With his bland demeanor and restrictive morality, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is the complete opposite of the rampaging id of Donald Trump. But as the man who will control the House when the 2024 election results are finally decided, Johnson may be the person who paves the way for Trump to return to power.
Prior to being elected speaker of the House, Johnson was primarily known for having pushed hard in support of a bogus lawsuit brought by right-wing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Paxton’s suit attempted to invalidate the results of other states on the grounds that they changed their voting rules without consent from their legislatures. (The states made mail-in voting easier during the pandemic.)
Johnson once said “the founders wanted to protect the church from an encroaching state, not the other way around.”
Johnson sent a message to all Republicans in Congress with the heading, “Time-sensitive request from President Trump.” Johnson asked that all Republicans sign onto a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Texas challenge, noting that Trump “will be anxiously awaiting the final list to review.” About 100 members did sign onto the brief, but the suit was rightfully thrown out of court.
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As a constitutional lawyer, Johnson should have – and probably did – know better than to think that suit was legitimate. But Johnson is answering to what he thinks is a higher authority: his version of God. And that gives him authority to violate the Constitution for what he deems is the greater good.
There’s proof standing right outside Johnson’s Congressional office: a Christian nationalist flag. A report in Rolling Stone verified that Johnson has a flag with an evergreen tree with the words “An Appeal to Heaven” on it. The flag may look harmless, but it is the banner that has become a symbol of Christian extremism. Its main promoter, an evangelical leader named Dutch Sheets, was an early supporter of Donald Trump and, according to the authors of the Rolling Stone article, played a bigger role in the January 6 insurrection than any other Christian leader.
As for the flag, on January 6, “There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of them punctuating the crowd, including even on the front lines of clashes between rioters and Capitol police officers.”
This is the flag that the speaker of the House has chosen for a place of honor.
The flag represents both the willingness to overturn a fair election and the willingness to do so in the name of God. Having shown his hand once, why doubt that Johnson wouldn’t try again? This time, however, he would have far more power as the speaker than he did as a mere backbencher.
It’s not as if Johnson is so much a fan of Trump, the man, as he is of what he can accomplish under a Trump presidency. Top of Johnson’s list is his anti-LGBTQ+ agenda. Democrats are trying to make an issue out of some of the dead-on-arrival bills that Johnson is letting Republicans introduce in the House, including measures that would ban Pride flags at federal agencies and funding for gender-affirming care for minors.
But those are small potatoes compared to what the second Trump administration is willing to take on. Trump has assembled a group of hard-core believers who are willing to prosecute Trump’s opponents, fire civil servants en masse, and create the equivalent of concentration camps for undocumented immigrants prior to deporting them.
Meanwhile, Trump himself has made it clear that he will stop at nothing to punish his perceived enemies.
“We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections,” Trump said last Friday, echoing language Adolf Hitler used to describe Jewish people.
And who do you think will number among Trump’s enemies? You can bet that, except for lackeys like Richard Grenell, LGBTQ+ people will be considered radical left thugs.
Which will be perfectly fine with Johnson. Denying and diminishing our rights has been his life’s work. Trump can be the vehicle for Johnson’s vision of a Christian nation. It’s the perfect match.
If all it takes to get there is to steal an election, you can bet that Johnson will be more than willing to do so.