Tennessee State Senator Jack Johnson: A Conservative Product of the Reagan Revolution

May 23, 2023

Live from Music Row, Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – guest host Aaron Gulbransen welcomed Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) in studio to talk about how he became conservative at a young age.

Gulbransen: We’ve got Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson here in studio. And because we get more time with you than just a segment on the phone, it occurs to me, especially people that may have moved here in the last year or two, don’t really know your history as a conservative from a very young age. Why don’t you tell us about how you grew up as a conservative and in your history there and, what makes you a conservative and that sort of thing.

Johnson: I would say November 4th, I think it was November 4th, 1980 was a very important day in my life, and I’ll share, divulge my age here. I was 12 years old at the time, and that was the day that Ronald Reagan was elected president of the United States.

And I followed that campaign, and I can’t tell you why, looking back on it, why as an 11, 12-year-old, I was so intrigued by that and really had a disdain for the policies of Jimmy Carter. He might be a fine individual, but he was not a very successful president.

And so I was really intrigued by Ronald Reagan and the way he communicated, and he was so positive. Anyway, so he won, obviously, and served two terms as president. So the eight years that Ronald Reagan was president was basically the course of my life from the age of around 12 to around 20.

And then went off to college and was involved in student government there. And I was born and raised in Texas, but right after I graduated from college I moved up here to take a job, and I guess I was what, 22 years old, I think I was 22. And not long after I moved here, I got invited to attend a young Republican meeting the Davidson County Young Republicans.

And I accepted that invitation and met this young lady who was the secretary of the Davidson County Young Republicans. And she and I have been married now for 26 years, I believe, and we have three kids.

I became very active and involved in the Davidson County Young Republicans. So keep in mind, Aaron, this is back in the early 1990s when Democrats controlled everything in the state. They had supermajorities in the State House and State Senate.

We had two Democratic United States senators. A majority of our congressional delegation was Democrat, and we had a Democratic governor. But we got very active and very involved. And then the 1994 campaign was big when we elected a Republican governor and two Republican United States senators.

But the real struggle, though was the state house and the state senate. We would get close, and then they would redistrict, and you know how that cycle goes. And so I’ve been through several of those cycles but we kept clawing away because I really felt like that the Democratic Party, I was a Republican since I knew what the difference was, kept shifting towards a more radical left agenda even back then in the nineties.

And clearly, they’ve just gone completely off the cliff now. But we kept fighting and clawing our way. And then ultimately, I had an opportunity to run for office myself in 2006. And the good people of Williamson County gave me this incredible honor to be their state senator, and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. And since my time in the senate, I’ve seen us go from Democratic majorities to Republican supermajorities.

A lot of people don’t realize that’s only been about 12 years that Republicans have controlled the governor’s office and then both chambers and the Tennessee General Assembly. So when you look back on that roughly 12 years at what we’ve accomplished is pretty remarkable. And I’m very proud of that.

Gulbransen: If you were to talk to, that’s actually interesting thing is, with so many transplants in the state, I, one of them, one of the more common sense ones.

It does feel like, in a lot of ways, it’s it, when you hear that it was only 12 years of a Republican majority, it’s a little shocking because it feels in a lot of ways like it was 50 years. It’s fair to say that you’re a conservative product of the Reagan Revolution to go back to the beginning of your story.

Johnson: I think a lot of people my age are and I, because we’ll be, obviously, we both run in a lot of political circles, and so when you’re having dinner with someone and having a good conversation and talking about that, it’s not surprising that there are so many people of roughly my age who were so impacted by Reagan and the Reagan Revolution and what he was able to accomplish.

Gulbransen: Of course, as we’re sitting here, it dawns on me because I put these things on my computer, and I forget there is a Ronald Reagan for president. If you were to look at my computer right now, with the exception of one thing, it probably looks like I’m 65 years old because it’s got Frazier and Ronald Reagan stuff on it. But anyway, I love it.

Johnson: I have a picture somewhere, and I need to make sure I preserve it because I drove a Ford pickup when I was in, in high school. And I have a bumper sticker. There’s a picture of my pickup. And on the back rear window is a Reagan Bush ’84 bumper sticker on my pickup.

Gulbransen: I got the hat the Reagan Bush 84 hat at the Reagan Presidential Library when I went to LA a couple of weeks ago. Do you collect any old campaign stuff?

Johnson: I have some friends who have some amazing collections and I wish I’d have collected more if I’d have just hung onto a lot of the stuff that I’ve gotten legitimately from attending Republican national conventions and the various campaigns. I would have a pretty nice collection, but I don’t know, I might have stuff scattered all over the place. If I compiled it all, it might turn into a decent collection.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Jack Johnson” by Senator Jack Johnson. Background Photo “Ronald Reagan” by Carol M. Highsmith.