Meet the Right-Wing Rebels Who Overthrew John Boehner
The commander of the Freedom Caucus is Rep. Jim Jordan, whose rural Ohio district is gerrymandered into the shape of a pelican: The bill reaches into the outskirts of Cleveland, while the tail feathers ruffle up against Speaker Boehner’s district in exurban Cincinnati.
Driving across Jordan’s district — 89 percent white; R+9 — you go through idyllic cornfields dotted with red barns painted with American flags, and lush fields of soy with dystopian markers reading croplan genetics. On the AM dial, listeners can flip between at least three stations carrying Rush Limbaugh. The road into Lima — pronounced like the bean — passes United States Plastic Corp., whose sprawling headquarters is graced by a giant cross and a sign testifying: christ is the answer.
Lima is a hard-bitten Rust Belt city of 40,000; there is no Starbucks in town and the POW MIA flag flies in front of the county courthouse. The twin economic anchors are an oil refinery and the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center that rolls out Abrams tanks — a weapon that Army Gen. Ray Odierno insists “we don’t need,” but Congress keeps funding anyway, to the tune of $120 million in 2015 alone.
In June, Heritage Action honored Jordan on the Lima campus of Northeastern Ohio University for scoring 90 percent on its exacting score card. “It’s hard to believe an organization as fine as Heritage could be wrong 10 percent of the time,” Jordan joked to dozens of local Heritage activists. He then played a numbers game against members of his own party. “Do you know why 65 percent of Republicans think Republican leadership is not doing what they said they were going to do?” he asked, citing a recent Pew poll. “Because we’re not doing what we said we were going to do!”
Jordan is broad-shouldered and wiry, with thinning hair up top. He wears baggy dress shirts and speaks in rat-a-tat bursts. “You’re the energy in American politics that’s going to hold us accountable and force us to do what we campaigned on last fall, why you elected us, why you gave us back the Senate, and why you gave us the largest majority we’ve had in the House for 80 years,” he told the crowd. “It’s never been more important that we stand up and fight.”
Jordan was a Tea Partier before the moniker was minted. First elected in 2008, he rose to command the Republican Study Committee — at the time, the most conservative caucus in the House. When the influx of ideological Tea Party freshmen arrived in 2010, Jordan picked off dozens disenchanted with establishment leadership to build the forces he’d lead into battle against Boehner.