Ohio Senate Candidate JD Vance Pushes Donald Trump's Lies During Debate

Many Republicans have been suspicious of Vance's actions, noting Vance's recent amplification of Trump-like issues as being vastly different than what he had said in 2016.

JD Vance - Photo: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons
JD Vance

What does Donald Trump's endorsement mean to Republican candidates? Plenty, which probably is why Ohio Senate candidate JD Vance continues his reversal of his previous criticism of the former U.S. president.

Vance, a Middletown native, is running in a crowded Republican field for Ohio's Senate seat that Rob Portman will vacate in 2022. During a Nov. 18 candidate forum in Strongsville organized by the Ohio Press Network, Vance espoused Conservative views that many of the candidates have been using to court Evangelical Christian voters as Trump did, such as no-abortion stances, anti-immigration policies and resistance against science-based COVID-19 vaccines and safety protocols.

But he went even further, regurgitating Trump's lie — which has repeatedly been proven false — that the 2020 presidential election was "rigged" in favor of a Joe Biden victory (many Republican candidates are making similar baseless claims). When the debate moderator asked candidates for thoughts on HR1 — the U.S. House-approved bill that enacts automatic voter registration, provides more methods for registered citizens to vote and secures election information and processes — Vance lambasted the bill as "another" method for Republicans to lose elections, as he said Trump did.

"Look, I think what HR1 is is an effort to legalize electioneering and election fraud all across the country. Because what we saw in 2020 — and it's important to have the courage to say it — is the technology industry working with Democratic operatives in a few big battleground states rigged the 2020 election," Vance falsely claimed, echoing a debunked QAnon theory.

"Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, put $420 million buying up votes in the battleground states all across our country. That was the margin in the 2020 election, folks. That's why we have the disaster that we have instead of a second term of Donald Trump," Vance added, ignoring research that has proven that Facebook has largely benefitted Republican candidates and right-wing views.

Vance's answers during the debate were straight out of Trump's playbook, and for good reason. He, Josh Mandel and other candidates in Ohio and around the country are using Trump's divisive rhetoric to snag votes from citizens who are looking for surface-level soundbites instead of deeper, verified information. And though Trump hasn't yet endorsed anyone in the Ohio race, candidates like Vance are hoping to be the one who will get a boost in ballots and headlines.

But Vance hasn't always been so outright in begging for Trump's affection. In fact, in tweets from 2016 — discovered and archived by CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski — Vance has said that he would vote against the former president. "@Evan_McMulln is who I'm voting for this November," Vance tweeted on Oct. 23, 2016. "Trump makes people I care about afraid. Immigrants, Muslims, etc. Because of this I find him reprehensible," he'd said on Oct. 9 of that year.

Vance also had taken issue with Trump's misogynistic Access Hollywood conversation ("I moved on her like a bitch," "Grab 'em by the pussy" and "When you're a star, they let you do it"). "Fellow Christians, everyone is watching us when we apologize for this man. Lord help us.," Vance wrote on Oct. 7, 2016. 

Vance also wrote this: "In 4 years, I hope people remember that it was those of us who empathized with Trump's voters who fought against him the most."

But Vance has since deleted his tweets and other writings that criticized Trump. Instead of pushing back against Trump's policies and persona, Vance has been embracing both. 

During last week's candidate forum for Republicans, Vance and others gave two-minute opening statements before the moderator began asking questions. Most of Vance's words echoed conspiracy theories from Trump, QAnon and others that white Christian values were under attack.

"I'm worried that we're becoming the type of country where kids like me look to the future and see a place where the values of ourselves and the people in this room are attacked or more commonly are being shipped to countries that hate us and where our very right to speech, to speak our mind in the public square, is being silenced by everyone from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the technology companies that have increasingly controlled our entire economy and the public discourse that comes along with it," Vance said, ignoring that he was giving an uncensored discourse in a public forum.

CNN reporter Eva McKend said that Vance declined to answer her questions about why he reversed his opinion about Trump and issues important to the former president.

Vance has continued to amplify right-wing rhetoric this year, even suggesting that people without children are not qualified for elected positions.

"The childless Left have no physical commitment to the future of this country. Why is this just a normal fact of … life for the leaders of our country to be people who don’t have a personal and direct stake in it via their own offspring?" Vance asked during the Future of American Political Economy conference in July.

During that conference, Vance also advocated for giving parents additional votes on behalf of their children.

"The Democrats are talking about giving the vote to 16-year-olds. Let’s do this instead. Let’s give votes to all children in this country, but let’s give control over those votes to the parents of the children," Vance said (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have voiced support for lowering the voting age to 16).

When asked if that would inevitably give disproportionate legislative control to parents over non-parents, Vance replied yes.

"When you go to the polls in this country as a parent, you should have more power, you should have more of an ability to speak your voice in our Democratic Republic, than people who don't have kids," The Hill reports Vance as saying. "Let's face the consequences and the reality; if you don't have as much of an investment in the future of this country, maybe you shouldn't get nearly the same voice."

Many Republicans have been suspicious of Vance's actions, noting Vance's recent amplification of Trump-like issues as being vastly different than what he had said in 2016.

Vance is a Yale Law School graduate who became a venture capitalist in San Francisco with controversial billionaire Peter Thiel. He has since moved back to Ohio to found another venture enterprise in Cincinnati with backing from Thiel, who also is backing Vance's candidacy.

Vance's book Hillbilly Elegy often is credited with foretelling Trump's rise to political power but also is frequently criticized for not depicting Appalachian life authentically.

Below, watch the full video from the Ohio Press Network's Nov. 18 Republican candidate forum.


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