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Who’s Home Speaker Mike Johnson?

by Jackie Calmes

“MAGA Mike” received. Which suggests, alas, so did Rep. Matt Gaetz.

For Gaetz, the smarmy Trump Mini-Me from Florida, and his fellow Republican nihilists, the Home’s shock election of right-wing Rep. Mike Johnson, a previously obscure Louisianan (regardless of his huge function working to overturn Donald Trump’s defeat), amounted to candy, candy vindication.

Right here was Gaetz, chortling on like-minded Steve Bannon’s “Conflict Room” podcast Wednesday morning, in anticipation of Johnson’s election: “If you happen to don’t assume that shifting from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson reveals the ascendance of this motion and the place the facility within the Republican Celebration really lies, then you definately’re not paying consideration.”

Gaetz isn’t incorrect about that.

McCarthy in his nine-month reign principally pandered to the nuts, tradition warriors and election deniers in his Home Republican majority, ever frightened of the coup that lastly got here after he twice diverged from the extremist path to really govern — compromising with the Senate and White Home first to keep away from a debt default after which a authorities shutdown. However to the right-wingers, the shape-shifting McCarthy was all the time a poser.

At instances over the past 22 days, as Republicans proved too riven to select a brand new chief, Gaetz and his far-right cohorts had motive to fret that their coup would lead to little change at finest, and, at worst, that it’d backfire.

The Home rejected the suitable’s favourite to exchange McCarthy, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. Two different Republican nominees, Majority Chief Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, have been within the McCarthy mildew; their candidacies fizzled for lack of assist (and, in Emmer’s case, from former President Trump’s drive-by taking pictures). The deadlock gave rise to speak of some bipartisan association to run the Home — MAGA’s worst nightmare.

Gaetz may most likely hear what his Home Republican enemies, and there are various, would say: “Are you cheerful now?”

He’s after all very blissful now that an exhausted and completely embarrassed Republican caucus united to decide on Johnson, solely in his fourth Home time period, to be speaker and second in line to the presidency. Gaetz and Johnson differ big-time in fashion: Gaetz is in-your-face, Johnson so amiable and nonconfrontational that he’s “good friend to many and an enemy to none,” as Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York informed the Home in nominating Johnson. Therefore his unlikely elevation.

However in substance, Johnson is little totally different from Gaetz and his ilk. Johnson has described his relationship with Jordan, mentor to the far proper, as “like Batman and Robin.” However Johnson’s politics are extra infused with the conservative religiosity he demonstrated in his remarks accepting the speakership. He informed the Home of his absent spouse, “She’s spent the final couple of weeks on her knees in prayer to the Lord. And, um, she’s slightly worn out.”

Johnson’s opposition to abortion — he favors a nationwide ban — and to same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ rights and protections is nicely documented in his pre-Congress work as an lawyer for the socially conservative Alliance Defending Freedom. After the Dobbs choice overturned the constitutional proper to an abortion, Johnson advised that now ladies would produce extra “able-bodied employees,” whose payroll tax contributions would assist save Medicare and Social Safety.

CNN reported on editorials Johnson wrote in his hometown Shreveport, La., paper, by which he known as homosexuality a “harmful way of life” that finally may finish “the complete democratic system.” He claimed in 2004, “Consultants undertaking that gay marriage is the darkish harbinger of chaos and sexual anarchy that might doom even the strongest republic.”

Then there’s his behind-the-scenes authorized work after the 2020 presidential election to problem electoral votes in pro-Biden states. The New York Instances known as Johnson “crucial architect of the Electoral Faculty objections.” He enlisted most of his fellow Home Republicans in assist of a quick to the Supreme Court docket, but the justices declined to take the underlying case.

Late Monday evening after his nomination as speaker, Johnson joined different Republicans surrounding him in laughing at a reporter who’d had the temerity to ask about his “effort to overturn the 2020 election outcomes.” At his facet, Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina yelled “Shut up! Shut up!” Johnson, ever smiling, turned to a different reporter for a query.

He’s certainly the “smiling seditionist,” as longtime Republican strategist Mike Murphy posted on X. 

So, sure, Gaetz is celebrating; his dethroning of McCarthy led to the seating of a fellow MAGAt. However Democrats are feeling celebratory, too.

Within the 2022 midterm elections, two points — abortion rights and democracy safety — mobilized many citizens to elect extra Democrats and much fewer Republicans than each events anticipated. Democrats are relying on the identical points to work for them in 2024.

And with Johnson on the incorrect facet of each so far as most Individuals are involved, search for Democrats to make MAGA Mike an albatross round Home Republicans in swing districts. 

Jackie Calmes is an opinion columnist for the LA Instances in Washington, D.C.