At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), we sit down with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to discuss a potential Trump 2024 run, why he believes the Equality Act threatens religious liberty, and how he thinks people should combat cancel culture.
Jan Jekielek: I’m here at CPAC 2021 with Congressman Jim Jordan. Very good to be with you here. Many, many topics we could talk about. You’re very vocal on a whole suite of policy issues. First of all, let’s talk about this. This is something you’ve been criticized for a bit. You’ve basically said that Donald J. Trump is the leader of the Republican Party. How does that work?
Rep. Jim Jordan: He’s the leader of the conservative movement. He’s the leader of the America First movement. He’s a leader of the Republican Party. And frankly, I hope in 2025, he’s once again the leader of our country.
No president in our lifetime, in my lifetime, has done more of what they said they would do when they were president than President Trump. He said he’d cut taxes; he did. He said he’d reduce regulations; he did. He had the best economy in 50 years, lowest unemployment in 50 years, out of the Iran deal, embassy in Jerusalem, hostages home from North Korea, new NAFTA agreement, built the wall, and a host of other things I can’t think of right now. So this guy went to that town, took on the swamp, did what he said he would. And that’s why the American people so appreciate him, because he fought for them, fought for us. And he’s certainly the leader of our party.
Mr. Jekielek: He faced—and frankly, you also face this to some extent—huge, huge backlash as well, right?
Rep. Jordan: Yes. The swamp doesn’t like it when you come there and do what the people want. The swamp wants you to do what the swamp wants. Often what happens in politics is someone will say a certain thing at election time, get to D.C., and then pretend they’re doing what they said they would do [but actually] not do what they said they would do and make excuses for not doing what they told you that they were going to do.
President Trump got there and said: why don’t I just do it? And he did. Again, middle class, working class people across this country, citizens, all kinds of families across this country, appreciate that. Here was a guy who said he would build the wall, for example, and went and built a wall. He said he would cut their tax—I mean, that’s why they knew he was fighting for them. They knew it was genuine, that he believed it. And they knew he was taking all the shots for them as well. And that’s why there’s this intensity of support for the [former] president.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk about building the wall. When I heard about building the wall way back when, I didn’t actually think a wall would be built. I’m just being honest here, right? A wall was built, at least some sections of wall were built. And there was a transformation of the immigration policy, unquestionably. Some of that is changing. Again, you’ve been critical of that. Tell me about this?
Rep. Jordan: Let’s be honest: 40 days in, the Biden administration has opened the borders and closed the schools. It’s: take down the wall on the southern border that protects the country, but put up a wall around the Capitol that protects the politicians. Frankly, we the people, the American people, I don’t think that’s what they signed up for. And that’s frustrating for them; it’s frustrating for me.
It shows the contrast between where the left wants to take the nation and where we were under the leadership of President Trump. I hope he runs again. He changed that town in so many ways. If he gets another four years, he will continue to do the good work. We’ll just have to wait and see if he does, but I hope he does.
Mr. Jekielek: Where else do you see that contrast that you’ve just described in immigration?
Rep. Jordan: They’re spending a $1.9 trillion, $2 trillion spending package that’s supposed to be targeted towards dealing with the virus, but 91 percent of it is not. I always say the best stimulus is let people go back to work, let people go back to school, let people go back to normal. That’s the best stimulus package. Why don’t we just let that happen? Instead of taking taxpayer money and running up the debt for our kids and our grandkids and everything else?
You see it when the Democrats are going to try to raise taxes. You see it on, as we said before, the border policy and a host of other issues, like HR1, their election law bill. This election law says that your tax dollars—that the same people who spent 1.9 trillion on a package where 91 percent of it doesn’t go towards COVID relief and COVID help, those same individuals now want you to pay for them to get re-elected. Such a deal for the taxpayers, right?
So the folks I get the privilege of representing are now going to have their tax dollars not only used for spending on ridiculous things, but also used to help Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to get re-elected. Not to mention in this bill it basically codifies and federalizes the very same practices that were such a controversy in this last election that created this mess with mail-in voting. It basically makes that the norm for the country. So that’s another example of just how radical the Left has become today in the country.
Mr. Jekielek: Presumably, with HR1, it wouldn’t just be the Democrats which would get help getting elected. Right, it would be the Republicans as well?
Rep. Jordan: Right. It would be used to finance campaigns, which I’m totally against. But this is something the Left has always wanted. They want to use your taxpayer dollars to get elected to keep running against and doing against the things that would actually help you and your family. I just think that’s wrong. Go raise money yourself if you’re going to run for office to get re-elected.
Mr. Jekielek: Another thing you’ve been vocal on, a bill that just passed recently, the Equality Act, of course. You’ve been basically saying it doesn’t actually promote that.
Rep. Jordan: No. It would actually undermine your most fundamental liberty, the liberty that the founders, the first liberty they chose to mention in the very first amendment in the Bill of Rights, which is your right to religious freedom, your right to practice your faith the way you think the good Lord wants you to.
It goes directly at that fundamental right, not to mention the undermining of the spirit of Title IX, which we all know has helped so many women in athletics. During the debate in the Rules Committee, and on the House floor, Democrats said, “Nothing in this bill will harm women’s right to participate in sports.”
And I said, “Well, that’s true, it may not harm their right to participate in sports, but you’re going to make it harder for them to win.” And that’s the spirit of Title IX. You’ll be able to set your goals, work hard, and actually accomplish your dream. So it’s a very, very dangerous piece of legislation. I’m hopeful that is not going to pass the Senate.
Mr. Jekielek: The Title IX issue is talked about a bit more, but how is this an assault on religious freedom, exactly?
Rep. Jordan: It specifically says in the legislation, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed back in the 1990s, which basically was statutorily stating what your First Amendment liberties are, defending your right to practice your faith, and that there’s some compelling government reason to undermine that.
I always say, look, there are a handful of key rights mentioned in the First Amendment: freedom of the press, freedom to petition the government, freedom to assemble, freedom to speak and to speak in a political nature. And then of course, the first right mentioned is your right to practice your religion, to practice your faith, and Congress shall make no law hurting that fundamental right. That was buttressed and emphasized with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This Equality Act that passed the House just this past week specifically says on page 25 of the legislation, you cannot use that as a defense against what the bill is trying to do. And that’s a problem. That’s a big problem.
Mr. Jekielek: Presumably, there would be some constitutional challenges based on what you are saying right now.
Rep. Jordan: Yes, but I don’t think this thing’s going to pass. That’s what I hope for. I don’t think it’s going to get through the Senate. And that’s ideal. Before it passes and becomes law and you have to challenge it in court. Let’s just keep it from passing.
Mr. Jekielek: As we finish up here, what do you expect is going to happen over the next, let’s say, a couple of years now?
Rep. Jordan: Hang on. Our job is to hang on. I’ve said many times my favorite scripture verse is 2 Timothy 4:7, “Fight the good fight, finish the course, keep the faith.” And it’s a verse of action. It’s a verse that I think fits our country, because I always say Americans aren’t timid. We’re not wimpy people; we’re people of action and initiative and intensity.
We need to fight to preserve the values and principles that make our country special against this onslaught from the cancel culture Left in all they’re trying to do to the country. So just hang on, push back, stop as much as we can of what the Left wants to do. Take back the house in 2022, make Leader McCarthy the Speaker of the House. And then in 2024, President Trump runs for re-election and wins, and then we can get back to doing the things that are actually going to make America a better place and keep us the great country we are.
Mr. Jekielek: For the typical American, the theme of the conference is America Uncancelled. You just referenced this cancel culture. We’re just seeing an acceleration. How does the typical American deal with that in your mind? Not everybody has your voice or your energy.
Rep. Jordan: You have to step back and ask the question, who’s next? Who’s the cancel culture coming after next? I mean, they canceled the host of The Bachelor; they canceled the star of The Mandalorian. They’re trying to cancel Fox News, One American News, Newsmax. Last week they tried to cancel Kermit the Frog and the Muppets. I mean, who is next?
Every single citizen who cares about fundamental liberty, who cares about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, has got to speak out every time they see someone getting canceled. I met the head of Goya Foods backstage. They tried to cancel him simply because he said President Trump’s doing a good job. Imagine that you compliment the president of your country, and the Left tries to cancel you. But guess what happened? Americans all over this great country went out and bought Goya Food products.
Mr. Jekielek: He called it a buy-cott.
Rep. Jordan: Yes, buy-cott. When you see someone who speaks out on a local level and the Left starts attacking them, defend that individual. You have to stand up and defend your rights. If we do that, that’s what America has always been about. We’ll be fine in the long run. This is interesting, because you’re saying basically defend everybody’s right.
Mr. Jekielek: This is interesting, because you’re saying basically defend everybody’s right.
Rep. Jordan: Yes. Right, whoever it is that’s being canceled. We’re not just talking about the conservatives. One of my friends, he’s no longer in Congress, is way left, Dennis Kucinich. But Dennis Kucinich is an old school liberal. He actually believes—I mean, he believes all that left wing stuff. I think he’s wrong; he thinks I’m wrong—but we’re friends because he believes in the First Amendment. That’s his attitude: let’s shake hands, let’s have the debate, and whoever wins, wins, and then we’ll have the next issue. And then we can come back to this. But it’s a fair debate.
He’s not into canceling people who are conservative. I’m certainly not into canceling people who are liberal. I just want an honest debate because you can’t have a functioning First Amendment if only one side is allowed to talk. You can’t have free speech if the Left is the only entity that gets to define what speech is.
That’s the scariest thing happening in the country. If you can’t have a First Amendment real debate, if you can’t speak out, how are you going to win. How are you going to win the tax debate? How are you going to win the border security debate? How are you going to win in any public policy issue? If only one side is allowed to talk? So that’s why we have to fight this more than anything else.
Mr. Jekielek: Any final thoughts?
Rep. Jordan: We’re good.
Mr. Jekielek: All right. Have yourself a great day.
Rep. Jordan: You too, thank you.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.