Republicans have been clamoring to know who former U.S. President Donald Trump would endorse in the heated, crowded race for Ohio's upcoming U.S. Senate seat. The answer finally came on April 15 when Trump declared that J.D. Vance was his favorite.
Trump's announcement both made sense and also was comically unexpected, depending on your starting point. For those on the far right, Vance — a Middletown native — has evolved to match Trump's frequently harmful and frequently racist views, thus demonstrating that Vance can be counted on to oppose abortion rights, LGBTQ+ protections, immigration and any discussion of the hell this country has heaped upon Black, Brown and Indigenous people. Basically, Vance is all in on MAGA ("Make America Great Again," Trump's slogan that harkens back to eras when marginalized Americans had fewer rights or platforms).
"It is time for the entire MAGA movement, the greatest in the history of our Country, to unite behind J.D.'s campaign because, unlike so many other pretenders and wannabes, he will put America First," Trump said in a statement through spokesperson Taylor Budowich (all emphasis and capitalization in the statement is Trump's).
Meanwhile, for those on the left, more traditional conservatives or people somewhere in the middle, Vance represents the classic trope of a politician saying whatever is convenient in order to gain followers. Just a few years ago, Vance passionately talked about how "afraid" immigrants and Muslims in his personal circle were of Trump, with Vance tweeting "Because of this, I find him reprehensible." He even cited Christians' lack of attending church as a reason people followed Trump and wrote "Fellow Christians, everyone is watching us when we apologize for this man. Lord help us" after Trump's misogynistic "Grab 'em by the pussy" conversation on Access Hollywood came out. But now, Vance has embraced Trump's ideals — some may say he's been "groveling" for Trump's approval — to gain footing in Ohio's Senate race, out-MAGAing candidates like Josh Mandel, who has sought Trump's stamp like a puppy and was assumed to be the former president's heir apparent in the Buckeye State.
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. Vance is running for the Senate seat that Republican Rob Portman will vacate, and his candidacy also is backed by Thiel.
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.
With that, here are five things to consider as Vance continues to pursue Ohio's Senate seat:
Deep down, Vance knows that Trump is "America's Hitler"After Trump voiced his endorsement of Vance, Josh McLaurin, a state representative from Georgia, shared his own interesting history involving Vance. McLaurin went to Yale for law school, and he and Vance lived together, he said. The Georgian posted on April 18 what he said was screenshot of a conversation the two had had in February 2016.
"I go back and forth between thinking Trump is a cynical asshole like Nixon who wouldn’t be that bad (and might even prove useful) or that he’s America’s Hitler. How’s that for discouraging?" Vance allegedly texted to McLaurin.
The screenshot below is @JDVance1’s unfiltered explanation from 2016 of the breakdown in Republican politics that he now personally is trying to exploit.— Josh McLaurin (@JoshforGeorgia) April 18, 2022
The “America’s Hitler” bit is at the end.
The public deserves to know the magnitude of this guy’s bad faith. pic.twitter.com/79Z0qSWFWF
In the screenshot, Vance also allegedly told McLaurin that the Republican party was, "whether we like it or not, the party of lower-income, lower-education white people. I have been saying for a long time that we need to offer those people SOMETHING (and hell, maybe even expand our appeal to working class black people in the process) or a demagogue would. We are now at that point" (all emphasis Vance's).
Vance also said, “Trump is the fruit of the party’s collective neglect."
McLaurin, who has garnered quite a bit of attention upon sharing the alleged text, closed out his post by reflecting, "The public deserves to know the magnitude of this guy’s bad faith."
Vance pushes lies that the 2020 election was "rigged" for Joe BidenJoe Biden is the President of the United States. American voters have said so. Courts have said so. Even the bulk of conservatives have said so (after quite a bit of delay). But that's not a reality for Trump or for many of his followers, including Vance.
After losing his 2020 bid for reelection, Trump filed a number of lawsuits in battleground states to overturn the election results, insisting that ballots were counted incorrectly, Democrats loaded up local election officials, dead people voted and other claims. American elections are imperfect and the whole system needs to be reevaluated anyway, but Trump's claims that multiple states conspired against him were unfounded. The courts knew it, too, with exasperated judges dutifully looking into the matter and then dismissing the lawsuits because they held no merit. Trump's attorneys even dropped some of the suits on their own.
But Trump's insistence that the election was "stolen" was echoed by many Republicans and continues to be held up as talking point to boost far-right campaigns — including Vance's. Vance, Mandel and other Ohio candidates tell TV cameras and voters alike that nothing about 2020 was fair, despite there being no credible evidence that Trump would have won had Biden, Democrats or anyone else not "conspired together."
During a March 28 candidate debate, Vance pushed back on the moderator's fact-checking and brought up conspiracy theories about Facebook czar Mark Zuckerberg “buying” election boards.
He did something similar in November. 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 also said, ignoring research that has proven that Facebook has largely benefitted Republican candidates and right-wing views. He also decried the “guilt by association” of his endorsement by Marjorie Taylor Greene, arguing that she shouldn’t be criticized for appearing at a white nationalist rally, because he found nothing to fault in her remarks.
Even worse, the continued lies about the election were the primary motivator for the Jan. 6, 2021, violent attack that directly or indirectly killed at least seven people and terrorized politicians, law enforcement, staff workers and reporters at the U.S. Capitol building, investigators have found. The event largely was planned and carried out by Trump supporters who believed the lie, and investigators recently have said that Trump's allies had tried to pull strings to overturn the election. Vance's vocal support for Trump and the lies that have been disproven keeps the flame burning for another needless, violent insurrection.
By the way, Biden received 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232. Biden also won the popular vote with 81.2 million votes vs. Trump's 74.2 million. Read CityBeat's story about Vance seemingly implying that the Electoral College should be abolished, which is a frequent talking point for Democrats.
Apparently, you won't be good at legislating if you don't have children — especially if you're a Democrat. Or at least that's what Vance claimed during a speech at the Future of American Political Economy conference, held last July.
Vance thinks that child-free people make bad legislators
"The 'childless left have no physical commitment to the future of this country," The Guardian reports Vance as saying. "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 specifically referenced Democrats Vice-President Kamala Harris, transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, Senator Cory Booker and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Harris is the stepmother to husband Doug Emhoff's two children, while Buttigieg and husband Chasten have adopted two children (at the time of the convention, they were exploring adoption)— something conservatives routinely advocate for during their anti-abortion efforts (though they are less happy when same-sex couples do it).
Neither Booker nor Ocasio-Cortez have children, though Booker's then-girlfriend, actress Rosario Dawson, has one adopted daughter. Read CityBeat's story about Vance's thoughts on childfree legislators.
Vance thinks parents deserve more voting power than child-free people do
In an effort to court Evangelical Christian voters as Trump did, Vance has paid even more lip service to parents. During that same speech in 2021, Vance 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." Read CityBeat's story about Vance's thoughts on voting.
Vance uses white fear to spur votes
"Are you a racist? Do you hate Mexicans?" Vance asks in a much-maligned April 5 advertisement. Vance has been echoing Trump's insistence that Mexicans and other non-white people are overrunning the United States' borders and must be stopped before they wreak havoc on residents here.
At the heart of the argument, of course, is a wall along the southern U.S. border that Trump had promised to build and that Mexico would supposedly pay for. Neither really happened by the end of Trump's term, with the United States erecting fewer than 80 miles of new barriers (as opposed to replacement of previous materials) and Mexico not bucking up for materials (in fact, the United States allocated $15 million for it).
What Trump's promise did do for white people, though, is stoke more fears of Brown, Black and other non-white folks. Trump effectively turned away hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and placed tight restrictions on travel visas for those traveling from predominantly Muslim countries. By pushing back against being labeled as racist (when, of course, racism has been baked into this country since the beginning), Vance further aligns with Trump and would be disastrous for the immigrants whom he had previously claimed to care about. Read CityBeat's story about more of Vance's statements about people from Mexico.
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