Election denialism, a concept soundly rejected by sane individuals and courts of law across the country, is now the prevailing ethos of the Republican Party— and that makes it increasingly difficult for the GOP to play a meaningful role in the governing of this country. The party’s fealty to fiction was made perfectly clear during the recent election of Mike Johnson, a heretofore unknown GOP backbencher and far-right Christian fundamentalist, as Speaker of the House.
Johnson brings little to the table in terms of legislative experience, nor has he ever shown the ability to work substantively with the other side of the aisle, which does not bode well for his ability to steer the congressional ship through the troubled times ahead. His views are far more in line with the Taliban than with the majority of Americans— he believes in a total national abortion ban with no exceptions, not even to save the life of the mother. That’s a view opposed by even most Republicans. For years, he’s expressed a vitriolic hatred of gays and lesbians and supports continued criminalization of sexual relations between even committed same-sex couples. That’s increasingly a fringe position, even within the GOP.
The Republican House caucus had already rejected the speaker bid of Ohio congressman Jim Jordan as moderates bucked his ultra-conservative record, then they went on to vote for Johnson who is, if anything, to the right of Jordan.
It may be that fatigue finally set in after three weeks of Republican-sponsored chaos in the House since the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. But Republican House members had far better options, including Minnesota Sixth District Congressman Tom Emmer, who brought extensive legislative experience to the table as a four-term member of Congress who served six years in the Minnesota House before that. He was also the GOP nominee for Minnesota governor in 2010, narrowly losing to Mark Dayton.
No one in their right mind would ever suggest Emmer was anything but a staunch conservative, but he made the ultimate error in a political party that has increasingly devolved into a cult-of-personality: He accepts reality and voted to certify the 2020 election results. That made him an untouchable to the MAGA hardliners and Trump himself sunk Emmer’s bid within hours of its announcement.
Johnson, it turns out, is like Louisiana’s version of My Pillow’s Mike Lindell, an increasingly pathetic true believer impervious to fact. It was Johnson, remember, who led the amicus filing by members of Congress in support of a ridiculous lawsuit filed by corrupt Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that sought to block the certification in four battleground states based on false claims.
The conservative U.S. Supreme Court quickly dismissed the bogus lawsuit, but that didn’t stop Johnson from continuing to push the legal theory behind it. Despite all the GOP rhetoric about voter fraud, Johnson and Paxton ultimately settled on a constitutional claim that the four states had made adjustments to their voting processes to protect the public health during a major pandemic, without authorization from their Legislatures, thereby invalidating their elections. It was a ridiculous argument on its face and they had exactly zero evidence to suggest the changes had led to any fraudulent voting, but Johnson and his backers at the time, who included our own Eighth District Rep. Pete Stauber, simply didn’t care. They were interested in retaining Trump in the White House, regardless of what the American voters had to say about it. And this is the man who could sit in the Speaker’s chair in 2024 when we could well face a rematch between the 2020 presidential candidates.
In the entire 169-year history of the Republican Party, it is difficult to imagine someone like Mike Johnson ever being offered the Speaker’s gavel before now. Unfortunately, a party that once stood for probity and law and order has come to be dominated by an individual in Donald Trump who is both a narcissist and an utterly corrupt individual who has lied to get his way and make his money his entire life. The party’s appalling transformation ultimately makes it unfit to govern a major country like the U.S. Governing, at its core, requires a recognition of reality and a willingness to put the interests of the country ahead of personal interest. Trump has never been willing to do that, and Mike Johnson won’t do it, either.
Which means the U.S. faces a bumpy road ahead.