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…..