The Maga-fication of congressional Republicans is now complete | Lloyd Green
"On Wednesday, House Republicans rallied around Mike Johnson, a little-known Trump-loving congressman, and propelled him into the speakership. The Magafication of the congressional Republican delegation is complete.
After three weeks of infighting and internal bloodletting, so-called Republican moderates waved the white flag of surrender. The line between Republican and neo-Confederate grows dimmer by the day.
Johnson is more than just a garden-variety election denier and social conservative. Rather, he actively recruited his fellow Republicans to sign a legal brief asking the US supreme court to overturn the 2020 election. Apparently, the will of the people meant little to Johnson and his comrades-in-arms. Sixty per cent of them fell into line.
But it didn’t end there. Johnson peddled the same garbage about voting machines that got Fox into trouble. In the end, Rupert Murdoch’s rightwing network shelled out $787m to settle Dominion Voting Systems’s defamation suit.
“The allegation about these voting machines, some of them being rigged with the software by Dominion – look, there’s a lot of merit to that,” Johnson told Louisiana radio hosts less than two weeks after the election.
As Johnson sees things, the US is not a democracy. Rather, it is a biblically modeled republic.
Hours before Wednesday’s vote, Donald Trump returned favor, and gave him an unqualified endorsement. “Everybody likes him,” Trump told cameras waiting outside a Manhattan courtroom.
Two decades ago, Johnson supported the criminalization of same-sex relationships. “States have many legitimate grounds to proscribe same-sex deviate sexual intercourse,” Johnson wrote in a 2003 op-ed. “By closing these bedroom doors, they have opened a Pandora’s box.”
In Johnson’s eyes, privacy is a limited right, if it is a right at all. Coupled with his staunch opposition to reproductive freedom, Johnson looms as a turn-off to swing voters and suburban moms.
Given time, he may yet morph into a political poster child. More than seven in 10 Americans support legal recognition of same-sex unions, including 78% of independents and college graduates. As for abortion, lockstep Republican opposition and the supreme court’s decision in Dobbs probably cost the Republican party its much-anticipated red wave in the 2022 midterm election.
Ask Kevin McCarthy, the hapless and desperate deposed ex-speaker; he can tell you.
The election of Johnson follows the rejection of his fellow Louisianan Steve Scalise and the Ohio firebrand Jim Jordan, and the abortive candidacy of Tom Emmer, a Minnesota congressman loathed by Trump & co.
Emmer had the temerity to support the certification of Joe Biden’s win and marriage equality. In Magaworld, those are cardinal sins.
Johnson’s win is also a win for Matt Gaetz and Steve Bannon. Gaetz stuck a figurative shiv into McCarthy. He labeled Johnson a “transformational leader” who was “broadly respected in the caucus”. In the shadow of the scramble for the speakership, Gaetz also took a very public victory lap with Bannon looking on.
“Maga is ascendant,” Gaetz told the convicted Trump White House exile. Expect both men to possess outsized influence among the party faithful from here on out. The bomb-throwers are in charge.
Practically speaking, Johnson’s election is a blow to aid to Ukraine, and increases the likelihood of a government shutdown. The current continuing resolution led to the downfall of Kevin McCarthy, and expires in a matter of weeks. What comes next is anyone’s guess. McCarthy’s fall is now a cautionary tale.
A letter sent on Wednesday by Johnson laid out his legislative agenda. He anticipates passing a follow-up continuing resolution that expires in either January or April 2024. The letter also prioritized the condemnation of Hamas even as it omitted any mention of aid to Israel.
Hours later, the House adopted a resolution condemning the Iran-backed terror group, 412-10, with six members voting present. It was the first vote taken in weeks that had nothing to do with the operation of the House or the speakership.
Kentucky’s Thomas Massie was the sole Republican to vote nay. Predictably, “the Squad” channeled the sentiments of the unvarnished and unbowed left. Mainstream opinion meant little to any of them.
Then again, it doesn’t seem to matter all that much to the new speaker. In July 2020, Johnson voted against renaming military bases named after dead Confederate officers. Years earlier, Steve Scalise referred to himself as “David Duke without the baggage.”
In that same spirit, Scalise also spoke in 2002 at a white supremacist confab sponsored by Duke, the former Klansman and failed Louisiana Republican gubernatorial candidate. Two years later, in 2004, Scalise opposed making Martin Luther King’s birthday a Louisiana state holiday.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump only reluctantly distanced himself from Duke’s endorsement. In the aftermath of a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump defended the “very fine people” on both sides. He even heaped praise upon Robert E Lee, the defeated Confederate general.
Johnson condemned the rally, to be sure, but gave Trump breathing space. “I cannot and do not speak for the president or the White House,” he said at the time.
Old embers still glow. It is unlikely that Johnson or the party of Trump has any intention of extinguishing them.
Lloyd Green is an attorney in New York and served in the US Department of Justice from 1990 to 1992"