Johnson is a social conservative’s social conservative

Johnson is a social conservative’s social conservative

His first brush with national prominence came in April 2015, when Johnson, then a Louisiana state legislator, proposed a bill called the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act that would have prevented “adverse treatment by the State of any person or entity on the basis of the views they may hold with regard to marriage.” Critics called it legalized discrimination against married gay couples, and the bill failed, but the media attention got him on the radar of the influential FRC and its president, fellow Louisiana native Tony Perkins.

Perkins, who hosts a national radio show called Washington Watch, began tapping Johnson to guest host. Johnson, a constitutional lawyer, appeared to be a natural — by December 2015, local Shreveport, La. ABC affiliate KTBS said he “may have a budding second career on the airwaves.”

The FRC and Perkins are political lightning rods among non-evangelicals — some of Perkins’ stances, like his argument that natural disasters are divine punishments for homosexuality, don’t sit well with broad swaths of the electorate. But Johnson’s political and religious beliefs dovetail with Perkins’ views. In a 2004 op-ed, Johnson argued that “homosexual relationships are inherently unnatural … society cannot give its stamp of approval to such a dangerous lifestyle.”

When he ran for Congress in 2016, Johnson placed his faith at the center of his campaign, telling the Louisiana Baptist Message, “I am a Christian, a husband, a father, a life-long conservative, constitutional law attorney and a small business owner in that order.”

His connection with Perkins — and his interest in evangelical radio as a political tool — continued after he was elected to the House in 2016. As a first-term lawmaker, Johnson announced his bid to lead the Republican Study Committee, a conservative caucus that currently counts 156, on Washington Watch with Perkins. He won the election.

“It’s never been more important for conservatives to stand up and give voice — to be winsome witnesses — to [conservative] principles,” Johnson told Perkins in 2018 during his announcement.

Johnson has been a guest on Washington Watch at other times in recent years as well.

In the midst of the 15 ballots that it took to elect Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaker in January, Johnson recounted on an FRC show that he got on his knees on the House floor and prayed with a group of members, “repent[ing] to the Lord for our individual transgressions and those collectively as a legislative body.”

Johnson used the skills he sharpened on talk radio and in televised FRC interviews to start a weekly podcast in 2022 with his wife, called “Truth be Told with Mike and Kelly Johnson.”

During the first episode in March 2022, entitled “Can America be Saved?” Johnson says that “we’ll review current events through the lens of eternal truth,” and noted that in each podcast they intended to incorporate a themed scripture because “the word of God is, of course, the ultimate source of all truth.” Guests have included Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Charlie Kirk and Jordan Peterson.

On occasion, Kelly Johnson will tee up her husband for an answer. “Why are we the freest, most powerful, most successful, most benevolent nation in the history of the world, and why does every other nation on the planet look to us for leadership and even expect it of us?” she asks in one episode. Her husband responds explaining that America is the only country in the world founded upon a creed, or a “religious statement of faith.”

The podcast’s bent is similar to what’s on evangelical Christian radio, with a slightly more political angle. While Johnson’s deep faith may be a distinguishing feature — especially compared to past GOP speakers — he is fairly ideologically representative of the Republican House majority. His DW-nominate score, a system which tracks and maps the ideology of Congress based on their voting record, puts Johnson at more conservative than 63 percent of House Republicans.

But Johnson has a strict insistence on his conservative evangelical values — he’s posted on X (formerly Twitter), “[In Louisiana], perform an abortion and get imprisoned at hard labor for 1-10 yrs & fined $10K-$100K” and argued that if abortion hadn’t been legal for decades, there would be more “able-bodied workers in the economy, we wouldn’t be going upside down and toppling over like this [on social security, Medicare and Medicaid]”. Those stances won’t endear him to the Democrats with whom he’ll now have to negotiate, nor will his vigorous attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

After three weeks of chaos and uncertainty, Republicans were able to compromise on Johnson. Now, the question is whether he can keep them together while also negotiating with Democrats. It’s a high wire act that will make it harder for Johnson to carve out time to hop on the mic and record his podcast, but given that listeners haven’t gotten a new episode since Oct. 8, we’re at least due to hear his broadcasted thoughts on how he got here soon enough.

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