House Republicans on Tuesday could elect a speaker who has spent much of his 16 years in Congress giving the GOP occupants of that job hell. One of them, John A. Boehner, once labeled Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) a “legislative terrorist.”
As I argued last week, Jordan’s sudden rise is less a reflection of his own evolution toward playing nice with leadership than of the broader GOP shift toward his and Donald Trump’s bare-knuckle political style.
It’s still an open question as to whether Jordan will win the job; he can only lose the votes of around four House Republicans.
But with Jordan on the verge of a once-unthinkable ascent, it’s worth emphasizing that, while he clearly hails from a hard-right GOP faction, Jordan is in many ways in line with his party’s base. And it’s pretty incontrovertible that he’s aligned with the side of the party that is driving it.
For instance, Jordan was a leading voice in suggesting the 2020 election was stolen. It wasn’t, but polls show nearly 7 in 10 Republicans subscribe to the view that President Biden’s win wasn’t legitimate.
Jordan has reportedly equivocated when pressed on the subject in private House GOP meetings. But he also served as a “significant player” in behind-the-scenes efforts to overturn the election, according to the Jan. 6 report.
And that appears to be something many GOP voters appreciate. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted shortly after the Jan. 6 insurrection showed Republicans saying by a nearly 2-to-1 margin — 49 percent to 26 percent — that members who attempted to overturn the results “should be celebrated” rather than face consequences.
Jordan’s political style is also something that has increasingly found a home in the Republican Party. Polling has routinely shown Republicans are significantly more averse to compromise than Democrats.
A Pew Research Center poll in January showed Democratic-leaning voters preferring by 17 points that Biden would compromise with GOP leaders even if it meant some disappointing results. But Republican-leaning voters preferred by 30 points the opposite — their side standing up to Biden even if that made it “harder to address critical problems.”
Related to the above is voters’ posture toward government shutdowns.
Jordan has often been a key figure in pushing his party to leverage potential shutdowns for policy concessions. It’s a situation he could quickly be thrust into as speaker, with the temporary deal that now-ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) cut expiring in mid-November.
Here, again, Jordan would appear simpatico with much of the GOP base. A late September Monmouth University poll showed just 21 percent of Democrats said their side should stick to its principles even if it led to a shutdown, but nearly half of Republicans said the same.
The story is similar on Ukraine. Jordan has routinely voted against sending funds to help it fend off Russia’s invasion. He was one of just 57 House Republicans to vote against sending $40 billion in May 2022, less than three months into the war.
And much like Republican House members have trended away from such aid, so too have Republican base voters. A CNN poll this summer showed 7 in 10 Republicans said Congress should not authorize additional funding for Ukraine.
All of which must weigh on Jordan’s fellow Republicans. They might think funding Ukraine’s defense is important and/or that playing footsie with shutdowns is a bad idea. But they must recognize that these views are well within the GOP mainstream — not to mention that the loudest factions of the base are seemingly on board with Jordan, and that his side is in the ascendancy.
At the very least, those facts could tempt members to rationalize voting for someone they probably never thought they would be putting in such a position.