Johnson’s unexpected ascension to House Speaker, prompted by divisions within the Republican caucus and disagreements over the ousted Speaker McCarthy’s initiatives, ignites a fiery debate over his religious and political convictions as he steps into a significant leadership role. Photo Credit: Wikipedia
In as unexpected a development as likely seen in some time, an obscure congressman from Louisiana ascended to Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. In becoming the third-ranking member of the US government, Johnson, now second in line to the presidency, rose to power after a few raucous members of the Republican caucus voted with the Democrats to remove Kevin McCarthy as Speaker. McCarthy, who had endured several rounds of voting back in January, fell victim to a rule he had agreed to when he took over as Speaker. The regulation allowed any member to move to vacate the Speaker if they disagreed with his actions. Matt Gaetz, a Republican congressman from Florida, expressed unhappiness with several McCarthy initiatives and moved to vacate. That set in motion a long and arduous round of fits and starts with various candidates, including Jim Jordan of Ohio, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Tom Emmer of Minnesota, and eventually Johnson.
Johnson, a compromise candidate, represents the 4th Congressional District from Shreveport, Louisiana. At 51 years old, he has held the district since 2017 and served in some leadership roles in the Party. His quiet demeanor, calm personality, MAGA connections, and legal skills set him apart from his competitors. After two weeks of wrangling, the Party needed someone to step forward, someone they could credibly present to America as a House Speaker and leader of the Party. His introduction caught most people off guard, and the press greeted his appointment with much consternation. It probably did not help when Johnson, an outspoken evangelical, made early references to the Bible. The Dominant media, ever eager to promote tolerance, finds those from the Christian faith who take the Bible seriously as particularly suspicious.
In his opening remarks, Johnson said, “I believe that scripture and the Bible are (very) clear that God is the one that raised (up) each of you, and God has allowed us to be brought here to this specific moment in time.” The fact that Johnson referred to the Bible, God, and the idea of Divine Sovereignty predictably set off alarm bells across liberal America. If those on the Left are going to react viscerally, it will always be toward someone who takes the Bible seriously. A leader who accepts God’s hand moving in history and articulates humanity’s accountability to a Sovereign and Superior Being strikes them as dangerously zealous. Talk about pouncing. The press, Democratic officials and the deep state were in panic mode after Johnson spoke.
Commenting on Johnson’s rise to power, Jonathan Capehart, the left side on PBS’ Brooks and Capehart, fumed that a quick visit to Google told you enough about the new Speaker. His uncomfortableness with abortion, same-sex marriage, and support of the so-called Don’t Say Gay Bill in Florida affirmed to liberals that he is the enemy. Capehart criticized Johnson for his lack of experience (he has never chaired a Congressional Committee), his dark holdings of chaos, and his far-right views that Capehart described as “making McCarthy (his predecessor) look like a moderate.” Capehart’s on-air sparring partner David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, chimed in his objections to Johnson because he took up the torch for Trump in 2020’s stolen election dispute and expressed discomfort with Johnson’s penchant for reflecting evangelical Christian nationalist ideas in his musings. Changing course, however, Brooks credited Johnson for an earnest start to his Speakership, calling his opening remarks exemplary, especially his love of institutions.
Johnson, for his part, has displayed a quiet confidence. His positions should be no surprise to anyone who follows American politics. His position on Ukraine and Israel is conventional. His demand to create two separate bills bothers many on the Left because they like large spending bills. Combining causes under one umbrella ensures opportunities to hide funding or pad the costs of adding IRS agents. Johnson undoubtedly possesses more skepticism about Ukraine than most. A lot of Americans are wondering how long American money will need to flow East while the nation also tries to contend with China and its threats to invade Taiwan. And that still leaves the complicated dealings with Israel, Hamas, the Palestinian people, and Iran. Johnson, however, sees the conflict as good vs. evil and leaves no doubt that he supports the Jewish state and its right to defend itself. Regardless, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the package lacked seriousness because it did not fund the programs Democrats wanted, leaving a resolution uncertain.
On the domestic front, Johnson makes no bones about his desire to reign in spending, address how Washington works, and return good stewardship to the government. His approach to the border reflects his party’s commitment to sensible spending and regulating problems with immigration. Johnson wants to couple security on America’s southern border with Ukraine funding because both speak to making America safe. Democrats oppose the proposal, but Johnson plans to make this a showpiece of his leadership. He wants to get control of the illegal crossings (6.3 million since Joe Biden took office), the fentanyl, human trafficking, and cartels making billions of dollars. Johnson faces the problem of a Continuing Resolution to deal with spending on top of these other priorities. In a deal brokered just before the deadline, he negotiated with some Democrats to work out a spending agreement. Some of the MAGA Republicans who helped bring down his predecessor were not pleased, but unless they wanted to undermine another Speaker and head down the same path, they would not try to vacate Johnson. The new Speaker looked at the circumstances – Democrats in control of the White House and Senate, Republicans with a slim House majority – and realized his options were limited. His bill was not much different than the one McCarthy had signed, leaving many to wonder what had changed. Johnson seemed to signal to these members that reality trumped purity for now.
Lastly, Johnson’s critics call his stances on social issues extreme and out of the mainstream. Some charge that he wants a total abortion ban with no exceptions. They claim he wants to criminalize abortions and opposes contraception and common forms of birth control. Johnson’s reply to these accusations includes a mix of admissions and denials. He professes to be pro-life based on his reading of the Bible and deeply held convictions. He acknowledges that his colleagues also hold convictions. That means consensus, not demand, will drive legislation. He argues he has not brought forth any legislation on these matters, and his priorities are clear. He wants to fund the government, handle the massive national security issues and reform how Congress works. Watching the new Speaker operate will determine whether Americans will feel comfortable placing trust in the GOP next fall after the unprecedented disruption to normal governing in October. Johnson seems ready to deal. How about those renegade representatives who sided with the Democrats to unseat the previous Speaker?
Dave Redekop is a retired elementary resource teacher who now works part-time at the St. Catharines Courthouse as a Registrar. He has worked on political campaigns since high school and attended university in South Carolina for five years, where he earned a Master’s in American History with a specialization in Civil Rights. Dave loves reading biographies.