Republicans finally elected Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana as Speaker of the House of Representatives on Wednesday after a brutal journey of self-discovery. One by one, Republicans tried and failed to move forward with established party stars after kicking out their deal-maker Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the next in line, backed out before a vote could go to the floor. Rep. Jim Jordan, the rebel leader endorsed by former President Donald Trump was blocked by a determined group of establishment Republicans until they finally revoked his candidacy.
Trump got his revenge by sinking establishment-favorite Rep. Tom Emmer’s nomination with a single critical social media post, and Republicans were left exhausted. Finally, they unanimously rallied around Johnson, a man who had a strong enough record and not enough enemies to sink his chances.
Was it worth it? It might be, as Republicans of all political stripes were able to air their grievances, blow off steam, and test the limits of their perceived power. They ultimately emerged with a consensus.
A unanimous vote from the fractured party of the past three weeks was previously unthinkable. “The People’s House is back in business," Johnson said triumphantly after his election.
Democrats moved quickly to hoist Johnson’s past remarks against same-sex marriage and abortion, combined with his efforts to challenge the 2020 election as proof he was a threat to women and democracy. But Johnson’s character does not match the deranged MAGA Republican boogeyman they created.
In terms of policy, Johnson is mostly aligned with Trump and MAGA Republicans, favoring American strength around the world and security, freedom, and prosperity at home.
In terms of personality, Johnson is the exact opposite of Trump. Polite, and sincere, he demonstrated humility and piety in a sober speech after he was elected Speaker.
He reminded his colleagues of what he believed was the source of leadership. “I believe that Scripture, the Bible, is very clear, that God is the one that raises up those in authority, he raised up each of you, all of us,” he said. The moment of unity certainly felt like a miracle.
Johnson now has to deliver another miracle. It took 22 days for Republicans to finally choose a new Speaker. Now they have 22 days to get their work done, fund the government, and prevent a shutdown.
“Through adversity, it makes you stronger,” Johnson said after the vote. He now faces more adversity than he’s ever known, as the newly elected speaker with the least amount of leadership experience in the House.
His election as Speaker, however, suggests House Republicans are now more sober and more united after the exercise called into question their ability to govern.
The Johnson experiment will answer whether Republicans can win using a more sober presentation of their policies, separated from the theatrics of the past month. It might be just what they need to respond to the more serious problems that emerged in their absence.
Charlie Spiering is a Wyoming native who works in Washington, D.C., where he continues writing about the White House, Congress and national politics. A former writer for Breitbart News, The Washington Examiner and columnist Robert Novak, Spiering frequently returns home to the family farm in Powell to escape the insanity of Washington.