wrote, before going on to warn that legalizing same-sex marriage could be a slippery slope to allowing “a person to marry his pet.”

Johnson’s foreign policy positions could also become a divisive issue for him to navigate, as he has expressed opposition to continued funding for the war in Ukraine.

Matthew Green, a politics professor at Catholic University who authored a book on the historical role of House Speakers says, “The speakership is unique in the amount of skill that’s required to do well, and some of that comes from experience. It’s through experience that you learn the ins-and-outs of House procedure, you learn more about your colleagues, and you also get to know the dynamics of working with the Senate and with the White House and with the press. Those are things that Speakers have to deal with to a much greater degree than a rank-and-file member.” And, until this morning, that’s what Mike Johnson was—a rank-and-file Member. Now, he’s Clerk-of-the-works, chief cook and bottlewasher, El Supremo.

Asked today about working with Johnson on spending issues, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told CNN that she doesn’t know him and was going to Google him. That ought to tell you everything you need to know abut the 57th Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Over the recent past, the Republican Party has demonstrated considerable opportunistic ingenuity, but severely limited foresight. After 234 years as a nation, that ingenuity and lack of foresight have brought us to—Rank-and-Filer Mike Johnson.

The MAGA takeover of the Republican Party is complete.