ProFamily Legislators Conference – With Congressman Mike Johnson: Do you know the timeless truths that have grounded and prospered our nation? Could you succinctly explain the seven core principles of conservatism that are biblical, timeless and true? Do you need tools to help you consistently articulate your worldview with clarity and conviction? Tune in to hear Congressman Mike Johnson explain how you can find and benefit from the Conservative’s Playbook!
Air Date: 12/09/2021
Guest: Mike Johnson
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Transcription note: Â As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Faith and the Culture
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. It’s WallBuilders Live. Thanks for joining us today, we’re going to actually take you out to the ProFamily Legislators Conference today, Congressman Mike Johnson, our special guest, and we want to get to it right away, so we’re diving straight in.
This is Mike Johnson, at the ProFamily Legislators Conference.
I just want to say at the outset I’m grateful to WallBuilders and David and Rick and everybody involved. And I was introduced to David and his ministry a quarter century ago, and it has had such a profound influence on me and my work and my life and everything I do. So I’m just so grateful you guys continue to sow into this work and help equip the soldiers on the frontlines. And so thanks to all of you for being willing to serve in this critical time for the country.
And that’s really just what I wanted to talk with you about for a few minutes this morning, what we’re facing and maybe try to give you a practical tool to use for your work and kind of explain how we came about that. But let me set the table first by just stating the obvious. I know you’ve all talked a lot about this already.
But obviously, we stand at a fateful moment in America’s history. And that also means we have a historic opportunity. We say a fateful moment because I know I’m preaching to the outer choir, you all know this, but what we’re facing right now is unprecedented in American history. I mean, obviously, we’ve been through many cultural shifts over our 245 years as a nation, but we really have never been at a point like this, where the very foundations of our republic are being shaken and the idea of truth itself is being openly challenged on a large scale, and even in the halls of the Congress.
And it reminds us I think a lot about Psalm 11:3, if the foundations be destroyed, what were the righteous do? It’s not a rhetorical question for the people in this room. For us, we have to answer that. We have to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have. And it’s great time to be alive if you have the answers. But we need to be equipped and ready to do the work that God’s called us to do.
The Greatest Opportunity in My Lifetime
So it’s a fateful moment. But it’s also because of that it presents an historic opportunity. And I mean, it’s an opportunity, politically, culturally, spiritually and we all face that very soberly. Because we know that we’re called to this moment, all of us, every one of you. And I’m grateful you’re there.
We had lunch about three weeks ago, Newt Gingrich came in to speak with us, the strategy session. There are seven elected leadership positions among the House Republicans, and I happen to be the vice chairman of the House Republicans, so that’s number four spot. But the seven of us assembled for lunch, and Newt came in, and he’s a number cruncher and a data guy, and he had all the aggregate polling and everything. And he presented all the information.
And he said, listen, look at me, fellas, and ladies, he said, I don’t want to engage in hyperbole here. But I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that I believe that you all have the greatest opportunity in my lifetime. And he said, I think this is better than what we had in the 80s with Reagan, when we had in the 90s with our contract with America and all the rest. And he said, I believe that we are facing a pivotal moment in America’s history, stating the obvious, we all know that.
And he said, but what we’re going to do in this next year in this midterm election cycle is going to decide the fate of the republic. And I think in large measure, that’s true. It’s not just on the federal level, of course, it’s state level, and even the local and community level. We are at a crossroads as a nation. I’m mixing my metaphors, but you all know what we’re facing here.
The thing that strikes me about it is that hearkening back to the Reagan years, right, when Reagan came in 1980, a lot of people analogize where we are right now to the malaise of the late 70s, with the Carter years, and all the rest. And when Reagan came in, he ushered in mourning in America, we remember so finally, and he stood on some core principles. And he was able to articulate that in a winsome way to the American people where they caught on, it sort of shook us out of the malaise.
We Did Make “America Great Again”
But what strikes me about it is the difference between our challenge today, and the challenge they had in America in the early 80s, is that when Ronald Reagan spoke of mourning in America, when he talked about America’s principles, and freedom, and justice, and security and all these other overarching themes, it hearkened Americans back to things that they knew intuitively. It reminded them of something that sort of woke them up and brought them back to center.
But the difference between what we face now and what they face then is that many Americans, millions and millions, in fact, I think the vast majority have no idea about those founding principles anymore. We can’t harken them back to something that they don’t know. And so our challenge is even more because we have to evoke those principles, we have to defend them, preserve them, and advance them. But as Rick is indicating there, I mean, we have to educate people too. And so it’s a great burden.
But we’re called to this and God equips us to do it. And so what we need right now is wisdom and discernment and stamina and His favor to meet this great challenge. And I believe that we can do that. But that’s what I wanted to talk with you about, very quickly, is how we do that is I believe that we have to be anchored and anchored in some very specific foundational truths. And so I want to tell you a quick story about where we got to where we are, and then I want to present this idea to you.
So if you rewind back to the fall of 2018, if you remember that time, I came in when President Trump did, I got elected in the fall of 2016, took my oath of office January 2017. So I came in with Trump and we ushered in a new era. And we were going gangbusters that first two years of the administration.
We achieved historic, I think, measures with legislation and with the things he was doing on the White House in spite of some of the challenges and in mean tweets and all the rest. What we accomplished is by any objective measure, really, we did make “America Great Again”.
Republican Study Committee
In February of 2020 prior to the pandemic we had the greatest economy, for example, in the history of the world, not just in the history of America, but the history of the world. And that was not by happenstance. It’s because we advanced core principles. But rewind to February of 2018, we’re two years into the Trump administration, you know the political atmosphere in the country at the time.
There was a lot going on. It was very contentious. And I was nominated to be the chairman of the Republican Study Committee for the following January to begin the 116th Congress to begin in 2019.
And so RSC, if you don’t know the history, the Republican Study Committee is the largest caucus of conservatives in Congress. At the time, we had 146 members. Currently, we have 158. But Mike Pence was a former chairman. Jim Jordan was a former chairman. Steve Scalise, and my colleagues came to me and nominated me for that position.
I was running against a number of people who ultimately dropped out of the race and then it came down to myself and Tom McClintock, who’s a dear friend and a conservative stalwart out of California, been in Congress over 20 years. And here I am rather new member, and among the younger members. And so I almost didn’t want to run it against Tom because I respect him so much, but I was recruited to do it.
So I stood in front of all the Republicans. We were in a ballroom just like you’re in right now, and we had 148 members there, all the conservatives in Congress. First [inaudible 07:35] is known as the intellectual arsenal of conservatism in the house. It’s the policy shop, so to speak, where we take our conservative principles, and we put them on paper, and advance those ideas, make it into legislative initiatives, etc.
So I stood in front of all the groups and I said, friends, listen, I believe we’re in a pivotal moment. And I said, but I also believe that in some ways, I said, you all forgive me, I’m from Louisiana, everything’s either a football or a hurricane metaphor. Okay, let me go with a hurricane metaphor. When, when you’re in choppy seas, certainly, when you’re in uncharted waters, and the boat is rocking, you know, if you’re an old sailor in the room, you may know they used to use this device called a gimbal.
Breaking Things Down to the Foundations
And a gimbal is on three axes, and it floats and it stays steady, no matter where the seas are, where you’re oriented. That’s your compass. You always know which direction you’re headed your true north.
And I said, I feel like we’ve lost our way as a nation. I mean, Trump is a bull in a china shop, and he’s our guy, and we’re advancing this ball. But that he is really a symptom of what’s happening across the culture in that everything’s being shaken. And the old norms are being questioned and broken apart in many ways. And I said, what I feel right now, my friends and colleagues, is that when I’m home in my district, I represent a very red district in a red state, Louisiana, a lot of my folks self-identify as conservatives, but if you ask them what that means, they don’t really have a great explanation.
And I said, so they may be able to say, well, I’m, I’m pro-God, prolife and pro-gun and that’s great; I don’t like taxes, great. Okay, but tell me a little more. And then after those first few, three or four bullet points, people sort of struggle to explain the difference between our ideology, our worldview, if you will, and the competing worldviews that are out there. Progressivism, secular humanism, communism, socialism, all these things are rooted in a very different truth than the truth of the capital T that we represent.
And so I told the Republicans at that time I said, listen, far be it for me to run against my dear friend, Tom McClintock. But I know I’m not the oldest guy here. I’m not the most experienced.
I’m probably the least likely guy to run the organization. But I’ll tell you this. If you’re like me, Chairman, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to break this thing back down to the foundations.
I think we’re out wild making crazy ideas and coming up with things and grasping at straws and pulling things out of the sky. We don’t need to be doing that right now. I think we need to be grounded in our core principles, the timeless truths that had guided our nation’s founding and that need to guide us today as Republicans, as conservatives. What do we stand for?
What would You Say?
And I posed this question to my colleagues, I said, listen, if you were in an elevator with a millennial, and they were wearing an AOC t-shirt, and you had go up to the 22nd floor in the downtown of your district, and you had two or three minutes with this young person, what would you say to them?
What would you say? What’s your elevator speech to convince them that that our ideology, that conservatism is correct and what they’re pursuing is wrong? What would you say?
And I said, for me, it boils down to seven core principles. And I said, I don’t profess to be the greatest scholar here, but I’ve been practicing constitutional law for more than 20 years. And I’m a student of this stuff. And I said, if you took a volume, a library of conservative thought and principles, if you took volumes of all this, and you took the Republican Party platform, and you took great conservative writing and thinking over the centuries, and you condense that into just a half page, I said, what would that look like for you?
And I said, so I just want to propose to you what I call my seven core principles of conservatism. I said, it’s individual liberty, limited government, the rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets, human dignity. I said, now under each of those big broad categories there are subcategories. For example, under human dignity is the sanctity of every single human life.
And each of those principles, by the way, could be tied to Scripture. They come from that, and that’s why they’re timeless and true and right. And I said, but these are the things that ought to define us, and we need to be able to articulate this, and we need to be able to build our political strategy, and certainly our policy production from those foundations.
So I said in the ballroom to my friends in the fall of 2018, I said, if you’re like me Chairman of RSC, that’s what we’re going to do, you all. We’re going to break this down on the foundation, we’re going to reset the table for everything, and we’re going to be anchored to those seven core principles. Every policy that we develop, every argument we make on the floor, all of our messaging, all of it has to be granted that. It will be our guardrails, so to speak, and what we produce here, and in the foundation that we build from.
Seven Task Forces
And so if you’re on board with that, let’s do this thing and we will. So, I got elected chairman, and we took off. So what we did is we got the 146 members, beginning in that January, the 116th Congress, this is the last conference two years ago. And I organized everybody into these working groups, task forces.
We had seven task forces on each of the big issue areas. And we populated those with people that had a passion for that area, expertise, etc. And we worked for two years, we were in the minority. We knew that we were going to go into the minority.
And Nancy Pelosi got the gavel. And the idea is when you’re in the minority, you just wander in the wilderness for a couple years to get the majority back. But I propose that this should be our most productive season. So using those principles arranged in a task forces, we went to work, produced 400 pages of policy. Here’s one of our productions, we call it the Conservative Playbook for Republican-led Majority. And this is all, we have it all online and stuff. But this is just hundreds and hundreds of pages of our solutions to the greatest challenges facing America.
And the reason that we can stand so solidly on this is that we know again, that it’s anchored in the principles that do not change. Those happen to be Republican principles. But more fundamental than that, and more importantly, they’re also quintessential American principles. That’s what made America great in the first place. And so we do well to remind ourselves of that, but also to use it as kind of, for lack of a better word, evangelist for this philosophy that we have because it is grounded in truth in Scripture.
So that served us very well and has served us since. Chairmanship of the Republican Study Committee is limited to one Congress. And so when I was term-limited after that two years, it wore me out anyway, then I ran for Vice Chair of the House Republicans, and we’ve taken this and we’ve continued it on. We brought in a number of new members after the last cycle coming into 2020, and now we’re orienting everyone and getting them on board with this.
Seven Core Principles of Conservatism
Kevin McCarthy is the minority leader as you’ll know. And he’s taken this model and adapted it to the full conference, over 200 of us. And the task forces in the larger body are fine tuning this work. And that’s what we’re going to present as we go on the campaign trail next year.
Our ideas, not just what we’re against but whatever for, but the beauty of it is, it’s grounded in these truths. So it served us very well. It’s a symbolic statement about who we are and where we stand.
We’ve been talking to our members about speaking with clarity and conviction and consistency. And this has been a really helpful tool for that. So since we did all that, kind of words got around and we’ve had a number of legislators in other states who have taken Republican leaders and various legislators who called and said, hey, can we adapt and use that? Absolutely, we have no pride of authorship about it.
And what we did is the seven core principles, we originally just had like a paragraph of explanation of each one of them. And, in fact, if you go to Mikejohnson.house.gov, you can download all this stuff. Mikejohnson.house.gov, right there on the homepage, just scroll down, the first thing you’ll see is ‘7 Core Principles of Conservatism’. So there’s nothing magical about the language of this.
I mean, it was drafted with a letter prayer and thought. But I suggest and have suggested, we have City Council’s now, county boards, Republican majorities, and all these various legislative bodies at all levels have begun to use this, they adapted for their own use or the use of whole cloth, it matters not to us. But the idea is that we be grounded in this and that we go forward to the American people and show them what we’re for; and it’s a great education and reminder and a simple way to sort of be evangelists for the truth, so to speak.
Alright, folks, we’re going to take a quick break, you’re listening to presentations at the ProFamily Legislators Conference here on WallBuilders Live. Stay with us, we’ll be right back.
THIS PRECARIOUS MOMENT
Hi, this is David Barton. I want to let you know about a brand new book we have out called “This Precarious Moment: Six Urgent Steps that Will Save You, Your Family, and Our Country”. Jim Garlow and I have coauthored this book. And we take six issues that are hot in the culture right now, issues that we’re dealing with, issues such as immigration, and race relations, and our relationship with Israel and the rising generation millennials and the absence of the church and the culture wars, and where American heritage is, our godly heritage.
We look at all six of those issues right now that are under attack and we give you both biblical and historical perspective on those issues that provide solutions on what each of us can do right now to make a difference. These are all problems that are solvable if we’ll get involved. So you can grab the book, “This Precarious Moment” and find out what you can do to make a difference. “This Precarious Moment” is available at wallbuilders.com.
We’re back here on WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us. We’ve been listening to some presentations at the ProFamily Legislators Conference. Let’s jump right back in.
At the national level, we think that the midterm election next year is going to be a bellwether year for us, and we may get a 50 seat majority in the House of Representatives. I believe the Senate will be in play as well. We might achieve a two or three seat Republican majority in the Senate, and we’ll be able to turn around a lot of this madness, and look towards that next presidential cycle in 24.
But as we do that, as we go about it, I and others are trying to keep our team, our group tethered to these truths because we don’t want to produce or advance anything that’s not grounded in what truly did originally make America the greatest, most powerful, most successful nation in the history of the world. So, if that’s of assistance, any of you or if you take the idea and run with it, do something totally different, I genuinely believe that those in elected office and Republicans who are in our posts really need to think very clearly about who we are, where we stand and what we’re trying to advance. So, just some thought there.
Hey, Mike, we appreciate everything you’re doing, brother. Part of this manual, are you guys speaking from the Republican Party to the states about asserting their authority, states don’t have rights, only people have rights under God, but do you speak out about the overreach by the federal government, and how we need to respect the sovereignty of the states?
I’m a Tenth Amendment guy, I know all of you all believe in that as one of our core principles, and it certainly is. The idea of federalism is a uniquely American, we perfected it, and made it really one of the core truths that were built upon, and we’re losing that. You see a rising tide of numbers elected to Congress who openly advocate for a strong centralized federal government because that’s the necessary step towards their socialist utopia. They’re fools there and they’re rushing towards.
I think now is the time though, that the American people are waking up. I think the polling indicates that they recognize that that may not serve them very well, you see the results of that ideology and what it’s doing to us in area of American life.
And so now, I think we have a pivotal moment to step into that sort of vacuum of leadership that’s coming out of the out of the White House right now and out of the Democrat-led Congress to explain why local control, why states sovereignty and rights is what we’re built upon.
We don’t want a centralized hub of power because that does not serve the people well. And what our Founders had in mind is, of course, they wanted local control, they wanted accountability and efficiency from a limited government. And the only way to ensure that is to make sure that the power is distributed widely amongst the people in that way.
And so, I think that reminding ourselves of that truth and stepping into these arenas, I had town halls yesterday, all over my district. And we spent all day, started early in the morning went to late at night because COVID restrictions are lifted, we finally get over the people again. And I use town halls, I’m not to suggest, I’m sure many of you do this as well, not so much as just political updates, but as a classroom for civics 101. And you will be shocked. And I know you know this.
But most people don’t know the basic truth, they don’t understand what makes America different, what our system is. And so at the risk of offending somebody and reminding them of something they already know, I walk them through that. And this is another thing I do. And maybe you’ve done this as well.
I suggest it to you, if you do a town hall with constituents, you’re likely to have people of both parties or no party. I do. Louisiana is a pretty diverse state. And so when they walk in, this is how I started. I say, listen, for a moment, let’s all be Louisianans, let’s all be neighbors and friends and citizens, regardless of our political party.
In fact, I would ask all of you to take your proverbial political hat, take it off right now instead, let’s put them in the corners right now. Okay, let’s not talk as Republicans or Democrats. Let’s talk as fellow Americans, fellow Louisianans.
And I want to present to you two philosophies. And I want us to select together which one is best. Over here is individual freedom, limited government, the rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets, human dignity, unpack it just a little bit few sentences… Over here is the competing philosophy. And I talked about the government socialism and all the effects of all that.
And then we traced the effects of both, the results that come from both. And this is not like a theoretical thing because right now we can point to the big government socialists are in charge, let’s see what that has yielded. And we go through every category and everybody moans. And at the end, I say, listen, these are the results of this philosophy, these are results of this philosophy. Just objectively speaking, without our political party hats on, I didn’t say which one was Republican or Democrat, which one serves the people best? Which one do we want? Which is best for all of us?
And inevitably, of course, they all choose the right path. And I say, okay, well, that set of principles happens to define the Republican Party right now. And I also say this, I clarify, say, listen, there’s nothing magical about the Republican Party you all. I’m a Republican, is advancing these ideas. If the Republican Party ceases to advance these ideas, I’ll be a member of the orange kangaroo party. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m trying to advance the principles that I know made America what we are, and we have to get back to that, we’re losing it.
And so I tell them, I said, this is not your father’s Democrat party. This just a fact. Go read the platforms, compare the platforms, and then come back and tell me if you agree or not. I bet you most of you don’t agree. So it’s a teachable moment; if we seize it, I think we can change a lot of minds. And I think that’s a great place to start talking about the difference between spread out power and centralized hubs of power. It’s a good explanation.
Question. You know, that we’ve had some people in the Republican Party primarily in the Senate that have jumped ship on some issues here. What is the party going to do with regards to “primarying” some of these yay who’s that should have been out of the party a long time ago?
I think that our candidate recruitment is a very important step and strategy right now. We’re being very focused and deliberate about that. Can I be frank with you all and tell you that we have a real challenge on a number of fronts, not just to be able to identify who the true constitutional conservatives are, the people who are committed to these principles?
And there’s ways to grill prospective candidates and discern that. Even the ones that don’t have voting records, you can ask them some basic questions about where they stand, and use like the seven core principles as sort of an analytical grid to gauge that.
Not Meant To Be A Career
But aside from making sure that we have constitutional conservatives, we also have an interesting phenomenon right now that is not going to serve us well. And this is one of the things that greatly concerns me. And you’ll see it at the state level as well. People are running for Congress right now, not because they particularly want to advance a philosophy of government or a worldview, or even necessarily want to be legislators, people are running for Congress because they want to be reality TV stars.
And we’ve entered this era where the more bombastic and wild and crazy thing that you can say and put on social media, the more followers you get, and the more money you raise. And so, bad behavior begets other bad behavior. And so we have just kind of outrageous folks, throwing their names in the hat to run for office on both sides, frankly, on the left and the right, who if they get to Congress, they’re not going to contribute much to the effort, they’re just going to make themselves famous or infamous. That’s one of the same now.
And so that’s a phenomenon that I think is something we’ve got to be very prayerful and guarded about because you can only have so many of those folks in the body and in the system begins to break down. You know, the Founders envisioned very thoughtful deliberate people who would come and serve their country for a short period of time, not as a career and then go back to their farms, their blacksmith shop or what have you.
They contribute what they could, and then they would step away and allow someone else to serve and not try to do it for themselves. And I fear that that principle is being lost in this generation, and it’s something we got to guard against.
ProFamily Legislators Conference – With Congressman Mike Johnson
But we’re working on that. Even the NRCC is going to play in some primaries this time around, and I think it’ll make a difference; we can filter out some of these yay who’s, I think that’d be an important goal.
Congressman, before we let you go, is there any way that people can stay in touch with you or somebody on your staff, maybe they can email if they have more questions or ideas?
Yeah, sure. Thanks for that. Mikejohnson.house.gov is the website and we got the official contact there. And let me say. There’s a number of resources. And I think if you Google RSC, the Republican Study Committee, or just RSC, you can find the website there. Jim Banks is the current chairman. And so it’s housed under his name. That’s how we do it at each Congress. But you’ll find the policy prescriptions there.
And you can download a copy of the conservative playbook and you can see all the ideas that we’ve done. Because a lot of this work product would translate to the state level, and so there’s a lot of things and ideas in there that may inspire you when you’re coming up with your own playbooks for the year ahead and a couple years ahead, then you can use that, and we’d love to collaborate with you on that and help in any way we can.
Congressman, thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate you.
Thank you. God bless you.
We’re out of time for today, folks. Thanks so much for listening. Thanks to Congressman Mike Johnson for joining us at the ProFamily Legislators Conference and allowing us to air this here on WallBuilders Live. We hope you enjoyed it. There is more programming at our website wallbuilderslive.com. Check it out today. Thanks so much for listening to WallBuilders Live.