With Election of New House Speaker, Trump Proves Just How Firmly He Has Republicans under His Control

After three grotesque weeks, there is finally a new leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. But calm is by no means returning to U.S. politics.

“Mike who?” Not only are interested members of the public currently asking this question, but so, too, long-time Republican members of Congress such as Sen. Susan Collins, who didn’t recognize the name of the new House speaker. When asked to comment, she rather openly and shockingly said she would need to Google his name. In fact, Mike Johnson has barely managed to attract attention during his seven years in Congress.

After staging a crazy coup against former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and three weeks of chaos, Republicans have elected a no-name to the third highest office in the U.S. Not that the party lacked for more experienced options, but Republicans had already recently burned their way through three of their own candidates. Two were not right-wing enough, and the third, Jim Jordan, was such an aggressive Trumpist hot-head that the few remaining moderates rebelled.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

Johnson clearly has more refined manners than Jordan, but he is in no way a moderate. The father of four from Louisiana is an ultraconservative evangelical. He voted against same-sex marriage and favors a national ban on abortions. In his acceptance speech, Johnson often spoke about God and apologized for his wife’s absence, saying, “I want to thank my dedicated wife of almost 25 years, Kelly. She’s not here, we couldn’t get a flight in time. This happened sort of suddenly,” and then followed that up with, “She’s spent the last couple of weeks on her knees in prayer to the Lord. And, um, she’s a little worn out.” Those are strange words for the leader of a modern, diverse democracy.

Johnson’s past is also problematic. After the 2020 presidential election, he was at the forefront a challenge to the election results in the Supreme Court and fought to block Joe Biden from taking office. This likely earned him Donald Trump’s support, which in addition to the House members’ collective fatigue, generated enough votes to get him elected. The result reveals frightening evidence of how strong a grip the former president has on his party. Anyone who knows Trump even a little knows what he expects for an endorsement: unconditional loyalty.

The circumstances under which Johnson begins his new job are very difficult. His party has disintegrated into a chaotic three-week power struggle. The House majority is just as narrow as it was for McCarthy, who was removed by a few right-wing desperadoes for no particular reason. Towering high above everyone is Trump, who can give the thumbs down anytime. Currently, the House has to pass a budget within three weeks by mid-November and also decide on aid for Ukraine and Israel with a number of Republicans questioning funding to Ukraine.

You have to admire Johnson a little for having the courage to take on such a kamikaze job. Now that Johnson has been elected, at the very least Republicans can debate and pass laws again. The Democratic Senate will put the brakes on right-wing culture war excess. The alternative would have been the permanent and complete inability of the U.S. to act during a dramatic global situation. It cannot get any worse, even with a reactionary backbencher.

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