Smart Politics, for Once

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson in the U.S. Capitol on December 6, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

After much sturm und drang inside the conference, a House Republican known for sucking up to Donald Trump is elected speaker. He quickly discovers that his new job is impossible: The populist and conservative factions among his members can’t get together to pass major legislation or, sometimes, even on basic procedural business. His members grow disillusioned with his leadership. He tries to soothe them with shiny objects, like pursuing an impeachment inquiry against the president and releasing footage of the January 6 riot, but it doesn’t work. Some of his colleagues begin referring to him as a “joke.” Rumblings of a motion to strip him of the gavel are heard.

“Yeah, we know the Kevin McCarthy story,” you might say upon reading that. I wasn’t describing McCarthy, though. I was describing Mike Johnson.

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