This is how far the GOP has fallen: House Republicans on Wednesday unanimously elected as speaker a man who actively tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and would like to lock up people who get an abortion or provide gender-affirming care to minors. It’s not an overstatement to say that Americans, regardless of political affiliation, should be concerned about the future of our democracy.

The vote for Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana follows weeks of political turmoil after the removal of his predecessor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield. Until Wednesday, it seemed as if the Republican conference would be unable to unite on any candidate, given the deep divisions within the party.

On Tuesday, the party nominated Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, who is the party’s No. 3 leader in the House. But several right-wing Republicans indicated that they wouldn’t vote for him on the floor, and former President Trump chimed in with a social media post disparaging Emmer as a RINO — “Republican in name only.” Emmer withdrew a few hours later, presumably realizing that the extremists in the party would block him because of his decision to support democracy and certify the 2020 presidential election.

In the end, the hard-right MAGA faction won the day with the selection of Johnson, a 51-year-old little-known conservative congressman who gained notoriety for coming up with the legal argument that some members used to vote to block the certification of Biden’s win.

If there was any hope that the GOP would steer toward sanity and distance itself from the Trump sideshow, that hope is gone.

It’s still unknown where Johnson will lead the party on important issues, though he is a vocal opponent of reproductive rights and gay marriage, and happy to impose his evangelical views on the rest of the country. It’s also unclear if he has the skill to avoid a looming government shutdown. But it’s fair to say that Ukraine aid is now in serious jeopardy. Johnson is among the Republicans who are skeptical of continued financial support for Ukraine as it fights to turn back an invasion by Russia, and voted against two appropriation bills that included funding for the war.

Of course Johnson’s elevation to speaker is particularly alarming for the upcoming presidential election, in which a rematch between President Biden and Trump is more than likely. There’s little reason to believe Trump can win legitimately four years after being dumped by a majority of voters, and after being charged in four criminal cases. His best prospect for returning to the White House may be to steal the election, with assistance from MAGA leaders running the House.

With Republican election deniers now in charge, that may actually happen. As Rep. Matt Gaetz put it on Stephen K. Bannon’s show: “If you don’t think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement and where the power in the Republican Party truly lies, then you’re not paying attention.”

We hope that voters are paying close attention, particularly those in California. All 12 of the state’s Republican members of Congress lined up in favor of a guy who wanted to throw out the 2020 election results and hand the country over to Trump for four more years.

Is this how the experiment in American democracy ends? We hope not. But that depends on whether Americans finally reject the extremists who have taken control of the Republican Party.





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