After a grueling, 22 day-long process, House Republicans were finally able to rally around a single candidate and unanimously elected Mike Johnson as the 57th Speaker of the House. Johnson’s election was the conclusion of a long and drawn out process that rendered Congress effectively non-existent and exposed the deep divides among the House GOP. Despite the resolution of this ordeal, there’s one big question that’s been lingering among Americans: Who the hell is Mike Johnson?
Let’s start with the basics. Johnson represents Louisiana’s 4th congressional district, which covers a large portion of northwestern Louisiana, and was first elected in 2016. As a fourth-term congressman, his roughly seven year tenure makes him the least experienced Speaker since 1883. He quickly rose up the ranks of the Republican Conference by becoming the chair of the Republican Study Committee, the largest ideological faction of House Republicans, in 2019. He then joined conference leadership by taking the role of Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference in 2021, making him the 5th ranking House Republican. Upon Kevin McCarthy’s removal, Johnson initially declined to be a candidate. But as the rest of the conference collapsed upon itself, Johnson channeled the frustrations of the flailing majority to cruise to the speakership and become the highest ranking Louisianan in American history.
Compared to his loudmouth colleagues, Johnson exudes a very calm and calculated demeanor, which is part of the reason why he’s largely unknown to the general public. But under his Rick Moranis-esque look lies an extremely conservative man who will push the Republican majority further right than ever possible under McCarthy. Thanks to his low-key presence, his uber conservative record has gone virtually unnoticed until his ascension to the speakership. Now, under the hot spotlight that comes with the speakership, Johnson’s record needs to be heavily discussed and criticized.
First and foremost, Johnson played a pivotal role in Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. As Trump spewed lies about the election on his now-dormant Twitter account, Johnson worked behind the scenes in the House to rally support among Republicans on behalf of Trump to sign an amicus brief in support of Texas v. Pennsylvania. This lawsuit centered around challenging the results in four battleground states that Biden narrowly won, despite the lack of evidence of widespread fraud. Though the suit was rejected by the Supreme Court in a rare moment of dignity for them, Johnson’s efforts resulted in 126 House Republicans signing the brief, a majority of the conference’s members. As a reward for his hard work, Republicans have made a full-fledged election denier their Speaker. As disappointing as it is to have a speaker who now has the platform to undermine faith in American democracy like no speaker has before, it’s an accurate reflection of the Trumpublican Party today that continues to hyperfixate on the 2020 race.
Though Johnson’s stance on elections may seem problematic, his stance on abortion is even worse. He is outspokenly pro-life, or as George Carlin would say, anti-woman. Johnson once published an op-ed in 2005 that called abortion “a holocaust that has been repeated every day for 32 years, since 1973’s Roe v. Wade.” This statement alone shows Johnson’s colors as a god-fearing abortion hardliner. His record in Congress takes it way further. Johnson has an A+ grade from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a pro-life organization, for his efforts to bring radical anti-abortion bills to the House floor. The most notable and absurd of these bills was one that declares that life begins at conception, which thankfully didn’t make it out of the House Judiciary Committee. He also celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade and has proposed legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. With Johnson as speaker, the Christian Right now has a mouthpiece that they can use to push for legislation that would destroy the rights of women in this country.
But his most extreme and out of-touch stances involve LGBTQ rights. Continuing the influence of his evangelical faith, Johnson is a staunch opponent of LGBTQ rights and is vehemently opposed to the existence of this community. He has called homosexuality a “bizarre choice” and even went so far to call for the criminalization of gay sex. He also proposed a federal version of Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill that targets LGBTQ students on the basis of the culture wars that Fox News needs to survive. His long record of homophobia and harmful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric only serves to strengthen this dangerous ideology that puts millions of Americans at risk.
Though he has only been speaker for a week now, Johnson’s record clearly shows an extremely conservative speaker that has appeased and done the dirty work for both the Trumpian and evangelical wings of the Republican Party. He’s a master at advocating for hardline policies while staying out of the limelight, though he cannot hide anymore. It remains to be seen whether Johnson will be an effective speaker or not, but he will almost certainly go down as one of the most conservative.