Culture Wars/Current Controversies

(Republican) War Is Over

(Republican) War Is Over

Plus: Extra credit at Berkeley, 4 percent of Cuba has migrated to the U.S. in the last two years, 20 hours in a kibbutz safe room, and more…


We have a speaker: Louisiana Republican Rep. Mike Johnson was elected speaker of the House yesterday, 220–209. Earlier this month, former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R–Calif.) was ousted. It was the first time in U.S. history that the House of Representatives had voted to remove a speaker.

Johnson hadn’t really been on most people’s radar—he’s only been a member of Congress since 2016, after all—and Republicans struggled to elect a replacement speaker for the better part of three weeks. But Johnson is an interesting character. Prior to becoming a congressman, he was a lawyer with the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom. He is an evangelical Christian. He is staunchly pro-life, backing a federal ban on abortion after 15 weeks. Politico calls him “the most culturally conservative lawmaker to ascend to the speakership in decades, if not longer.” Naturally, Twitter critics have already emerged to pick apart his every comment.

In the wake of the 2020 presidential election, Johnson “rallied fellow Republican lawmakers to support Texas’s brazen bid to overturn the election results,” per The Washington Post, convincing colleagues to back an amicus brief. (Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit, which asked the Supreme Court to rule on the legitimacy of election results in four other states, was quickly swatted away by the Court.) Rep. Chip Roy (R–Texas) called Paxton’s suit “a dangerous violation of federalism” that “sets a precedent to have one state asking federal courts to police the voting procedures of other states” and declined to support Johnson’s efforts.

Johnson now says that fixing the crisis at the southern border, getting aid to Israel, and cutting federal spending will be his top priorities as speaker. In his acceptance speech, he said he wants to create a bipartisan commission on the debt. Past efforts by others have been mostly doomed, but signaling interest in reining in debt and federal spending—an unsexy but worthy cause—is a good thing. Whether he’ll be effective as speaker remains to be seen.

Gaetz’s weird victory lap: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R–Fla.) says that, well actually, he had a plan all along: All his tiresome work toward giving McCarthy the boot was because he had hoped to elevate Johnson. “To everyone who said I didn’t have a plan: This guy has been sitting next to me for seven years on the House Judiciary Committee,” he said Tuesday. “I hope my mentorship has rubbed off.”

Gaza situation grows even more dire: Between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid were slated to make their way through the Rafah crossing, which is on the Egypt-Gaza border. Only eight made it through, due to Israeli officials inspecting the trucks to ensure weapons were not being smuggled in to Hamas.

In the Gaza Strip, many hospitals are in danger of shutting down, and 12 of the region’s 35 have already shuttered. The Palestine Red Crescent Society, a humanitarian aid organization, reports that most hospitals have only half a day’s worth of fuel left to power generators. “Soon we will have nothing,” says a spokeswoman. “People are going to start dying by themselves because of the shutdown of the health care system.”

Health authorities in Gaza say more than 6,500 people have been killed by Israeli strikes (since that office is run by Hamas, one should not necessarily consider its reports credible). Still, the Palestinian death toll is undoubtedly massive. A Gaza bureau chief for Al Jazeera, Wael al-Dahdouh, lost his wife, son, daughter, and granddaughter, finding out about their tragic deaths during a live broadcast, according to his colleague.

Israel update: Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accused Israel of deliberately attacking civilians in a Wednesday address. “Hamas is not a terror organization,” he said yesterday. “It is an organization of liberation, of mujahedeen, who fight to protect their land and citizens.”

On Tuesday night, rockets believed to be launched from Syria targeted the Golan Heights in Israel. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) say they fired back at Syria, which reported 11 dead soldiers as a result. And last night, IDF tanks conducted a “targeted raid” entering the northern part of the Gaza Strip, which the IDF claim readied that area for “the next stages of the war”—a ground invasion, which the U.S. has been urging Israel to hold off on.

Scenes from New York:

I dislike lots of ads and posters I encounter in New York City, but I have never been possessed by an urge to tear down posters of innocent hostages who have been kidnapped by Hamas. Yet this is happening all over this city—including here in Queens, and in my old neighborhood of Williamsburg/northern Bed-Stuy, which has a huge Hasidic population.


  • At the University of California, Berkeley, students in an Asian studies class can get extra credit for attending “the national student walkout…against the settler-colonial occupation of Gaza.” Thankfully, the school intervened and reversed the policy.
  • Hurricane Otis is pummeling Mexico’s west coast. Otis intensified super quickly yesterday, catching forecasters (and residents of Acapulco) off guard.
  • “I understood my life is going to end.” Read this interview with a survivor of the October 7 pogrom, an artist and mother who survived the attack on her kibbutz and spent 20 hours in a safe room as Hamas terrorists killed members of her community.
  • California spent $110 million on stopping hate crimes committed against Asians. Did the money ever end up actually doing anything?
  • Last night, 16 people were killed by a gunman in Maine.
  • The United Auto Workers strike may be ending soon, as Ford agreed to a 25 percent wage increase, giving picketers what they wanted and putting pressure on the other auto companies to accede to workers’ demands.
  • A tweet that didn’t age so well, but happy birthday, I guess, to Hillary.
  • Incredible headlines from The New York Times: “San Francisco’s Brand Is in Trouble. Can a New Ad Campaign Fix It?” I get the sense that it’ll take more than an ad campaign, but what do I know!
  • More on our esteemed paper of record:
  • Almost 425,000 Cubans have migrated to the U.S. over the course of the past two years. This amounts to roughly 4 percent of Cuba’s total population. In other words: Massive numbers of people reject communism.
Liz Wolfe is an associate editor at Reason covering tech, free speech, and China and co-host of the Reason Livestream. She has interviewed sex workerstattoo artistsventure capitaliststech CEOscrypto hype men, and the occasional restaurateur. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.


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