Goldstone is the author of the forthcoming "Not White Enough: The Long Shameful Road to Japanese American Internment."
As one of its first acts after taking control of the House of Representatives, Republicans chose not to attack inflation, public health needs, a drought that threatens farmland in the rural West, or even the immigration crisis at the southern border, but rather “approved a GOP resolution to create a select subcommittee that Republicans say will launch a far-reaching examination of the agencies and people that investigated Donald Trump.”
The vote to create what Republicans provocatively called the “Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government,” was 221 to 211, with every Democrat opposed, thus dispelling the notion that there is a “moderate” wing of the Republican Party that will resist efforts of the far-right to turn House proceedings into a circus for the next two years.
Chosen to chair this even-handed probe into the persecution of the unfairly maligned former president and his acolytes is that noted advocate of sound governance and fair play, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who is also the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Jordan is an obvious choice for a party more interested in attacking their opponents than in enacting legislation to solve problems that they had no small hand in perpetuating. He is described as “a staunch ally of Mr. Trump” and “deeply involved in Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.”
On January 5, 2021, Jordan forwarded a text to Mark Meadows, endorsing a crackpot legal theory that would give Mike Pence the authority to block certification of the election, and then voted against certifying it after the January 6 riot. According to the January 6 committee, three days before the Meadows text, on January 2, Jordan “led a conference call in which he, President Trump, and other Members of Congress discussed strategies for delaying the January 6th joint session.”
It is ironic but hardly a surprise that one of Jordan’s pet peeves is what he insists is a plot among federal law enforcement and national security agencies to unfairly target conservatives. And so, he promises a sweeping investigation to uncover details of this perfidious conspiracy by liberals to punish anyone from protesters at school board meetings to Trump himself.
Democrats protested that Jordan and his committee would engage in the very conduct he claims to deplore. Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, said, “I call it the McCarthy committee, and I’m not talking about Kevin; I’m talking about Joe.” He added, “This committee is nothing more than a deranged ploy by the MAGA extremists who have hijacked the Republican Party and now want to use taxpayer money to push their far-right conspiracy nonsense.”
"A ploy?” Jordan responded, summoning his full measure of righteous indignation. “It’s not a ploy when the Department of Justice treats parents as terrorists, moms and dads who are simply showing up at a school board meeting to advocate for their son or daughter.” Even more outrageous according to Jordan was that “The government was telling people they couldn’t go to church just a few years ago.”
That Jordan’s fury is selective there can be no doubt, nor that he chose to look away when the Trump administration was committing its worst abuses and when a mob of insurrectionists committed unspeakable acts after breaching the Capitol in the first large scale attack on the building since the War of 1812.
But Jordan is good at looking away. When he was assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1987 to 1995, he was accused of being involved in the cover-up of widespread sexual abuse of young men by then-team doctor Richard Strauss. Eight of the wrestlers have publicly accused Jordan of being aware of the abuse and doing nothing to stop it. One, Dunyasha Yetts, told NBC News of going to Jordan after being abused, but Jordan did nothing. Yetts’s teammate Shawn Dailey corroborated the story.
But the most damning accusations came from Adam DiSabato, who was team captain in the early 1990s. DiSabato, whose brother Mike was among the first whistle-blowers, testified to the Ohio House Civil Justice Committee that Jordan as well as other university officials knowingly ignored Strauss’s systematic sexual abuse of wrestlers. In 2018, DiSabato claimed Jordan begged him to deny the story. He told USA Today, “Jim Jordan called me crying, groveling, begging me to go against my brother, begging me, crying for a half-hour. That’s the kind of cover-up that’s going on there.”
Jordan has, of course, denied the accusations and has not been charged, although he was named in a pending class action lawsuit. Jordan did not comment on the suit but he did have his communications director, Ian Fury, dismiss the charge as “Another lie.”
The point here is not so much to attack Jordan, although his hypocrisy and questionable character are difficult to overlook, but rather to use both the new subcommittee and Jordan’s appointment as its chairman as a reflection of the way in which today’s Republican Party intends to govern.
While certainly both parties pander to their respective bases and promote legislation that can sometimes elevate popularity over practicality, for most of our recent history, party leaders have understood that a functioning democracy has certain limits and those in government must exercise some measure of self-discipline to prevent this fragile system from fracturing.
That discipline and the commitment to perpetuating our system of government seems to have been supplanted in today’s Republican party by an obsession to stay in power by any means possible, even at the risk of destroying what generations of Americans fought and died for.
Since Donald Trump’s victory-for-nihilism election in 2016, many Americans have seemed to perceive the threat that Republicans either ignore or even welcome. For three consecutive national elections since, Republicans underperformed expectations because moderates of both parties pulled the lever for Democrats, albeit in many cases grudgingly.
In 2024, if we wish to ensure that our democracy survives, they will need to do so again.