Jim Jordan of Ohio may not be a household name in the United States, but rest assured that he has turned himself into a disruptive force in Washington, D.C. The seven-term congressman is a Donald Trump kind of guy: he hates the status-quo and wants to take down the political establishment of both parties. He relishes making mincemeat of any government official who has even the slimmest connection to former President Barack Obama. He is a sanctimonious loudmouth.
Just as Donald Trump sees the value of unpredictability and unconventionality, Jim Jordan sees political value in using the allure of congressional oversight and transparency to mask what are undeniable political vendettas against anyone who happens to reek of the swamp.
But it is now Jordan who is under the microscope. A total of seven former teammates have accused the congressman of ignoring sexual abuse allegations against the team doctor when he was the assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University.
Jordan has dismissed the claims as nonsense, a made-up story concocted by the deep-state to ruin his political reputation at a time when he rumored to be orchestrating a long-shot bid to replace Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House. But going on television and manufacturing conspiracy theories where none exist will only get you so far; when seven people are on the record and tell very similar stories regarding Jordan’s disinterest about sexual abuse in the locker rooms, simple denials start to lose their effectiveness.
Jordan continues to have the support of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of about three dozen ultra-conservative lawmakers he co-founded during the Tea Party era. Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, released a statement on Friday expressing his “100 per cent” loyalty to his Ohio colleague — even as the accusations keep flying and more former wrestlers tell their stories in public. Yet in Washington, there are no permanent allies, only friends of convenience. If the story gets worse for Jordan and more Ohio State alumni come out of the woodwork, the Freedom Caucus will have a difficult decision to make: do the conoervanitstas throw their former capital overboard to save themselves?
While the Freedom Caucus is one of the most powerful constituencies in the Republican conference, holding virtual veto-power over which immigration bill or spending measure gets put on the floor for a vote, the group’s reputation is not particularly stellar. Their hardball tactics grate on their more right-of-center members. They take pleasure in making the lives of the House Republican leadership absolutely miserable. The group is an absolutist bunch. Very rarely do they compromise on anything, viewing muddied solutions as a sellout to the voters who put them into office. And, if they do miraculously compromise — as they did on an immigration bill earlier in the month — the caucus will ask for concessions in return that make moderate members of the GOP defect, rendering any bill dead in the water. Bluntly said: while the Freedom Caucus describes itself as strict constitutionalists powered by the conservative grassroots, everybody else labels them as occupying the space of somewhere between right-wing lunatics and petty obstructors.
The strength of the Freedom Caucus has come from its unity. These conservatives tend to vote as a bloc, which provides them an enormous amount of power when GOP leadership debates which bill to put on the floor. John Boehner, the former Speaker, can testify to this; after years of abuse from the far-right, he decided to resign from the top job due. Boehner always said he would leave Congress eventually, but the conservative opposition forced him to consider an earlier retirement date.
If Jim Jordan’s scandal gets more unseemly and Jim Jordan the man gets more difficult to defend, there is a real risk of the caucus splitting into pro and anti-Jordan factions. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Meadows supports his old friend now, but there is only so much a friend can accept if the foundations of the group he leads begins to buckle.