By Mark Tapscott
It’s possible that on Jan. 20, 2025, former President Donald Trump will be inaugurated for a second time, and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) will have retained his position as speaker of the House.
The pair of men, who heartily agree on most issues but are virtually polar opposites in how they see themselves, their political allies, and their opponents, could be the two most prominent officials in the nation’s capital.
How well they work together toward their many shared goals for America will shape how much each is able to accomplish.
Given their opposite approaches, the odds of getting a lot done might not appear great. Even so, prominent national political figures and observers interviewed by The Epoch Times express great confidence that much will be accomplished if the scenario becomes reality in 15 months.
To be sure, temperamentally, President Trump and Mr. Johnson couldn’t be less alike. Mr. Johnson is a man with a profoundly different, quieter approach to governing.
For President Trump, every criticism, every expression that’s even remotely less than unqualified support almost invariably prompts a barrage of counterattacks. A common observation is that President Trump can’t help himself, and that he’s his own worst enemy in politics.
That said, the man uniquely tapped the central nervous system of U.S. politics in 2016 with his tough border policies, demands that America stop shipping manufacturing jobs to China, cutting of federal taxes and regulation, achieving energy independence, and restoring fear and respect for the nation among its foreign adversaries.
The MAGA Agenda
The Trump agenda was then and remains today most succinctly captured in the slogan “Make America Great Again,” or MAGA. The term MAGA is the ultimate opprobrium among Democrats, yet the latest New York Times/Siena College poll finds President Trump likely to win an even bigger victory than he did in 2016 if the 2024 election were held today.
Mr. Johnson enthusiastically backs much of the Trump agenda. Shortly after the speaker election, President Trump referred to the Louisiana Republican as “MAGA Mike Johnson.”
Even before his elevation to speaker, Mr. Johnson was known as one of President Trump’s biggest boosters in the House, because of his aggressive backing of congressional Republican efforts to initiate investigations of alleged voter fraud in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and other states in the 2020 election.
“He’s over the target, and he’s going to get flak,” Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) told The Epoch Times. “But you know, at a time when our culture seems to be obsessed with transgenderism and the extremes of identity politics, to have someone like Mike Johnson ascend to the speaker’s chair, one of the three most powerful people in the country, the left is understandably worried about that.
“Mike Johnson is the real deal. I’m not claiming he’s perfect and I’m not claiming he’s a saint, but I mean he truly tries to live his faith. His ‘yes’ is yes and his ‘no’ is no. There are really no games with him, so at a time when politics is so volatile, he’s quite frankly a breath of fresh air in the House of Representatives.”
Mr. Ogles said Mr. Johnson was elected unanimously by the Republican conference, “because he is so well-liked and respected.”
Mr. Ogles, who was the first member of the Tennessee congressional delegation to endorse President Trump for 2024, talks regularly to the former chief executive and to Mr. Johnson, and he’s confident they would work well together.
Noting that the speaker typically responds to criticism in a manner that’s very different from President Trump, Mr. Ogles said: “That makes him different from most politicians today. It’s easy to get combative when you are confronted with someone trying to get you with a ‘gotcha’ question or put words in your mouth. He just responds with such grace and self-deprecation. It’s genuine, he’s not faking it.”
Moving the ‘Overton Window’
Richard Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government and former Labor Department chief of staff, sees an early illustration of how the two politicians could balance each other’s efforts.
“Donald Trump and Mike Johnson are the perfect complement to one another. Trump pushes against Washington D.C.’s establishment’s ‘Overton Window,’ and Speaker Johnson can normalize those discussions in the halls of Congress,” Mr. Manning told The Epoch Times.
The “Overton window” is a term to describe the range of acceptable political policies by the public at any given time.
“The new speaker’s decision to not only separate the Israel appropriation but also offset it shows how he is willing and able to disrupt the norms without verbally assaulting them,” Mr. Manning said.
Rather than packaging the White House’s request for $105 billion in supplemental funding for Ukraine, Israel, the Indo-Pacific, and the border as a single measure, Mr. Johnson put forward $4.3 billion in Israel funding as a standalone measure—and offset that amount with $4.3 billion in IRS cuts. While the House approved the measure, it’s likely dead-on-arrival in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told The Epoch Times that his early assessment of Mr. Johnson is extremely encouraging, and he expects a productive, positive relationship between him and President Trump if the latter is returned to the White House.
“I think that, while their styles are very different, Johnson clearly is a MAGA Republican. He’s a very solid conservative, and I suspect that on some issues, he’s actually to the right of Trump. But at the same time, he seems to be able to talk to the moderates in a way that is very healthy. So far the country is responding pretty well to a kind of low-key, positive personality that is focused on trying to get things done rather than just making noise,” said Mr. Gingrich, a contributor to The Epoch Times.
“There will be times that they disagree and there will be times I am sure that Trump would like obedience. But Johnson is so much closer to Trump than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that I think Johnson will be the natural leader on the Hill.”
2 Essential Roles
Tom Jones, president of the American Accountability Foundation, has a bit of a different take on a prospective Trump–Johnson team.
“It’s early, of course, but I think they both fit the roles they are in,” Mr. Jones told The Epoch Times.
“I think Johnson’s kind of a studious constitutional lawyer, kind of quiet but with a strong faith background and a clear issue set that serves well for managing Congress. He fits that role well, he can do all the associated fundraising and that stuff, but he doesn’t necessarily need to be the kind of big, bold national figure.”
By comparison, he said: “Trump’s personality—audacious, bold, engaging, exciting—is what’s needed for a national figure who is going to galvanize people, so I think they fit their spaces really well and hopefully, they will be a good team. I just don’t see them getting crossways.”
Mr. Johnson’s temperament and enthusiasm for ensuring open debate and a transparent legislative process could also provide an outlet for senators and representatives who find it difficult to deal with a second Trump administration, according to Mr. Jones.
Mr. Jones served for two decades on Capitol Hill in senior positions working for Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). In the latter position, he was part of an oversight team in the successful Senate Republican effort to ban earmarks in 2011.
Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) told The Epoch Times that Mr. Johnson “represents the conservative center of the Republican conference, and he represents the conservative base that makes up the Republican Party nationally. I would agree that his style, his tone, his delivery is less confrontational, less abrasive, less divisive than some, and his natural personality is more of a reconciler, and I think that serves him well as speaker.”
Mr. Johnson’s Faith
Many mainstream media journalists and Democrats quickly jumped on Mr. Johnson’s openness about his Christian faith, including accusing the new speaker of being a “Christian nationalist,” according to Mr. Good.
Asked if he knows what that term means, Mr. Good, a graduate of Liberty University and a longtime administrator there before his election to Congress, he chuckled.
“I honestly don’t know, but obviously, they mean it as a term of derision. … Mike Johnson is a Christian first, a husband and father second, a constitutional conservative third, and a proud Republican fourth,” he said.
Another member of the House of Representatives who said he isn’t sure what the term “Christian nationalist” means is the speaker himself.
In a Nov. 5 interview with host Shannon Bream on “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Johnson was asked about a New York Times editorial column that described him as “the embodiment of white Christian nationalism in a tailored suit.” In the op-ed, the author defined Christian nationalism as the “belief that the American nation is defined by Christianity, and that the government should take active steps to keep it that way.”
He told Ms. Bream that he’s “not even sure” what the term means.
“Look, there are entire industries built on taking down, tearing down people like me. I understand that comes with the territory, and we’re not fazed by it,” Mr. Johnson said.
“But listen, what I believe in are the founding principles of the country: individual freedom, limited government, the rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets, human dignity. Those are essential American principles.”