Welcome to our weekly “Trumptastrophe” series, that will serve to remind us all of the destructive policies, decisions, and actions we encountered during the Trump presidency and the threats that he and others in the MAGA movement still pose – and to keep those moments clear in our memory as we fight to defeat Republican extremists during the upcoming elections.
This week’s recap focuses on the rise of new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson – a longtime supporter and ally of former President Trump and the pro-MAGA, Christian nationalist policies he seeks to advance:
The last week of October 2020, then-President Donald Trump interrupted his intense schedule of campaign rallies to host a celebration and swearing in for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whose confirmation was rushed through the Senate even as Americans were voting to dump Trump from the White House. Barrett was a favorite of Christian nationalist activists, some of whom declared that God had anointed her to serve on the Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade, which she voted to do at her first opportunity.
Barrett was closely aligned with the religious-right legal movement, having been paid at least five times to speak to students in the anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom’s Blackstone Legal Fellowship program. Blackstone trains young lawyers to advance ADF’s “biblical worldview” through the law and fosters their careers in pursuit of a stated goal to “recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.”
Unfortunately, sometimes history really does seem to repeat itself: this week another religious-right figure associated with the Alliance Defending Freedom rose to unprecedented power with help from Trump.
When House Republicans were scrambling to settle on a candidate for Speaker of the House after dumping Kevin McCarthy, one name that rose to the top was Rep. Tom Emmer. But Emmer was savaged by Trump, MAGA activists, and right-wing media figures, and withdrew his name just hours after winning a vote in the Republican caucus.
Trump then threw his support to Rep. Mike Johnson, who had been one of Trump’s most ardent loyalists. Johnson had denounced Trump’s impeachment and became a chief strategist of MAGA Republican efforts to stop congressional confirmation of President Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021.
Exhausted from a series of failed efforts to elect a speaker, House Republicans rallied unanimously behind Johnson on Wednesday, electing him before the American public had much of a chance to learn about him. Here are some things Americans deserve to know:
- Johnson is a former lawyer and spokesperson for the Alliance Defending Freedom and shares the group’s extreme opposition to reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality—positions that are opposed by large majorities of Americans.
- Johnson has defended legislation banning abortion without exceptions for victims of rape and incest and is a promoter of the extreme anti-choice “personhood” movement, which seeks to have fertilized eggs treated as full persons under the law and U.S. Constitution from the moment of conception, which would require a national ban on abortions and some forms of birth control.
- Last year, Johnson introduced a national version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would impose sweeping anti-LGBTQ censorship on public libraries, schools, military bases, and hospitals.
- In 2021, Johnson spoke at the WallBuilders ProFamily Legislators Conference, where he heaped praise on Christian nationalist pseudo-historian David Barton, saying that Barton’s work “has had such a profound influence on me and my work and my life.”
- Johnson has promoted anti-immigrant “great replacement theory” rhetoric favored by nativists and antisemitic white nationalists. He has repeatedly accused President Joe Biden of intentionally seeking to destroy America through immigration.
- Pastor and right-wing political activist Rick Scarborough calls Johnson a friend, and in 2019 celebrated that “God just elevated him to be head of the Republican Study Committee.” Johnson had announced and promoted his 2018 bid for that post on Family Research Council President Tony Perkin’s “Washington Watch” radio show, saying the RSC’s mission was to steer the GOP to the right.
- In his first remarks to the House of Representatives as speaker, Johnson suggested that God had placed him in power, saying he doesn’t believe in coincidences and citing a Bible verse about God putting people in positions of authority.
- Far-right activists were gleeful at Johnson’s election, with religious-right activist Rick Green declaring that Johnson is “one of our guys.” Right-wing activist Benny Johnson had a lot to be happy about, as he tweeted:
These are just some of the reasons we need YOU in this fight. So, find your favorite way to unwind after reading through our brief recap on the rise of Speaker Johnson, and then make a plan for how you will fight back THIS week, this MONTH, this election cycle.