After three weeks of disarray and bitter infighting, House Republicans on Wednesday finally got their act together to perform what historically has been one of the easiest tasks for a majority party: electing a new speaker. The man who secured one of the most powerful perches in US politics is Mike Johnson, a fourth-term Louisiana Republican, who somehow convinced Republicans to stop eating each other alive and get behind his nomination.
But to interpret Johnson’s success in uniting a deeply fractured party as evidence that more reasonable times are ahead, or that his relative anonymity before this week could mean he leans more moderate, would be a serious error. In fact, the biographical details that have emerged since Johnson’s elevation outline the contours of an extreme Christian nationalist and MAGA Republican who will now yield immense power over what reaches the House floor and committee assignments; they have the authority to shape the federal government in ways that benefit their party’s platform.
That new power warrants a closer examination of Johnson’s record, which includes support for a nationwide abortion ban and his chief role in assisting Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. Here’s a collection—and perhaps a blueprint of where things are headed with Johnson in the speakership.
Opposes same-sex marriage
Johnson, a devout evangelical Christian and former spokesman for the Christian legal group the Alliance Defending Freedom formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund, has a long record of deeply homophobic, anti-LGBTQ views. In a 2004 op-ed unearthed by CNN this week, Johnson warned that the legalization of gay marriage would open the doors for people to marry their pets, paving the way for “chaos and sexual anarchy.”
“If we change marriage for this tiny, modern minority, we will have to do it for every deviant group,” Johnson wrote. “Polygamists, polyamorists, pedophiles, and others will be next in line to claim equal protection. They already are. There will be no legal basis to deny a bisexual the right to marry a partner of each sex or a person to marry his pet.” Johnson also penned a 2003 piece that criticized the Supreme Court’s decision striking down sodomy laws:
Here's House Speaker Mike Johnson in 2003 denouncing the Supreme Court for throwing out sodomy laws. Johnson said states had a right to criminalize homosexuality, and even suggested that the government should be allowed to ban any sex outside of marriage. He's a Christo-fascist. pic.twitter.com/ohxYkTd6gM
— Mark Jacob (@MarkJacob16) October 25, 2023
In 2022, Johnson introduced federal legislation modeled after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans classroom instruction on gender identity and sharply restricts discussion of LGBTQ issues in public schools. “The Democrat Party and their cultural allies are on a misguided crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology,” Johnson said when he announced the legislation.
The newest House speaker’s staunchly anti-abortion views have earned him a stellar A+ rating from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. Johnson also supports a national abortion ban, blames abortion for school shootings, and wants to defund Planned Parenthood. Here’s Johnson celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
And now… FINALLY… because Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer and Louisiana is now a proudly pro-life state— we will get the number of abortions to ZERO!!
EVERYONE deserves a birthday. Thanks be to God. pic.twitter.com/DSMDNVs0yn
— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) January 21, 2023
Wants to slash safety nets
In an absurd merger of his anti-abortion stance and eagerness to cut safety nets, Johnson once claimed that abortions were responsible for forcing Republicans to push for spending cuts, insisting that if more women were compelled to bring “able-bodied workers” into the economy, the GOP wouldn’t need to go after Medicaid and Medicare.
During a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. Mike Johnson attacks Roe v. Wade, insisting that if only women were compelled to bring more "able-bodied workers" into the world, Republicans wouldn’t need to slash Social Security and Medicare. pic.twitter.com/RGzg09TYEW
— House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) October 25, 2023
Pro-fossil fuels and doubts climate change
The New York Times reports that Johnson received more campaign donations from oil and gas companies than from any other industry last year. So it’s no surprise that his record is littered with climate-denying remarks, including questioning in 2017 whether human activity such as driving SUVs was more responsible for climate change than Earth’s “natural cycles.” He also has a 100 percent rating from the American Energy Alliance.
Incorrectly believes the election was stolen
As my colleague Jeremy Schulman noted after Johnson’s election, the chief architect behind Congressional Republicans’ efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory is now second-in-line to the presidency. When a reporter dared to ask about those attempts this week, here’s the downright chilling response from Johnson and a group of Republicans standing beside him.
Reporter: You help lead the effort to overturn the 2020 election results, do you—
Republicans: *boo* shut up pic.twitter.com/L7R5fwhpIi
— Acyn (@Acyn) October 25, 2023
Supports “covenant marriages” and is in one himself
In 2005, Johnson spoke publicly about his “covenant marriage,” which under Louisiana law, mandates multiple rounds of counseling before a married couple is permitted to seek a divorce. Ending the marriage is still only allowed when certain criteria are met. If that sounds a whole lot like fault-based divorce, you’re right. My colleague Katie Herchenroeder has a terrific piece on how such laws enshrine traditional notions of marriage, making it exponentially more difficult for victims of abuse to escape their situations.