Taking The Country Down With Them

In the run-up to electing a Speaker of the House, Moira Donegan considered the underlying reason for the GOP’s chaos. She wrote that “Republicans have no interest in public service, an ideological hostility to functional government and an insatiable thirst for attention.”

As Donegan also noted, there are few, if any, adults in the GOP’s room.

The “adult in the room” is a person willing to make difficult compromises, a person willing to sacrifice vanity for pragmatism, a person with a clear eye of their own priorities and needs and more determination to achieve them than a desire to make a point.

What the Republicans need, she wrote, is

someone more level-headed and serious, someone willing to accept imperfect compromises and to subvert his own ego for the good of the party, someone who might even possess a quality that passes for dignity.

Evidently, someone who isn’t currently a Republican.

Donegan was writing before the House GOP settled on someone who is emphatically not the adult she described. Instead, the GOP chose a previously-unknown theocrat with a dubious past, a set of extreme rightwing bigotries and a total lack of any leadership experience.

Donegan’s essay was written just after Jordan and Scalise had both failed to grab the brass ring, and she pointed out that these men– both “extremists and election deniers, comfortable with white supremacy and willing to discard democratic principles.”–had “ascended to what counts for leadership in the Republican conference, not in spite of the depravity of their positions, but because of them.”

They are the products of rightwing political, fundraising and media apparatuses that incentivize candidates to move further and further to the right – and which have left the Republican party itself both unable and unwilling to impose discipline on its politicians…

In a project that spanned decades, Republicans and their allies built a vast conservative media infrastructure and developed an impressive skill for shaping and whetting the ideological appetites of their audience, creating a more and more conservative base.

And as we now know, Republicans proceeded to elect extremist and election denier Mike Johnson as Speaker. Johnson was aptly desscribed by Jamelle Bouie as a right-wing fever dream come to life.

Mike Johnson is neither a moderate nor an institutionalist. Just the opposite. A protégé of Jordan’s, he comes, as you have doubtless heard, from the far-right, anti-institutionalist wing of the congressional Republican Party. And while he was not a member of the Freedom Caucus, he did lead the Republican Study Committee, a group devoted to the proposition that any dollar spent on social insurance is a dollar too much….

And what does Johnson believe? He is staunchly against the bodily autonomy of women and transgender people and supports a nationwide ban on abortion and gender-affirming care for trans youth. He is also virulently anti-gay. In a 2003 essay, Johnson defended laws that criminalized homosexual activity between consenting adults. In 2004, he warned that same-sex marriage was a “dark harbinger of chaos and sexual anarchy that could doom even the strongest republic.” Last year, Johnson introduced legislation that has been compared to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, and he continues to push to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.

If Johnson is known for anything, however, it is for his tireless advocacy on behalf of Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

As Bouie accurately notes, Johnson is Jim Jordan in substance but not Jim Jordan in style, which was evidently enough to win him the coveted title. Media, which had previously ignored Johnson, has begun an “after the fact” investigation.

The Guardian, for example, found that Johnson is “a believer in scriptural originalism, the view that the Bible is the truth and the sole legitimate source for public policy.”

Chalk up his elevation to the speakership as the greatest victory so far within Congress for the religious right in its holy war to turn the US government into a theocracy.

Since his fellow Republicans made him their leader, numerous articles have reported Johnson’s religiously motivated, far-right views on abortion, same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ rights. But that barely scratches the surface. Johnson was a senior lawyer for the extremist Alliance Defending Fund (later the Alliance Defending Freedom) from 2002 to 2010. This is the organization responsible for orchestrating the 303 Creative v Elenis legal arguments to obtain a ruling from the supreme court permitting a wedding website designer to refuse to do business with gay couples.

There’s much, much more.

This delusional ideologue is Speaker of the House at a time when the U.S. faces a government shutdown and the global imperatives of two hot wars.

I suppose it could get worse, but I’m not sure how…..


  1. I fear for this country and the future of the world.
    I am a bit comforted in Democratic successes in last nights elections, but the forces of the Right are daunting. No matter. We can only do our best and let go of the results.

  2. “I suppose it could get worse, but I’m not sure how…”
    I fear we’re going to find out. What patmcc said is definitely within the realm of possibility. TFG has already stated that when he’s elected (his “when”, not mine) the first thing on his agenda is to institute marshal law and start rounding up all of the “enemies” of his and the country. Can you say “gulag”?

  3. “Republicans have no interest in public service, an ideological hostility to functional government and an insatiable thirst for attention.”

    Replace “Republicans” with “Donald Trump” and Moira Donegan has described the masses of Americans who were released from “stand back and stand by” to act on their racist, bigoted, long buried hold on violence, to take action. Like releasing caged wild animals on the public they have united and will win unless the public faces the reality of uniting with those they disagree with. I view those in the Democratic faction who refuse to unite to be the ones with that “insatiable thirst for attention.” All the so-called MAGA, White Nationalist, Freedom Caucus needed was to be freed from the cage of restraint and common sense.

    We are now living with what Yeats described as “The Second Coming”:

    “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,…”

    “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

    Our “centre” did not hold and the beast released anarchy upon us as the world watched. The beast used the words of W.C. Fields to accomplish this feat; “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” The baffled ones will continue following the beast and will amass as they did on January 6th; we have another, greatly increased in numbers, insurrection ahead if we do not unite as strongly as the Trump faction has. That is their strength and that is how their minority is in control; a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

    “I suppose it could get worse, but I’m not sure how…..” Look at those red numbers nationally from yesterday’s elections.

  4. Republican “leaders” don’t need to be disciplined as long as Republican voters are, and independent and Democratic voters aren’t.

    What I really want to know about Speaker Johnson, though, is with he and his wife making just over $200,000 a year, how is it he claims to have no assets on his financial filings?

  5. Republicans are at war with our liberal democratic Constitution because they don’t want a Federal Government with the powers determined by it that they can’t have control of.

    Trump has succeeded in bringing the GOP down as a relevant political party.

    We have to just keep insisting through our voting that their extinction happens.

  6. I suggest readers go to Hubble’s column today for a realistic view of the Democratic victories yesterday and stop
    repeating the misinformation much of the media is publishing. Democrats have scored victories 4 straight elections.

  7. Polls can be so easily skewed that I place very little trust in them even when they are telling me what I want to hear. The recent ones showing Trump leading Biden I trust not at all. The actual election results show a very different picture.
    Back in 2020 I put a sticker on my water bottle that says “The blue wave is coming.” It was and it still is, building strength as the MAGAs become more and more extreme.
    I try to restrain my natural urge to forecast the future but I think the Trump minions should be reaching for their life jackets.

  8. Yes, the Dems have done well, even in Ky., with the Mississippi situation pretty much a foregone conclusion. Johnson is out of Louisiana, and a product of thoughtless southern bigotry.
    If the E.C. survives until the ’24 election, those 2 states will not have much clout.
    While it is unfortunate that SCOTUS killed off Roe, that has given the Dems something to rally around. Ohio rocks at the moment!

  9. Add that turnout for yesterday’s election was higher than usual; which means that more people were paying attention to the real issues and taking action.

    We need to keep the momentum going for at least another year (election cycle).

    I also suspect that a significant portion of the electorate is hiding its actual sympathies when asked by the pollsters because the actual margins are skewing opposite the predictions. Note that such things happen when people start worrying about who is going to rat them out (like it was in the Soviet Union, and still is in China). I particularly hate that there could be such an undertow developing in our country, but it could be necessary if TFG actually wins next year!

  10. They have been relying on ignorance and fear for decades. It’s no wonder there are no adults in the room. The GOP does represent their voters, quite perfectly.

  11. A tsunami doesn’t happen quickly. It builds and builds, drawing in more and more water as it does. When you see the tide go out below the low tide line, run for your life.

    We’ve been sucking in water for a while. It’s blue water and it seems to be building steadily. I’m hoping that it comes ashore in 2024. If the MAGATS continue to ignore the other 80% of the country, it just might happen. Don’t lose faith!

  12. I am of the opinion that election deniers should be removed from Congress. We do not live in a constitutional world (other than the electoral college) that gives cover to minority rule with the result that such deniers don’t really care who “wins” elections since such deniers only applaud the legitimacy of such electoral results when they win and automatically claim ballot box stuffing and other corrupt practices when they lose. Final illogical result? They never lose.

    “Elections” are therefore unnecessary and never were in such a world, and the “will of the people” is a meaningless but handy propaganda tool to feed a gullible polity. Apparently the democracy of the Greek agoras sharpened by the Florentine Enlightenment as interpreted by Madison and Jefferson are to be reinterpreted via baseless claims of corruption in every “election” which election deniers lose, and if they are successful, we will have witnessed a coup of our democracy and an inevitable return to authoritarian rule, probably of a fascist variety.

    Whether it’s a Herr Trump or Herr De Fascist or Herr Johnson in concert with radical right wingers who deliver the final blow to our self-governing experiment in democracy is not so important as the fact that we are vulnerable to such a possibility. So what to do? We can save our democracy by standing up to these fascist bullies and wannabe dictators by winning the ’24 election by such a margin that their claims of corruption will fall on deaf ears, and yesterday’s electoral results are, I hope, harbingers of things to come.

  13. This bit sums up, in my opinion, today’s iteration of Republican politics, not just the party:

    “..someone more level-headed and serious, someone willing to accept imperfect compromises and to subvert his own ego for the good of the party, someone who might even possess a quality that passes for dignity.”

    This description requires that the party in question exhibit core statesmanship. Clearly, they lack any semblance of that quality. When an entire party is cowed by a psychopath whereby they now openly display their utter corruption, stupidity and craven-ness, any rational people know that it’s time to clean out the rubbish. Sadly, at least 25% of our fellow citizens are absent a broom or a dust bin.

  14. Right you are, Vern; but if 25% of our fellow citizens have no broom then we of the 75% remaining should sweep out the “rubbish” en masse come ’24 along with the claims of the rubbish that we are the corruptors in the electoral process – which is pure projection.

  15. Johnson’s quoted comment relates to the fact that he believes the Roman Empire fell do to its acceptance of homosexuality. (Note that he has his history backwards, of course. The earlier Empire was quite accepting of homosexuality. In the Empire’s later years, Christianity was coming to the fore and homosexuality was more and more frowned upon. So, it flourished when it was accepting, and fell when it wasn’t.)

    He also is a proponent of software that watches his family’s computers for indecency. (He may have a stake in it, as well.) Basically, he and his son are in a partnership where they get reports on each other to make sure neither looks at porn.

    He is against abortion, obviously, but also birth control in any form.

    He is not only a terrible, bigoted, misogynistic theocrat; he is an absolute loon.

  16. This series of events, with Mike Johnson at the head, could be the event that led to the disaster that many of us have urgently worked for and the culmination of the saying “be careful what you wish for”. These people, in their authoritarian proclivities, have rigid motivations and the inability to seriously plan for and consider the common good. Their fever dreams and goals run against the very wall they hate and fear but which led in that direction all along. It only was a question of time. They wanted, worked and yearned for the eradication of Roe, and when it happened, instead of disappearing, the dream became a nightmare and metastasized, blowing up in their faces and that 70% of the nation became reality.

  17. John H. mentions that old canard about how Mike Johnson mentions (in his authoritarian assuredness) how Rome fell, but instead of Mike Johnson’s statement that it fell because of “homosexuality”, the historians and archaeologists who seem to know the facts assert that it was probably for a hundred or so reasons. Thanks, John, for mentioning it and your thoughts on the matter. People who know understand that this is a pretty complex scene.

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