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Mike Johnson’s MAGA Love Tap

To the extent that Republicans are still allowing Johnson some latitude, their open-mindedness mostly stems from the fact that Johnson is not McCarthy.
To the extent that Republicans are still allowing Johnson some latitude, their open-mindedness mostly stems from the fact that Johnson is not McCarthy. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
November 22, 2023

After 10 weeks of nonstop House speaker drama on Capitol Hill, one would think that Republican lawmakers—especially the anti-establishment MAGA types who fueled the crisis—would take the Thanksgiving holiday to cool off, see their families, give thanks that Kevin McCarthy is gone, and return to Washington with a less acute desire to kill one another. There is a hope among the party’s moderates, after all, that the hard-line caucus that forcibly retired McCarthy can temporarily ignore the demands of the far right base and give Johnson the air cover to negotiate funding for Israel and Ukraine (and the U.S., itself), and prove to the American people that the G.O.P. is still capable of… legislating. 

Alas, first they must deal with another inescapable reality of electoral politics: their constituents. “It’s good they are home to rest, but not good that their bases get them riled up,” one Republican lobbyist close to the Freedom Caucus warned me. He was proven right the very next day, when Chip Roy sent out a fundraising blast to his supporters citing a viral floor speech he delivered last week, begging his colleagues to “name one thing” that they’d delivered for conservatives. “When are we going to do what we said we would do?” he asked.