For the last three weeks, the Republicans controlling the US House have been battling over who to choose as the next Speaker, and they’ve finally agreed on Mike Johnson, a fundamentalist Christian from Louisiana.
Who is Mike Johnson?
Mike Johnson is a congressman from Louisiana. He’s currently in his fourth term.
On October 3, the previous Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, was removed by Republicans frustrated with his willingness to work with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown. That kicked off a bitter power struggle, with multiple people seeking to claim one of the most powerful political positions for themselves.
Choosing a new speaker was no easy task. The fighting was fierce, tempers flared, and leading candidate Jim Jordan saw his hopes crushed after multiple failed votes.
In Jim Jordan’s shadow
With Jordan’s campaign dead in the water and the party increasingly embarrassed by the lengthy power struggle, Mike Johnson was elected Speaker. It seems his relative obscurity was a factor in his selection.
Mike Johnson, the somebody
Of course, Johnson was only obscure relative to some of his more infamous Republican colleagues. Once he was elected, people began investigating his political history.
The internet reacts
Many were not happy with what they found. Johnson is a deeply religious Christian. He’s previously said that his “faith informs everything” he does.
Johnson’s religious crusade
That apparently means opposing LGBTQ rights and abortion. Before becoming a politician, Johnson worked for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a hate group.
Johnson vs. abortion
Johnson’s opposition to abortion is particularly strict. He has previously claimed that the medical procedure costs the economy and able-bodied workers.
A vision into dystopia
Johnson’s views on women’s rights prompted the internet to make comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale. Russell Drew, for example, said, “Mike Thompson is from the Republican Party’s ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ wing. Super far right on social issues.”
Sergio Grant made a similar comment, asking, “If Mike Johnson stays Speaker for long enough, The Handmaid’s Tale is going to become a documentary, isn’t it?”
The Internet vs. Mike Johnson
“It seems like Mike Johnson wants to turn the United States into the ‘Handmaid’s Tale,’” posted Trixie. “This man’s ideals are TERRIGYING!” “He is the personification of a great many things a large majority of Americans oppose,” wrote Rick Petree. “Straight out of The Handmaid’s Tale,” replied Ingrid, attaching a video of Johnson claiming banning abortion would compel women to birth additional “able-bodied workers.”
Some pretty big names have already waded into the fray. George Takei posted an old opinion piece in which Johnson argued that states should “discriminate” against “homosexual conduct.” “He is a Christo-Nationalist zealot,” Takei concluded, “of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ variety.”
An accurate characteristic?
The Handmaid’s Tale is a famous dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. In the book, the US has been replaced by an authoritarian Christian state, which forces the few women who are still fertile to give birth to children for the elites.
Is Mike Johnson totalitarian?
Another major source of discontent over Johnson’s appointment to Speaker is his involvement in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election. He wasn’t just a participant: The New York Times called him the “most important architect of the Electoral College objections.”
As the last month has shown, being elected Speaker does not mean you’ll stay Speaker. Johnson may well find the task of balancing his extremist views with the need to work with moderates and Democrats impossible.
Creation Museum controversy
From women and LGBTQ rights to believing that Earth is a few thousand years old, the new House Speaker has some amusing and dangerous ideas about the world.
Johnson is not an experienced politician
The newly elected House Speaker was first elected in 2016, representing a Louisiana district. He chairs a newly created select committee on “Weaponization of the Federal Government.”
A New York Times article dubbed Johnson “the most important architect of the Electoral College objections” on January 6, 2021. Johnson did not answer what is his current stance on the 2020 elections. However, the Washington Post warned how “Johnson could use his new job to influence the outcome of the next presidential election, should he still be speaker in January 2025.”
Johnson accused Democrats of waging “a misguided crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology.” He cosponsored Marjorie Taylor Greene’s bill, Protect Children’s Innocence Act, but when it comes to guns, he said,
“Problem is the human heart, not guns.”
His voting tells a story
NBC News reported that Johnson voted against establishing a January 6 independent commission, the infrastructure law, reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a modest new gun law, and the CHIPS and Science Act.
Young Earth creationism
HuffPost dedicated a whole story to Johnson’s association with the evangelical movement “Young Earth creationism.” The movement’s teachers are that the Earth and its plants and animals were created all at once, 10,000-6,000 years ago, based on their understanding of Biblical genealogy. Of course, supernatural acts of God made everything at once.
Johnson, in his words
Johnson’s close ties to the Ark Encounter creationist theme park founder Ken Ham were highlighted. In an interview in 2021, the new House Speaker stated, “The Ark Encounter is one way to bring people to this recognition of the truth, that what we read in the Bible are actual historical events.”
Noah’s Ark attraction in Kentucky
Johnson also took Kentucky to court to retrieve tax incentives for the Ark Encounter, a “510-foot wooden replica of the biblical Noah’s Ark located off Interstate 75 in Grant County.” In 2014, he wrote, “Kentucky officials are smart to enthusiastically embrace the Ark Encounter, and the millions of tourists the park will welcome to the area from every viewpoint, race, color, religion, and creed.”
More of the same
The House Speaker added, “Answers in Genesis aims to encourage critical thought and respectful public debate about the various attractions and ideas that will be presented at its park, and that is the beauty and essence of free speech.”
People lived with dinosaurs
Johnson talked about Ham, calling him a “dear friend.” On the other hand, Ham wrote in his book, “We can say, 100 percent absolutely for sure, that people lived with dinosaurs!” Johnson’s congressional office has not responded if Johnson truly believes Earth is 6000 years old.
All this could be problematic
Rachel Laser, the president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said, “His policy agenda appears to be in lockstep with that of a shadow network of Christian nationalist groups in our country or working to preserve traditional power structures and win privilege for conservative Christianity.”
Talking to HuffPost, William Trollinger, the author of “Righting America at the Creation Museum,” said, “Young Earth creationism is very much a part of MAGA culture. There are very few politically moderate young Earth creationists in the United States.”
People are questioning everything
A person on Reddit wrote, “Who’s truths? I’m not impressed.” Another stated, “Fresh take from the party of alternative facts.” This person added, “Firing up the Christian evangelical core ahead of next year’s election is exactly in the navel-gazing Gingrich playbook.”
“I am not going to make an Endorsement in this race, because I COULD NEVER GO AGAINST ANY OF THESE FINE AND VERY TALENTED MEN, all of whom have supported me, in both mind and spirit, from the very beginning of our GREAT 2016 Victory. In 2024, we will have an even bigger, & more important, WIN! My strong SUGGESTION is to go with the leading candidate, Mike Johnson, & GET IT DONE, FAST!” Trump wrote on his social media platform.
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