Is Middletown native and Republican U.S. Senate candidate for Ohio J.D. Vance turning into a Democrat?
Hardly. But a recent tweet from the Hillbilly Elegy author made politicos scratch their heads.
Vance, who has been pushing far-right views after formerly lambasting previous U.S. president Donald Trump, caused a stir on Twitter on April 10 when he seemed to imply that the Electoral College's usefulness had expired.
"I have a buddy in France, and they just had an election there. Polls closed a few hours ago and they already know who the winners are. Must be nice to live in a first world country," he tweeted.
In the first of two rounds, residents of France cast ballots on April 10 for their favored presidential candidate. Current president and centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen will advance to the April 24 round of voting.
I have a buddy in France, and they just had an election there. Polls closed a few hours ago and they already know who the winners are. Must be nice to live in a first world country.— J.D. Vance (@JDVance1) April 10, 2022
But France uses two-round runoff voting throughout the country, rather than the multi-date, multi-state representative voting of the United States' Electoral College, plus residents automatically are registered to vote at age 18. That makes it easier for ballots in France to be tabulated and certified quickly, as Vance suggests.
By contrast, the United States employs plurality voting for its federal elections with a confusing variety of primaries, in-person ballot mechanisms, voting eligibility, absentee ballots and mail ballots. Voting availability, resources and timelines vary widely by state or city. Additionally, residents' votes are merely representative and are sent to their state's electors, who then cast official federal votes based upon ballot results (some states have other rules, and some electors vote differently). Currently, the first candidate to 270 or more votes from these electors wins the U.S. presidency.
Many history and political scholars have suggested that the Electoral College, which was signed into the U.S. Constitution in 1787 and has been in operation since 1789, is outdated and does not actually represent the direct "will of the people" like a popular vote might. The unequal allocation of state electors — based on congressional delegation — sometimes means that the United States ends up installing a president who wins the Electoral College but not the popular vote. This happened most recently in 2016, when Trump received 304 Electoral College votes to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's 227, even though Clinton bested Trump in the popular vote by nearly 3 million more individual votes.
Democrats have been the loudest at calling for a public vote rather than a representative vote while Republicans have been against it, which is why Vance's tweet caused an uproar. Moreover, to tabulate and certify election results immediately, the United States would need to standardize and simplify its voting and eligibility mechanisms significantly, something Republicans also have not wanted to do.
Significantly, simplifying the U.S. election system — likely through rounds of direct public voting — to speed up confirmed results as Vance seemed to suggest would have meant that Trump would not have been declared the winner of the U.S. presidency in 2016. That, of course, is in contrast to Trump's drawn-out insistence that he won the subsequent 2020 election against current U.S. president and Democrat Joe Biden (Trump lost a series of lawsuits alleging that some states had "rigged" their results against him. There also is an ongoing investigation with credible evidence that Trump, his family members and his allies tried to overturn the election results).
A number of people responded to Vance's tweet about the election in France.
"So you're in favor of ditching the Electoral College and going with a similar system in which winners are determined by popular vote alone?" historian Kevin Kruse asked Vance?
"So…No electoral college, equal tv time for candidates & election day off for voters, you’re a fan? You also like guaranteed healthcare, sane gun laws & 5 weeks guaranteed vacay? Yep, very first world. And all it took was not having a Republican Party," said Cliff Schecter, a writer on Biden's 2020 campaign.
"i know, right? and even more important, whoever loses the election in france will actually accept the outcome," added political scientist Ian Bremmer.
Like many of the Republicans vying for Ohio's U.S. Senate seat, Vance has supported Trump's lies about election fraud, as well as Trump's far-right stances on immigration, abortion, anti-vaccine sentiments, white nationalism and more. 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 also decried the “guilt by association” of questioning 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.
During a volatile debate on March 18, during which Josh Mandel and Mike Gibbons nearly came to blows, Vance suggested he didn't care what happened in the current Russia-Ukraine war.
"The only thing that will salvage Joe Biden’s presidency is if a bunch of stupid, weak-willed Republicans let this guy bumble us into a war that we have no business fighting,” he said.
And back on Nov. 18, when a debate moderator asked Republican 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.
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.
And during another 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.
Vance has continued to amplify right-wing rhetoric, 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.