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Mike Johnson: a "despicable bigot," and a hard-core Christian nationalist
The GOP's new speaker nominee may be more low-key, but he's as mega-MAGA as they come.
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The GOP, on its fourth try at voting for a new House speaker, nominated Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana late Tuesday night after Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, having been the nominee for less than half a day, threw in the towel.
And make no mistake: Once again, the GOP extremists are in the driver’s seat. The nomination of Emmer, who voted to certify the 2020 election and voted for the Respect for Marriage Act (which was passed and signed into law by President Biden last year to protect same-sex marriage from judicial assault), enraged the MAGA base, preventing Emmer from being able to get the votes to become speaker.
According to a source quoted by The Daily Beast, Rep. Rick Allen of Georgia caused audible “gasps” in a room full of Republicans on Tuesday when he told Emmer to his face, shortly after Emmer was nominated, “that the Minnesota Republican didn’t need to get right with him, he needed to ‘get right with Jesus.'"
Then came Donald Trump’s Truth Social screed against Emmer, calling him a “globalist RINO” who is “out of touch with GOP voters”—followed by Trump making calls to GOP House members to rail against Emmer—as Trump clearly became furious that the House speaker would be someone who is not a promoter of the Big Lie as he runs for president in 2024. Within four hours of being nominated, Emmer dropped out.
On the issues in question, Johnson is the complete opposite of Emmer.
An attorney, he proudly served on Trump’s legal team during both of his impeachment trials and voted to overturn the 2020 election results in the state of Pennsylvania. He signed an amicus brief in Texas v. Pennsylvania, the outrageous—and failed—suit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton with the Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn the election.
And Johnson not only opposes same-sex marriage in 2023, when over 70% of Americans support it (and, of course, voted against the Respect for Marriage Act); he introduced a bill in the House last year based on Ron DeSantis' odious “don’t say gay” law in Florida, meant to force LGBTQ students, teachers and parents into the closet. Grotesquely titled the Stop the Sexualization of Children Act, the bill tarred LGBTQ people with the “groomer” smear.
While serving in the Louisiana legislature, Johnson in 2015 promoted the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act, which would have allowed for discrimination against same-sex couples based on religious beliefs. This was at a time when states across the country had made marriage legal for same-sex couples—and as the Supreme Court was about to hand down the landmark Obergefell decision.
Baton Rouge Councilman John Delgado—a Republican—called Johnson a "despicable bigot of the highest order" for proposing the discriminatory measure, which would actually have given special status to people who acted “in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction about the institution of marriage.” (The bill was tabled by the GOP only after IBM and other large companies that the GOP relied upon came out against it.)
A Freedom Caucus member and anti-abortion zealot, Johnson cheered Trump’s Muslim ban, the very first racist action Trump took as president, saying it was meant to “protect our homeland.” He also promotes the racist “replacement theory” about immigration, claiming there’s an invasion on the Southern border—rhetoric that has inspired violence and mass shootings. As America’s Voice notes, he promoted the essence of the conspiracy when he actually stated in a tweet that Democrats are “TRYING TO TURN ILLEGALS INTO VOTERS!”
Johnson’s record isn’t much different from Jim Jordan's. However, Johnson, whom I interviewed at CPAC several years ago, has a friendlier, less bullying demeanor. He’s also much less well-known, someone below the national radar.
The GOP is counting on that to pull him over the line as it meets to vote today. Already, some of the fake moderates, like New York’s Rep. Mike Lawler, who were afraid to back Jordan because he was just too well-known as a MAGA warrior, have pledged their support for Johnson—even though on paper he’s no different from Jordan. Johnson is an election denier, supports draconian abortion restrictions, labels LGBTQ equality as dangerous, and answers to Trump.
Republicans like Lawler in districts Joe Biden won will try to use their vote against Jordan to court independents and Democrats in their tough 2024 re-election campaigns—claiming they did the “brave” thing—while counting on Johnson having had a relatively low profile. Democrats have got to make sure they can't do that by pointing to Johnson’s record, exposing him as a religious extremist, and showing that he is hard-core MAGA through and through.