The election of the new Speaker of the House came in the shadow of a juxtaposition of portentous events. First, Donald Trump unleashed a torrent of disparaging remarks aimed at Judge Arthur Engoron’s court clerk. Yes, he actually did that. Later, after Johnson’s election, a rightwing nutjob in Lewiston, Maine, gunned down more than twenty human beings. Somewhere in there MAGA Mike Johnson of Louisiana was elected Speaker of the House.
Don’t let Mike’s mild looks, generic name and little-remarked-upon reputation fool you. MAGA Mike is a full-blown Trump-licking insurrectionist. In fact, the ONLY reason he found the votes is because he was one of the architects — some say THE architect — of the attempt by Trump and his gang of thugs to unlawfully foment a coup d’etat to take over the American government.
MAGA Mike isn’t known for being a cretin in quite the same way Jim Jordan is known for being a cretin. But MAGA Mike is every inch as bad as Jim Jordan — only with a jacket and a smile instead of a sneer.
Mike Johnson hates and is morally and politically opposed to abortion, gay marriage, everybody in the LGBTQ+ community, Social Security and Medicare. He is at the service of Donald Trump, whose impulse control is so bad that he actually verbally assaulted Judge Arthur Engoron’s court clerk again, got fined $10,000 and a dressing down by the judge for it this time.
Of the new Speaker, the ever-egregious Matt Gaetz said this: “MAGA is ascendant, and if you don’t think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement and where the power of the Republican Party truly lies then you’re not paying attention.” So pay attention, folks. This is one of those rare times when Matt Gaetz’ mouth is moving, sound is coming out and he’s actually not lying for once.
When Donald Trump wasn’t attacking Judge Engoron’s court clerk he also praised Johnson: “We think Mike Johnson is going to do really well, he’s popular, he’s smart, he’s sharp, he’s gonna be fantastic.” That opinion will remain intact for as long as Johnson does what Trump wants.
Johnson was one of the authors of the Texas amicus brief trying to overturn the election results in four swing states. He was the chief whip behind getting more than 100 other members of Congress to officially endorse that brief.
When a reporter asked Johnson if he was part of the effort to help overturn the election results she was met with a wall of MAGA jeering and calls for her to “shut up.” (The answer is “Yes,” by the way.) So Johnson did indeed try to overturn the election, he indeed won the Speakership for that reason, but you’d better not ask him about it if you know what’s good for you.
MAGA Mike is the author of three separate bills to ban abortions nationwide. Or as Johnson put it in a tweet, “It is time for the United States to move on from the inhumane practice of abortion.”
Johnson’s speakership, Trump’s renewed attack on Judge Engoron’s court clerk and the shooting in Lewiston are unrelated, of course. But they are part of America’s new sick symptomatology. They remind me that horrible American scandals like those are breaking faster and faster day by day. Just because the repugnant is becoming frequent doesn’t mean we should ever accept it as normal. It is not. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.