I’ve never been able to get into wrestling, much as I love all sports. And no, I’m not talking about the likes of WWE, which as we know is scripted performance art that emphasizes the E, “entertainment” way more than the second “W”.
I’m talking about rassling, as the quiet, socially awkward dude who was one of the few who would share a meal with me during my early college days described it. He was a regional champion at his small upstate New York high school, and was feverishly trying to make our college’s team, which, though mediocre, was far more competitive than our basketball teams were, and we never had football. So I threw myself into covering the matches, trying to learn the nuances from my dining hall companion.
He was obsessive over what he put into his body, forever picking fights with the poor servers when he thought they had put way too much grease on the grill (they often did, but that was to mask the taste of the food they were serving). He was always in a foul mood when we ate. And when I’d foolishly ask him to explain some of what he was trying to accomplish, his eyes would glaze over, as if an inner being was controlling him.
“A wrestler needs to win, and if we can’t, we need to believe we did, anyway, so as to reinforce our chances for winning the next time”, he’d crow. “When you approach your opponent, you have to convince yourself he’s a bully, driven soley by the desire to win–the only thing standing in the way of your success, and you have to have that resolve until you literally are incapable of moving. And you have to summon every bit of your resolve and use every bit of your reserve to be sure you don’t wind up under him”.
And then he added “Besides, when you look up at the crowd when you do win, when you know the pretty girl you’ve always admired is looking at you in a different way when it’s your arm being risen in triumph, well, there’s no better feeling in the world. And you’ll literally do anything possible to get the feeling as often as you can”.
I saw the same look in Jim Jordan’s eyes yesterday morning–yes, the same Jim Jordan who was a championship wrestling competitor and coach before his Congressional career began–when he called an impromptu press conference just before his candidacy for Speaker of the House was rejected for a third and what would eventually become the last time, as NEWSWEEK’s Katherine Fung chronicled:
Jordan held a press conference early Friday morning ahead of the third floor vote for House speaker, urging members of Congress to quickly elect someone later in the day so lawmakers can begin legislating again on the Hill.
During the press conference, Jordan also spoke about the Wright Brothers and used several American achievements, including Chuck Yeager’s flight exceeding the speed of sound and Neil Armstrong‘s moon landing, to make a point about his speaker race. He reiterated that there were “all kinds of problems with the 2020 election” and defended emailing former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows a strategy to block the certification of Joe Biden‘s electoral victory.
During the questioning period, Jordan cut off a reporter at one point, telling them to “stop,” and evaded as to whether he has been able to flip any additional votes in his favor.
If it were performance art being scripted by a McMahon, it would have been compelling. But coming from an elected official seeking to become the third most powerful person in the United States, it was sobering. So much so, that even FOX News talent was perplexed:
“Doesn’t look like he has the support yet,” Fox and Friends co-host Lawrence Jones told his fellow anchors after Jordan’s remarks. “I’m not sure what the purpose of the press conference was. He took questions from the folks, but it looks like he’s still just trying to rally the troops.”
“OK…I don’t know what the point was,” co-host Brian Kilmeade said to chuckles in the Fox studio. “Everything that we just learned, we knew.”
“Right now, Jim Jordan says, ‘I’m going to use the Bible’s inspiration to push myself over the finish line,'” the Fox anchor said. “The problem is what Bible are the other 20 using because they believe that they’re making their stand against Jim Jordan.”
Evangelical, almost deluded in a belief in how the world appears to you is the way it should be. Pretty much describes any believer. And in the portion of Ohio that Jim Jordan represents, where J.D. Vance was also elected, where Roger Ailes came from, and that has supported Donald Trump in the last two presidential elections, where THE Ohio State University reigns superme, they LOVE three things (well, four, if you count OSU football). G-d, wrestling and winners.
Jim Jordan has been elected to SEVEN consecutive Congressional terms. Despite this other line item on his resume, as THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH reminded yesterday:
(D)uring his run for the speakership, allegations that he covered up a sexual abuse scandal while serving as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University—which first emerged in 2018—came to the forefront.
Jordan coached at Ohio State between 1987 and 1995. In 2018, a number of former wrestlers came forward with accusations that Richard Strauss, an athletic department physician, had abused them. A 2019 investigation determined that Strauss had sexually abused at least 177 male patients between 1978 and 1998, a plurality of whom were on the university’s wrestling team. Several former wrestlers have stated that the environment in their training facility—Larkins Hall—was also uncomfortable and sexually deviant. Six of them told Politico in 2018 that they were “regularly harassed in their training facility by sexually aggressive men who attended the university or worked there,” and that “voyeurs would masturbate while watching the wrestlers shower or sit in the sauna, or engage in sexual acts in the areas where the athletes trained.”
Jordan himself was never accused of any form of abuse, but he has received criticism from a number of former wrestlers who claim that he knew of the abuse and did nothing to stop it. “We talked about it all the time in the locker room,” David Range, a former OSU wrestler, told the Washington Post in 2018. “Everybody joked about it and talked about it all the time,” he added. One of Jordan’s earliest critics—former wrestler Mike DiSabato—told NBC News that “[Jordan] is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.” However, Politico also reported that DiSabato had a long-standing feud with the university and a number of run-ins with Jordan’s family.
So for as much of a victory lap that folks were inclined to take after the turn of events that saw Jordan eliminated as a candidate for the current House Speaker vacancy, I fear we not only have not seen the last of him, but we should be prepared for an even more resillient fight the next time around.
Because, at least in my experience, bullies and wrestlers always somehow seem to eventually win.
Sure, there were celebratory reports being written much like that which TIME’s Philip Elliott offered up that tried to celebrate what so many theoretically saner folk would call a win:
Rep. Jim Jordan seemed to be in a somewhat surprised self-pitying mood Wednesday as he came off a second failed attempt at seizing the House Speaker’s gavel. His campaign for the open position, heavy on threats, bullying, and badgering, was clearly not paying the dividends he had hoped. Over 24 hours, Jordan had lost more supporters than he gained. And it left Jordan, a loud-and-proud troublemaker from Ohio, with a chip on his shoulder and, perhaps more dangerous, losing ground.
Yet amidst all of his grandstanding and hand-wringing, support rang strong from those who still did support him, consistently referencing his wrestling career as rationale for their blind trust. As if the ability to execute a half-nelson qualifies one for leadership. But, truth be told, with many, it does.
Because how else do you explain that level of support from what is still a plurality of his peers, and a majority of his constituents, despite these additional black marks that Elliott offered?:
Jordan is far from a masterful legislator, having passed exactly zero bills during his nine terms in Washington. The threats of primary challengers and mean tweets proved his critics correct when they argued he is a petty man who is not to be trusted. “Threats and intimidation tactics will not change my principles and values,” Rep. Jen A. Kiggans wrote, noting she had already voted twice against Jordan and his approach to governing by browbeating. Added Rep. Kay Granger: “Intimidation and threats will not change my position.”
Then there is Jordan’s outsized role in undermining our democracy ahead of and on Jan. 6, 2021. As early as November of 2020, Jordan was consulting with White House aides and allies for ways to set aside the electoral results. He urged Trump supporters to flood Washington, and led a Jan. 2 conference call about ways to derail what should have been a routine vote in Congress to accept the results. On Jan. 5, he texted the top White House aide with advice on how Vice President Mike Pence should maneuver the following day. And on Jan. 6, he spoke with Trump before the President riled up a crowd that would later march on the Capitol. When it came time to certify the results that evening, Jordan joined 146 other Republicans in rejecting the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. In effect, Jordan was trying to bully his colleagues into forgetting Election Day had even happened. Jordan would later defy a subpoena to testify to the House committee investigating Jan. 6. And, in the current House GOP, that is not as disqualifying as you’d think(.)
In a fairer world, someone like Jim Jordan would never have been elected even once, let alone seven times. He would have never been even considered someone worthy of consideration for such a powerful post. But, then again, look who we’ve elected President, and, incredibly, is very much in position to be elected again in approximately 13 1/2 months.
This is NOT a fair world.
On last night’s REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER, of all people, documentarian Alexandra Pelosi, who knows a thing or two about House speakers . was plugging her new HBO/MAX work THE INSURRECTIONIST NEXT DOOR, and astutely observed that those who she interviewed are frustrated, feel muted, and were amplified by the double whammy of seeing legacy jobs disappear during the Obama administration, seeing their American dream all but vaporized, and ,when in COVID-necessitated lockdown, were overly active with social media rabbitholes that inflamed their angst and vitriol to even greater lengths.
Alexandra Pelosi, despite having to endire her mother being reviled as “Crazy Nancy” for years and seeing her father in intensive care with severe head trauma, allowed for the reality check that, much as she first inclined to loathe the people that she was curious about, they felt an intense, almost evangelical need to be heard. To not be the one who was being pinned.
So even though folks who more than likely considered Nancy Pelosi worthy of at least respect, if not reverence, were able to push away the ever-determined Jordan from his coveted role for now, even if it took engaging in what the equally odious Matt Goetz referred to as a “knife attack by a secret vote in the bowels of Congress”, I can’t help but feel that Jim Jordan will somehow re-emerge as a prominent figure in all of this before his final chapter is written.
I’ve written a lot about how I’ve been bullied all my life. How I needed police protection. How more recently I was physically threatened, put into a Marine headlock in my own room and then was assualted in a hospital as a result, by two intimidating bastards who knew they could take advantage of someone like me.
Well, I’ve heard through back channels that my boyhood bullies are faring quite well, and my more recent torturers have been gallabanting around Europe with someone whose lost friendship I still covet. As a throuple.
Heck, even Biff Tannen wound up getting the girl and a decent house, even if he did once drive into a pile of horsesh-t.
So Monday morning Congress will start again from square one. Even the olive branch of allowing interim speaker Patrick McHenry to continue in that role has been nixed. (Wonder if when he does give a speech, does he ask “give me McLiberty or give me McDeath?).
They don’t seem to have a real sense on who is actually a viable alternative. Democrats hold out hope that somehow Hakeem Jeffries will get the gig. Not a chance, unless somehow Joe Biden can capitalize on his momentary show of strength from his travels and speeches this week to actually win against someone like Trump.
I really wish I had the capacity to believe that somehow we have indeed seen the last of someone like Jim Jordan.
I don’t. Maybe I’ve been pinned too many times myself. And I’m somehow at a loss to figure out how to get off my own mat.
If you’ve got any real ideas, I’m open to them.
Better yet, pass them along to the DNC.
Until next time…