U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan’s twisted belief system is a threat to democracy - one that Ohio voters can upend: Brent Larkin

October 25, 2018 GMT

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan’s twisted belief system is a threat to democracy - one that Ohio voters can upend: Brent Larkin

OBERLIN, Ohio – Voters in this left-leaning, highly educated city will be quite kind to Janet Garrett on Election Day.  More problematic are the quarter million or so who live south of this lovely little college town nestled in the center of Lorain County.  

Garrett, a 65-year-old retired teacher and lifelong Democrat, has lost badly in two earlier bids for Ohio’s 4th District congressional seat, a hideous work of gerrymandering that meanders about 250 miles southwest through all or part of 14 counties.  

As always, Garrett’s opponent Nov. 6 will be Rep. Jim Jordan, the Republican incumbent, a founder of the far-right Freedom Caucus and a likely candidate for House speaker or minority leader, provided he wins a seventh term.  

Janet Garrett is not naïve. She knows Jordan beat her by a margin of better than 2-to-1 in 2016. She knows President Donald Trump won this congressional district by an astonishing 34 percent.

But she also knows a lot has happened since.  

On a recent Friday morning, we’re at Slow Train Cafe, a comfortable, 1960s-style coffee shop a block from the Oberlin College campus. It’s a place with old wooden tables and flyers on the wall advertising poetry walks, a viola recital and book readings.  

“I’m very aware this is an uphill battle,” said Garrett, an Oberlin resident for 56 years. “But the political climate has changed. And this race is completely different.”  

Much of what makes it different is that many voters in this district – and across the country – now know the real Jim Jordan.  

The real Jim Jordan is a political extremist, a bad man who does bad things.    

Former House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican to his core, has described Jordan as a “legislative terrorist.” Any mention of Jordan’s name around Boehner is invariably met with a torrent of bad words not fit for print in a family newspaper.

As yet there isn’t a shred of evidence suggesting Jordan is on the brink of defeat. But winning re-election will make his twisted belief system even more of a threat to democratic values.  

To make the case there should be no place in public life for people like Jordan, let’s go to the highlight reel:  

*At least three former wrestlers at Ohio State University have told NBC News that Jordan knew or must have known of sexual abuse claims against a former OSU doctor who treated athletes at the school in the 1980s and 1990s. Former OSU wrestler Shawn Dailey, who describes himself as a “close friend” of the congressman, separately told NBC that Jordan had to have heard of the sexual abuse. OSU is investigating.

Jordan denies the allegations. Told the matters I wished to discuss, his spokesman, Ian Fury, said in a message that Jordan had already been interviewed by a cleveland.com reporter, suggesting there was no need to do it again.  

*In a reckless assault on the rule of law during a June hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Jordan evoked comparisons to the late Sen. Joe McCarthy. His clumsy, shameless and unsuccessful attempt to damage the credibility of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein showed Jordan cares more about shielding Trump from the law than he does about supporting those charged with enforcing it.    

As center-right columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote in The Washington Post, “Jordan is the perfect incarnation of the GOP in 2018 – unhinged, bullying, unbound by facts and unconcerned with the norms of democratic government.”  

Television coverage of Jordan’s attempt to trample constitutional norms caused Garrett’s fundraising to explode. In her past races, Garrett raised and spent about $50,000 each time. Her fundraising this year is well in excess of $500,000 – much of that in the form of unsolicited donations from voters in 48 states who were offended by Jordan’s McCarthyism.  

“A lot of people in the district were horrified to learn he was their representative,” said Garrett. “I get a lot of love when I campaign in Urbana (Jordan lives nearby). Just driving through town and seeing all those Garrett signs is great.”  

*When Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act in 2012, Jordan voted “no.” Jordan and some other House members opposed the bill’s inclusion of gays and lesbians. Like so many other Republicans running for high office in Ohio this year, Jordan is a gay rights bigot who wants to drive the nation – and the state – back to the stone age.  

Garrett is no moderate. But more than her liberal politics, what really seems to differentiate her from Jordan is a belief in the rule of law, in basic human decency.

Money pouring into Garrett’s campaign has enabled her to air television spots in all five of the district’s television markets. And she’s hired Joe Trippi, a respected political consultant with an impressive resume of wins, including Doug Jones’ stunning upset of accused child molester Roy Moore in last December’s U.S. Senate election in Alabama.  

I first met Trippi when he organized Walter Mondale’s campaign in Iowa prior to the presidential caucuses there 34 years ago. Mondale won in Iowa.

Trippi knows a Garrett win here is a lot less likely.  

“But the ingredients are there,” he said. “There is a disaffection inside the Republican Party now that Janet can appeal to, particularly among women. It’s going to be tough, but people have developed real doubts about this guy. The glow is off.”  

And it’s gone for good. 

Brent Larkin was The Plain Dealer’s editorial director from 1991 until his retirement in 2009.

To reach Brent Larkin: blarkin@cleveland.com

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