Mitch McConnell and J.D. Vance have one thing going for them: they’re counting on the short-term memory of both the electorate and the media that cover them.
J.D. Vance, author of the book Hillbilly Elegy that made white-trashism chic a few years ago, is running for the open Senate seat in Ohio. He’s not off to a great start; he’s had to go back through his Twitter account and delete all the nasty things he said about Trump four years ago so he can suck up to the base of the party.
In 2016, J.D. Vance, the successful author turned venture capitalist, was a hard-core critic of Donald Trump. The Republican nominee was “unfit,” his attacks on “immigrants, Muslims, etc.” were “reprehensible,” and his policy proposals ranged from “immoral to absurd.” Vance publicly endorsed Never Trump Republican Evan McMullin and expressed a fervent wish: “In four years, I hope people remember that it was those of us who empathized with Trump’s voters who fought him most aggressively.”
Now Vance hopes fervently that his aggressive fight against Trump is not remembered. Vance is currently running for the Republican nomination in Ohio, a constituency where Never Trump Republicanism plays more poorly than it does in, say, Silicon Valley. Vance appeared on Fox News to confess his sins and plead forgiveness from the voters whose approval he now seeks.
While Vance’s profile has changed quite a bit during his meteoric ascent, one constant has been a fixation with the ignorance of voters in white rural communities. He exploded into national prominence with a bracing memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, that seemed (to national audiences) to explain the pathologies of Trump voters. Then he likened Trump to “cultural heroin,” a narcotic voters turned to to avoid their real problems.
Like any good capitalist, Vance pays careful attention to market signals and is quick to reposition his product when he has misjudged consumer demand. In his current role, he has tried to position himself as the enemy of the business elite (or at least the parts of the business elite not funding his campaign). Vance claimed that “career politicians” are “upset with me because I actually say what’s true — which is many of these people don’t care about their own voters; they think they’re either bigoted or they think they’re stupid.”
It is the other politicians who think Republican voters are stupid. Vance respects their intelligence enough to look them in the eye and beg their forgiveness for ever having suggested they are stupid to support Trump.
In other words, forget everything I ever said back then because then I didn’t need your money. Now I really mean it. The cynicism kicks in when it’s clear that he knows it will work.
Right now he’s polling in single digits, and while it’s unlikely that the seat, currently held by Republican Rob Portman, will flip to the Democrats, Vance is proving to be unlikely the one to win even in the primary. With one notable and disastrous exception, it turns out that just writing a book has a dubious history of launching a political career.
Mitch McConnell relies on nothing but cynicism. He has little to no interest in representing Kentucky in the Senate; he’s in it for the power and the money and he freely admits it, telling people that while he worked hard against President Biden’s stimulus package, he’s happy to point out how good it is for his pigeons.
McConnell, in Kentucky, talks Biden’s $1.9T Covid relief law: “It passed on a straight party line vote… So you’re going to get a lot more money. I didn’t vote for it, but you’re going to get a lot more money. Cities and counties in Kentucky will get close to $700-800 million.”
“If you add up the total amount that’ll come into our state: $4 billion… So my advice to members of the legislature and other local officials: Spend it wisely because hopefully this windfall doesn’t come along again… We’ve floated entirely too much money.”
So be grateful, you schmucks, because I didn’t do anything to get you that dough, and I’ll work my ass off to prevent anyone from ever helping you out again.
He’s not even trying to fake it anymore — not that he ever did — but I suppose when you get to the point in your cynicism that you don’t even try to hide it, at least he’s being honest about being a total shitheel.
HT to Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice.