It was 2006 when I got the call to work on my first congressional campaign. Although I’d done some volunteering for the special election in Portman’s old district a few months before, this was my first paid campaign job. The candidate was Nathan Martin, fresh from Iraq, a fellow soldier, was running for congress on Ohio’s 4th district. Since Nathan had been training security forces in Iraq for a good part of his hitch, I knew he had the inner strength to handle a political campaign. (Nathan was a great guy and at the time only had one child. He’s gone on since then to birth an entire platoon — but that’s another story.) My job was to prepare Nathan for a few debates he was going to have against a few highly experienced primary opponents. Of course, the man to beat in those debates was State Representative Jim Jordan.
Jim Jordan Holding His Ground Despite Conservative Adversity
Jim Jordan had the blessing to be endorsed by the Ohio Republican Party. Although they denied his formal endorsement, people from the party were always wearing their “Ohio Republican Party” name badges while staffing his booths, or, well, doing anything in the vicinity of Jordan. And you can’t blame them, either. He was a great candidate. He’d served several years in the state legislature and was exactly the kind of candidate the ORP guys wanted to promote, with the electability the NRCC liked.
But when it came to debating, Jim Jordan wasn’t exactly a show pony… In fact, Nathan kicked his ass.
Not once, but twice.
I think the newspapers at the time highlighted our little victory but there’s a few lessons I wish Jordan would have learned about doling out a good talking point. I’ve been following this Freedom Caucus blocking of the healthcare repeal, if it repeals, and am surprised at how, 11 years later, Jordan still can’t hit the point with simplicity.
Aside from his morgue-like appearance on New Day with Chris Cuomo, Jim Jordan held his own ok, but I still clicked away from the interview wondering what the caucus was complaining about. Something about a bill 15 months ago, I think the current bill doesn’t repeal, and the plan to prevent people from being without health insurance when ACA is finally buried has been addressed but can’t seem to be said simply. But I guess it’s easy for me to do Monday morning quarterbacking from my PC this morning without a hostile anchor controlling the narrative and interrupting me.
Another attempt for the caucus to explain itself was also awash on Fox News Sunday when Chris Wallace pretty much just ambushed Jim Jordan. I’m really not sure what the point is in having a news show if the guests don’t actually get to speak, but I’m not gonna hold Jordan’s feet to the fire over that one. Given the accomplishments of Jordan since being elected to congress, I have no doubt in a 1-on-1 meeting he’s a tiger. The fact he was able to get congressmen to form a new conservative caucus, flying in the face of the GOP mainstream, is pretty bad ass.
This now more controversial Freedom Caucus has its founding as much in myth as in reality. The various explanations I’ve heard is part Tea Party conspiracy mixed in with problems with Boener’s leadership. My guess is that right wing conservatives have had a hard time mixing with the moderate neo-cons who captured the majority in the Contract with America era. This moving of the party to the left, with the exception of the talking points given to satisfy the well-financed social conservatives of the Christian Right, has been at odds since then.
The Tea Party phenomenon has only amplified this, but its critical to remember that the Tea Party largely consists of your regular old conservatives that have been marginalized by the mainstream of the GOP. In the Gingrich days, the strategy was to find republicans that matched the district they were in. This slight removal of the super-conservative litmus test won the majority but moved the party in a different direction. But it worked, in fact, even Mike Hubbard in the famous republican taking the Alabama state house in 2010 (after 136 years of democrat control) used a similar strategy.
The Freedom Caucus, since its founding, has been at odds with the GOP mainstream. They faced bitter, and petty, retaliation for not going along with rule changes in the House, for being against Obama’s trade promotion authority (which Speaker Boener went to the democrats to pass), having attack ads run in their district against them by their fellow republicans, losing committee leadership roles, being cut off of certain campaign funding, and the list goes on. So the current turmoil being faced by the Freedom Caucus is by no means anything they can’t handle.
But in principle, they seem to be the gatekeeper of the purist side of conservatism in the House. They still have a feel of a group trying to be the conservative brand without compromise and this leaves them in a challenging position on the hill and with the public. The media will be reminding us over and over again over the next few days how the Freedom Caucus is really the “rejectionist” wing of the party. I see their lack of support for the current ACA repeal as them keeping their campaign promises without compromise and that perhaps we need to take another look at this health care bill neither the President, nor the Speaker could pass.
The most important talking point the Freedom Caucus is missing, that the President is missing, is that in theory, full free market access to health insurance across state lines will cut costs as companies competed. This means that when, after a 2 year wind down of Obamacare, the average America should be able to purchase health insurance at a dramatically lower rate while the poor will still have access to Medicaid. Nobody is reminding their constituents that health insurance should cost about the same as their cellphone bill every month.
Although the President has said he’s moving from Health Care to Tax Reform, I have a feeling the Freedom Caucus will prove to be a much bigger thorn in the ass of mainstream House republicans and even more so to the President if he attempts another “compromise” in lieu of fulfilling his campaign promise. Losing that primary in ’06 was tough (I was only there briefly but there was a phenomenal campaign team in place). There’s no consolation prizes for losing a political campaign, but I’ll have to admit, there’s nobody I’d rather have lost to than Jim Jordan. He’s held his own, overcome some serious adversity, and tried to repave the road to conservatism. I’m not sure if he’s made the right decision over this health care debacle, but I greatly admire him holding his ground.
What do you think of Jim Jordan? Let us know in the comment section below.