There is something seriously wrong with Jim Jordan – and it’s not what you think
The last time Jim Jordan was House Judiciary Committee Chairman several years ago, he liked to use public hearings to float as many phony scandals about the Democrats as possible, in the hope of getting some persuadable voters in the middle to fall for it. It sometimes worked. As much of a punchline as Jordan has always been, he did as much as anyone to give legs to the phony Hillary Clinton email scandal, which ended up goading a number of moderate voters into staying home instead of voting for her.
Of course even back then Jim Jordan would get stomped all over by the late House Democrat Elijah Cummings. Jordan is a simplistic one-note motormouth whose lies and misdirection are fairly easy to pick apart. Jordan used to simply rely on the sheer number of people who would tune in for his hearings. With an audience that large, you only need a small fraction of them to get so confused by the hearings, they come away from it no longer sure whether to show up and vote Democrat like they’d been planning to.
Now that Jim Jordan is finally back in charge of the House Judiciary Committee, it’s the same formula. Jordan holds a public hearing about a phony scandal. He uses his time to speak as quickly as he can, in order to pack as much false and misleading information into the hearing as possible. House Democrat Dan Goldman now often ends up dominating the hearings, in much the same way Cummings used to. And Jordan’s strategy still seems to consist not so much of winning or even dominating his own hearings, but instead merely leaving a fraction of the audience confused enough to ultimately suppress the vote.
But something is missing. Something is different. Something is way off. Because these hearings are having zero impact one way or the other. And in theory that shouldn’t be the case, because the topics are rather explosive. We’ve got whistleblowers coming forward from within the FBI supposedly with evidence that the current President of the United States is taking dirty money from America’s enemies, and now those whistleblowers have gone missing or something. If nothing else, this kind of spectacle should attract an audience.
Except it’s not. No one is watching. No one seems to care. And the problem may be that this stuff is too over the top. It all sounds like a bad spy novel that got rejected by the publisher for being unrealistic. And it’s all centered around a humble guy like Joe Biden. Mainstream Americans, whether or not they approve of Biden’s performance, are never going to be inclined to see him as some kind of corrupt evil shadowy figure who’s out there having whistleblowers killed off or something. No rational person would ever fall for this crap.
This is the kind of lunatic nonsense that only the right wing Republican base could fall for – and that’s the problem. You never, ever, ever, ever, ever tailor this stuff to your base. Ever. At least not if you’re trying to win. Your base is already there for you anyway. Preaching to the choir doesn’t ever fill the church pews.
In national politics, there are always two groups you’re trying to reach and persuade. There are those people who are never sure whether to vote Republican or stay home. And then there are those people who are never sure whether to vote Democrat or stay home. If you’re Jim Jordan, your winning strategy consists of motivating the first group to actually go out and vote for you, or demotivating the second group into staying home instead of voting Democrat.
Jordan used to understand this stuff. From the start, the phony Hillary email scandal was crafted solely for the benefit of the above two groups. It was all about giving the most tepid of would-be Republican voters such a negative impression of Hillary Clinton, they’d hold their nose and vote for whoever the Republicans ended up trotting out. It was all about making the most tepid of would-be Democratic voters a little too uncertain about Hillary to actually go out and vote for her. And it was all about crafting such a believable phony scandal that the media on both sides eagerly jumped in and helped sell it to the mainstream.
But these phony Biden scandals are a joke. They’re not even a “joke in hindsight” thing like Hillary’s emails, where we look back years later and wonder how anyone could have fallen for it at the time (hint: the daily repetition of Jordan’s lies by the entire mainstream media). No, these phony Biden scandals are an immediately obvious joke. This is the kind of laugh out loud silliness that no rational person would ever mistakenly believe could be real. It’s also way too far out there for the mainstream media to want to get on board with hyping, since there really aren’t any mainstream ratings to be had with the absurd suggestion that Biden had a whistleblower killed or something.
Jim Jordan’s problem is that whereas he was once savvy about crafting the kinds of phony scandals that impact persuadable voters in the middle, Jordan is now roughly as stupid about this stuff as the average Twitter pundit. These days Jordan keeps inventing the kinds of phony scandals that could only ever appeal to his own lunatic base, which means they’ll never penetrate the mainstream media, and they’ll have zero impact.
It’s enough to make you wonder how Jordan lost so many brain cells along the way. Just six or seven years ago he was (unfortunately) a master at this kind of dishonest manipulation of public opinion. Back then he was strategically portraying a clown for effect. These days he is the clown he used to strategically pretend to be. Jordan seems to have no idea how any of this works anymore.
It’s not difficult to figure out what changed, and it comes down to two words: Donald Trump. He ran an extremely ineffective and clueless 2016 campaign, pandering solely to his base in a laughably bad strategy, but then he “won” for reasons that had nothing to do with him. Trump then insisted on sticking with that idiotic strategy for four years, and ended up losing in 2020 by seven million votes. But the rest of the Republican Party nonetheless seemed to fall in line with the idiotic notion that pandering solely to your own lunatic base is a winning strategy. The fact that this strategy failed Trump so badly in 2020, and has cost the Republicans so many other races along the way, doesn’t seem to have any impact on their mindset.
So maybe Jim Jordan has merely been caught up in the same moronic “pander solely to your base” mantra that Donald Trump has instilled in so many other Republican politicians. Or perhaps Trump is still telling Jordan to focus solely on the specific phony scandals that Trump finds gratifying, and Jordan is merely complying. After all, Jordan has an entire warehouse full of skeletons in his personal life and his past, and Trump loves reminding his “friends” of what he knows about them.
But regardless of why Jim Jordan has abandoned his dishonestly effective strategy of years past, the reality is that his new strategy is just laughably ineffective. He’s picking the kind of absurdist nonsense that no one in the crucial mainstream American voting demographic is even tuning in for, let alone falling for. These hearings are changing zero minds and having zero impact – and that’s certainly better than the alternative. The longer the Republican Party goes without remembering how basic electoral strategy works, the better it is for the entire nation.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report