On the MAGA madness in Congress and the country Skip to content

On the MAGA madness in Congress and the country

The House Republicans have chosen a far-right Christian nationalist Trump supporter with a good smile and pleasant personality. What does this tell us?

5 min read

Congressman Morgan McGarvey is happy the House of Representatives can finally get back to conducting the people’s business.

But in a statement, the Louisville Democrat warned that the new speaker, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, is “a far-right Republican” who reflects the “unpopular and extremist views” of the GOP’s MAGA wing.

Every Republican present voted to elect Johnson, proving, “MAGA is ascendant," bragged firebrand GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. Like Johnson, Gaetz is among Trump’s staunchest supporters in Congress. (Every Democrat voted for their leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York.)

But Gaetz-style bullying and demagoguery isn’t Johnson's MO. “Mr. Johnson’s hallmark in Congress has been combining his hard-line views with a gentle personal style,” Annie Karni wrote in The New York Times.

“Johnson is well-liked,” said veteran Kentucky journalist Bill Straub. “His voting record and his thoughts are not moderate, but his personality is. Johnson is right-wing.”

Relief was palpable among Democrats and other MAGA naysayers when Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the querulous Gaetz’s testy alter ego, failed to win the speaker’s gavel.

Yet it’s time to start worrying again, because “Johnson ... might be more dangerous than Jordan,” wrote Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. “For Jordan’s shirt sleeves demeanor and wrestler’s pugnacity, substitute a bespectacled, low-key presentation, a law degree, and an unswerving commitment to conservative dogma and former president Donald Trump.

“This is not an upgrade. It is Jordan in a more palatable package – evidently smoother, seemingly smarter and, therefore, potentially more effective.”

New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie described Johnson as “Jim Jordan in substance but not Jim Jordan in style, which was enough for Republicans to come together to make him leader of the House and second in line to succeed the president of the United States in the case of emergency.” Johnson, according to Bouie, is also “an election-denying extremist who believes that his allies have the right to nullify election results so that they can impose their vision of government and society on an unwilling public.”

Added Bouie: “The far-right extremism and open contempt for democracy that marks much of modern Republicanism is not an aberration. It’s not a spell that might fade with time. It is the Republican Party of 2023 and it will be the Republican Party of 2024. And while Trump may, for either legal or political reasons, eventually leave the scene, there’s no reason to think the Republican Party will revert to a state where the Mike Johnsons are back on the sidelines.”

Johnson’s “election ... proves the premise that all the GOP has left are Donald Trump and hate,” wrote Thom Hartmann in The Hartmann Report online. “In MAGA Mike Johnson (what Trump calls him), Republicans have found the perfect embodiment of their deplorable basket of hatreds. At this point, the only ‘loves’ they have are rightwing billionaires and the fossil fuel industry. And, of course, Trump’s good buddy and fossil fuel oligarch Vladimir Putin.”

Straub, a Kentucky Journalism Hall of Famer and Northern Kentucky Tribune columnist, said “Johnson is an election denier and that plays right into Trump’s hands.”

In her online “Letters from an American” column, historian and author Heather Cox Richardson wrote that “the House Republicans have caved to the MAGA extremists. Representative Pete Aguilar (D-CA) said that for the Republicans, the search for a speaker hadn’t been about looking for someone interested in 'growing the middle class, helping our communities, keeping the cost of healthcare lower, and making life for everyday Americans better.’ Instead, Aguilar said, ‘this has been about one thing … who can appease Donald Trump. House Republicans have put their names behind someone who has been called the most important architect of the [2020] electoral college objections.’ A Republican yelled back: ‘Damn right!’”

Johnson’s election means that “Christian nationalism just took the speaker’s chair,” said an email from the liberal Christian group Faithful America. The new speaker “rejects the separation of church and state, arguing that America should be a Christian nation.”

The email also said “There is nothing wrong with Christians running for office, and we should absolutely ask Jesus to guide us in everything we do – including holding the values of love, equality, dignity, and justice in public life.

“But that does not mean using secular law to force others to adhere to our religion, and it does not mean stripping anyone’s freedoms to vote, marry, teach their kids, or seek reproductive health care. Christians in office should work for the common good – not just for straight, white, conservative Christian men.”

Liberal activist Michael Moore  wrote that the Trump party “is a cult, hell-bent on turning the U.S. into an autocracy fueled by the conceits of white supremacy and male Christian dominance over the reproductive rights of women.”

McGarvey recalled that “it took House Republicans more than three weeks and four speaker votes to overcome their own civil war and install Rep. Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House.” The Kentuckian then asked, “And for what? To reach any consensus, traditional Republicans still had to bow to the most extreme wing of their Party.”

The freshman lawmaker said the new speaker “played a key role in trying to invalidate the 2020 election results, supports a national abortion ban, and has introduced a federal ‘don’t say gay’ bill to further isolate vulnerable LGBTQ youth. It’s unconscionable that House Republicans essentially halted all legislative business for nearly a month and ignored the bipartisan path forward offered by House Democrats so they could settle internal scores and weaken the institution.”

Even so, McGarvey, the only elected Kentucky Democrat on Capitol Hill, is “at least relieved we can resume our work to keep the government open and send critical aid to our international allies.” He pledged that “regardless of which party is in power, Democrats remain united and will continue our work for the American people.”

Nonetheless, polls show Trump way ahead in the race for the GOP nomination. He and Biden are neck and neck, also according to most polls.

“You’d have thought the Republican Party would have collapsed by now given that they have a leader who is facing four indictments,” Straub said. “Yet the indictments seem to have enhanced Trump’s support within the Republican Party, and he controls every lever in the party.”

In an aspirational call, Moore urged the American people to vote every Republican out of office a year from next month. “There are no ‘good’ Republicans. They proved ... by their vote that they do not believe in the Constitution of the United States of America. None must remain in the Senate or House in 2024 if you believe in democracy.”

He charged that “the Republicans are not with us, the people. They are with the 4-times arrested crime boss, indicted on 91 felony counts, along with his 18 co-conspirators charged with multiple crimes of racketeering and attempting to steal voting machines and overturning a legally verified election in what the Department of Homeland Security has called ‘the safest, most secure and most accurate election in the history of the United States of America’ — and the only time a sitting President has committed numerous felonies to rig said election results in order to hold onto his seat in an office the American people clearly and forcefully voted to remove him from — by over 7 million votes!

“Our job is to end this madness.”


Print Friendly and PDF

Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY