In 2016, Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance did not have a lot of good things to say about Donald Trump. Tuesday, Vance won the Ohio Republican primary for the U.S. Senate with the help of Trump’s endorsement.
Vance, a venture capitalist who wrote with heartbreaking detail about his working-class family’s battles with addiction and economic stagnation, had a bead on white conservative voters’ disaffection with the political establishment and distrust of mainstream media ahead of the 2016 election.
At the time, he was no Trump fan. Vance described Trump as “noxious,” “cultural heroin,” and “leading the white working class to a very dark place.”
Nonetheless, on April 15, Trump endorsed Vance in a crowded primary field that included hopefuls who consistently had identified as Trump stalwarts.
Trump changing his mind about people — that’s something you see all the time. The real wonder is what happened with Vance, a one-time darling of the Beltway chattering class.
At a campaign rally last month, Vance proclaimed that Trump was “the best president of my lifetime” who “revealed the corruption in this country like nobody else.”
What transformed the one-time self-described “Never Trumper” to MAGAhood?
Vance’s wife, Usha, once clerked for now Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whom Trump refused to abandon amid unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct during his Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation hearings. As the New York Times reported, Vance said in 2019, “Trump’s popularity in the Vance household went up substantially during the Kavanaugh fight.”
Trump’s readiness to stay in a fight has always been a strong draw among his base. It would be a wholly admirable quality if only Trump knew when to stop fighting — such as after he lost an election.
The seat for which Vance is running was vacated by GOP Sen. Rob Portman, who clearly found Washington’s pugnacious culture impossible.
But winning isn’t everything. Portman, in his statement announcing he would not run for reelection this year, wrote, “We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left, and that means too few people who are actively looking to find common ground.”
Be it noted: Portman won 58 percent of the Ohio vote in 2016, far more than Trump’s 51.3 percent.
Vance, Trump wrote in his endorsement statement, is “strong on the Border, tough on Crime, understands how to use Taxes and Tariffs to hold China accountable, will fight to break up Big Tech, and has been a warrior on the Rigged and Stolen Presidential Election.”
It’s the “stolen” election part that makes serious Republicans cringe. Ditto Vance’s calling President Joe Biden a “crazy fake” president.
So as much as I find Vance and his memoir personally appealing, I was rooting for him to lose on Tuesday. (READ MORE: Ohio Republican Primary Gives First Look at GOP Midterm Strategy)
I don’t want to feed the “stolen” election beast. I don’t want Trump to run in 2024. I hope that Vance and Trump noticed that more than two-thirds of primary voters did not vote for Trump’s endorsee.
In his book, One Damn Thing After Another, former Trump Attorney General William Barr reveals that he told Trump prior to the general election, “There is only one man who can beat Donald Trump and his name is Donald Trump.”
Barr also wrote, “The election was not ‘stolen.’ Trump lost it.”
Surely somewhere, deep down, Vance knows that.
Debra J. Saunders is a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.COPYRIGHT 2022 CREATORS.COM
Notice to Readers: The American Spectator and Spectator World are marks used by independent publishing companies that are not affiliated in any way. If you are looking for The Spectator World please click on the following link: https://spectatorworld.com/.