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Why Jim Jordan should avoid fights over what's 'un-American'

To hear Jordan tell it, "real" Americans believe that vaccine mandates are at odds with our national traditions, even when history proves otherwise.

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan has earned a reputation as a highly controversial politician, though I was a little surprised to see him cause a stir this week with a short tweet. As The Washington Post reported:

At a time when the delta variant's summer surge has renewed the nation's divisions over coronavirus vaccines, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) on Monday said mandates enforcing vaccination do not reflect what it means to be American. 'Vaccine mandates are un-American,' Jordan tweeted.

At this point, we could point to the American tradition and note that George Washington, among others, embraced mandatory inoculations. Indeed, by some measures, the United States might very well have lost the Revolutionary War were it not for a policy that Jordan apparently considers "un-American."

We could also point to many examples throughout American history in which key societal institutions — including public schools and the U.S. military — embraced vaccine mandates as a matter of course. Ohio State required vaccinations for students while Jordan was a coach there, and he didn't seem to care at the time.

We could also note that if we're really going to have a conversation about what is and isn't "un-American," we should probably discuss those who supported efforts to overturn the results of an American presidential election because a group of extremists didn't like voters' judgment. I suspect the Ohio congressman may not like where that conversation ends up.

But as relevant as those points are, there's another dimension to this that shouldn't get lost in the political shuffle: When Jordan refers to perfectly American things as "un-American," he's almost certainly not being literal. Rather, the Republican is referring to things he believes are in conflict with his version of patriotism.

It didn't generate nearly as much attention, but Jordan had a separate tweet yesterday featuring recent footage from a University of Wisconsin football game. The video showed celebrating fans, nearly all of whom were standing side by side without masks, packed into a stadium.

"Real America is done with #COVID19," the congressman wrote.

It was a foolish missive — the real question isn't when we're done with the virus, it's when the virus is done with us — but it underscored a key facet to the GOP congressman's ideology.

To hear Jordan tell it, "real" Americans agree with him. "Real" Americans want to stop worrying about the dangerous contagion filling hospitals and overwhelming morgues. "Real" Americans no longer care about curtailing the pandemic.

And "real" Americans believe that vaccine mandates are at odds with our national traditions, even when history proves otherwise.

Jordan, like so many of his allies, apparently wants to be the arbiter of patriotism, and those who see the world through different eyes don't qualify.