October 16, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
For a Speaker Jordan, the point would be sabotaging democracy
The man’s accomplished nothing but disorder.
Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan is now whipping holdouts in the Republican conference in a bid to become the next speaker of the House. If he succeeds, the Congress will become more chaotic than it already is. He doesn’t care about governing. He doesn’t care about dealmaking. There’s one thing that Jordan cares about – sabotaging democracy.
Recall that Jordan was one of Donald Trump’s closest allies in his 2021 criminal conspiracy and attempted paramilitary takeover of the US government. According to former Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who co-chaired the committee that investigated the J6 insurrection, Jordan knew more about what Trump “had planned for January 6th than any other member of the House of Representatives.”
Cheney said Jordan “was involved [and] was part of the conspiracy in which Donald Trump was engaged as he attempted to overturn the election.” If the House Republicans elect him as speaker, she added, “there would no longer be any possible way to argue that a group of elected Republicans could be counted on to defend the Constitution.”
We can probably expect a Speaker Jordan to add poison to any legislation that might keep the governing running beyond Nov. 17, knowing full well that the Democrats will object.
Governing has no meaning to Jordan. There’s a government to fund after Nov. 17. There are foreign allies (Ukraine against Russia, Israel against Hamas) to support. But those are not the first things on the mind of someone who’s seeking the speakership. According to Jill Lawrence, Jordan has in his sites “a highly partisan, likely illegal, and definitely expensive” gambit “to eliminate funding that would be used” to process or release immigrants who are legally seeking asylum. There’s a nation to run, but he can’t be bothered, though bothering is what you’d expect from the second-in-line to the presidency.
Jordan has no business being speaker. None. He hasn’t accomplished anything, because, according to Heather Cox Richardson, legislative accomplishments are beside the point for a “flamethrower who, in 16 years in the House, has not managed to get a single bill through the House, let alone into law.” She added that “Jordan’s elevation would reflect that for many years now, Republicans have elevated those who disdain government and whose goal is to stop it from working.”
A speaker, especially one who leads in a time of divided government like ours, must make deals. There’s no way the Democrats or the president will agree to a provision that would stop funding for the legal processing and release of immigrants who are legally seeking asylum given that, you know, they are legally seeking asylum. We can probably expect a Speaker Jordan to add poison to any legislation that might keep the governing running beyond Nov. 17, knowing full well that the Democrats will object. It doesn’t matter, though. He’ll just go on Fox to blame the opposition. Meanwhile, the country sinks further into chaos.
That’s probably the point. More than anyone in the Congress, Jordan may represent an idea that’s growing among the most extreme Republicans. It’s that democracy is no longer stable enough to produce outcomes in keeping with the founders’ vision of the republic, and that what’s needed to restore order is a strongman. This idea goes by many names, the most convincing I think is fascism. But lately, fascism has gotten a fashionable upgrade. It’s being called “Red Caesarism.”
Lindsay Beyerstein explained last week in the Editorial Board. “The argument riffs on Julius Caesar’s decision to cross the Rubicon with his army and return to Rome to become a dictator. Proponents like to say that Caesarism is better than democracy because it’s more stable.” But, she added, “Caesar sustained one-man rule for less than a year before being assassinated. His gory death sparked a series of civil wars that ended the Roman Republic and ushered in the Roman Empire. The fact that anyone regards this dismal period as aspirational is disturbing.”
The strongman in question is obviously Donald Trump, who sought to overturn a free and fair election that many Republicans have lost faith in, precisely because it produced an outcome, and hinted at future outcomes, in which “conservatives” – or native-born fascists – have no chance of winning. It is because they face the likelihood of losing free and fair elections that these same fascists no longer seek stability but instead chaos for which their solution is a Red Caesar.
But of course they can’t just come out and say any of the above. They must instead prove that democracy is unstable – thus justifying the weaponization of the state against the strongman’s enemies – and what better way of doing that than by installing as speaker of the US House of Representatives a figure, second-in-line to the presidency, who has accomplished not one thing legislatively in his 16 years on the job?
The truth is that democracy can be very unstable, especially when there are so many people in key states around the republic who are predisposed by birth or upbringing to be dead-set against the concept, norms, practices and institutions of democracy to such a hateful degree that they elect people like Jim Jordan to sabotage it from within.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.