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J.D. Vance Knew What Republican Voters Wanted
. . . and he gave it to them good and hard.
Yes, as the punditocracy has declared, Ohio’s Republican primary demonstrates once again that this is Donald Trump’s party.
But Tuesday’s vote showed us something else, as well: The GOP circa 2022 is also the party of MTG and Matt Gaetz.
It is a party comfortable with the racist “replacement theory,” okay with poseurs and anti-anti-Putin isolationism, and willing to embrace the rawer forms of Trumpian authoritarianism.
Vance made a judgment about what Republican voters wanted in 2022, and (with apologies to Mencken) he gave it to them good and hard. That’s worth considering for a moment.
The former Marine, Ivy League law school grad and bestselling author had a strategy. "I'm not just a flip-flopper, I'm a flip-flop-flipper on Trump," he told Time's Molly Ball.
Bankrolled by billionaire Peter Thiel, Vance was willing to drink deeply from the cup of self-humiliation and demagoguery, because that is what Trump demands.
But even more important: This is what the GOP voting base wants.
For Vance, that meant not only abandoning many of his former principles (including his oft-stated distaste for Trump, whom he once compared to Hitler), but any pretense to a principled or intellectually coherent platform. Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara previously described the transmogrified Vance as a “pathetic loser poser fake jerk.”
But it worked.
Vance studied the Trumpified GOP electorate and figured that his transparent phoniness and opportunism wouldn’t be held against him.
He was right.
He turned himself into a troll spewing cartoonish bigotry on demand. As my colleague Tim Miller wrote in The Bulwark last year, in a single week, Vance had “tweeted about how he’s scared to go to New York because it might be dirty. Defended a Nazi from being kicked off of twitter. Shared a thread defending election fraud conspiracies. Fantastically claimed Google was ‘hiding’ his website. Mocked reporters for saying they were traumatized by the Capitol riot.”
He tightly hugged the most extreme MAGA types, campaigning with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and eagerly accepting the endorsement of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., even defending her appearance at a white nationalist conference. “She is my friend, and she did nothing wrong,” Vance said after the conspiracy-mongering representative appeared at an event organized by Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes. “She said nothing wrong, and I’m absolutely not going to throw her under the bus, or anybody else who’s a friend of mine.”
Vance figured that this refusal to apologize would win him the favor of the deplorable legions, or at least Trump.
Again, he was right.
Shortly before Ukrainians began to bravely resist a brutal Russian invasion, Vance embraced Trumpian anti-anti-Vladimir Putin isolationism: “I’ve got to be honest with you,” he declared. “I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another.”
He figured that this would appeal to the America Firsters and the GOP’s No. 1 Putin fan. He was right…
Nor did Vance shy away from racing to the bottom with rivals like Josh Mandel. Accurately reading the zeitgeist of the GOP’s entertainment wing, Vance openly and repeatedly touted the “great replacement” theory to attack the Biden administration’s border policies. This so-called theory — once confined to the far reaches of the white nationalist fever swamps — claims that elites are using migrants and other members of minority groups to “replace” white American voters.
Last month, Vance released an ad claiming that “Joe Biden’s open border is killing Ohioans with more illegal drugs and more Democrat voters pouring into this country.”
The month before he released the ad, Vance went on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to press the attack: “We have an invasion in this country because very powerful people get richer and more powerful because of it. It’s not bad policy, it’s evil, and we need to call it that.”
Indeed, Vance was unapologetic about charges that he was embracing racism.
“Are you a racist?” Vance asked in the TV ad. “Do you hate Mexicans?”
“Whatever they call us,” he declared, “we will put America first.”
As he bid furiously for Trump’s support, Vance naturally minimized the former president’s attempted power grab and the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6. He praised Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who had objected to certifying the election, and he said that “most of the people there were actually super peaceful.” (Five people died, and more than 100 police officers were injured during the hourslong assault.)
Perhaps most importantly, Vance made it clear that he despised the same people the voters despised. And he didn’t care how unfair or obnoxious he sounded. He attacked the “childless left” who, he said, have “no physical commitment to the future of this country.” And he railed against the monied boogeymen of the "big lie," tweeting, "The simple truth is that in 2020 our oligarchs used their power money to do everything they could to steal an election."
Writing in The Atlantic, Tom Nichols noted that “Vance has struck back at his many critics across the political spectrum by referring to them all as ‘degenerate liberals,’ which is exactly the kind of thing a smarmy and pretentious asshole would say.”
But Vance knew that’s what he had to say. He was right.
No, I don’t think a legal attack on gay marriage or interracial marriage is imminent. And some of the rhetoric has been waaaaaay over the top; like this:
But, but, but… the entertainment wing of the GOP is already thinking about the next front. Nota bene:
What Larry Hogan Is Doing
A follow-up to yesterday’s item about Maryland’s quixotic GOP governor.
“There are some battles in the primaries that matter, and there are people being unfairly attacked by the former president that I want to try to help and support,” said Hogan, who recently flew to Florida for an event with the Republican Main Street Partnership, which includes more than 60 members of Congress….
[With] his eye on supporting candidates Trump has attacked, Hogan has headlined — or will headline — fund-raisers for lawmakers like Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, who voted to convict Trump on an impeachment charge; Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, Republican of Washington, who voted to impeach Trump; and Kemp, whom Trump has slammed as “very weak.”
Hogan’s advocacy organization has begun running ads for Representative David Valadao, Republican of California, who also voted to impeach Trump after Jan. 6.
Through his position at the Republican Governors Association, Hogan is supporting Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, who won his Republican primary this week after Trump had insulted him as a “terrible, terrible guy,” and Gov. Brad Little of Idaho, after the former president endorsed his challenger.
Hogan is also backing his chosen successor for Maryland governor, Kelly Schulz, against a Trump-endorsed candidate who called former Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” and campaigned at an event promoting QAnon and Sept. 11 conspiracy theories.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m an outlier here. But this sounds… good?
1. The Politics of Overturning Roe Are Bad for Republicans
On Tuesday, at a Republican press conference, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked three times about the big story of the week: A draft Supreme Court opinion, leaked to Politico, that exposed the Court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade. McConnell was furious about the leak. But each time reporters asked him to talk about abortion, he refused to engage.
Morally, this reticence seems bizarre. For half a century, Republicans have campaigned on promises to expunge Roe. They said millions of unborn lives were at stake. Now victory is at hand, but McConnell won’t talk about it. Why not?
The answer is simple: He knows this issue is bad for his party. Roe infuriated pro-life Americans and made pro-choice Americans complacent. Republican candidates could use the issue to rile up their base without risking an electoral backlash. But if Roe goes down, Americans who want to keep abortion legal will have to vote that way. And those Americans are a political majority.
2. What Comes After the End of the Roe Era?
Like millions of other Americans, my views on abortion are complicated and have evolved somewhat over time. I have been a pro-choice Republican-leaning independent practically from the moment I came to the United States from the Soviet Union as a teenager in 1980. I didn’t know American politics enough to have a strong opinion in the 1980 election, but in 1984, while I was not yet a citizen and couldn’t vote, I wore a Reagan/Bush button on campus as a student at Rutgers University. I argued ferociously with people who thought you couldn’t be for Reagan and for women’s rights. In those days, when pro-choice Republicans were still a thriving breed and not quaint relics, I assumed that a reversal of Roe was extremely unlikely.
I thought the Reagan appointees to the Supreme Court might uphold some restrictions on abortion but not strike down Roe outright. (In the case of Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, I was correct.) I recall some pundits from that era saying—with the same kind of wary cynicism that conservatives often direct toward organizations focused on various progressive causes—that the last thing Republicans wanted was to see Roe actually overturned, because then they’d have to pass and defend actual anti-abortion legislation, not just grandstand.
3. Climate Catastrophists Need to Chill
The unremitting catastrophism of much climate talk by major institutions (universities, foundations, entertainment companies, non-profits, and others) flies in the face of the scientific consensus. Even Professor Michael Mann (of the famous “hockey stick” graph) has cautioned that “doomism” is more of a problem now than denial, and hysterical warnings about global collapse are wrong and unhelpful because they lead people to despair. Any amount of mitigation is good, he urges, adding that “Two degrees of warming would be far worse than 1.5 degrees of warming, but not the end of civilization.”
Not the end of civilization.
Climate change is a big problem, but it is not an extinction-level event. No respected scientific body, including the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says that climate threatens to end human civilization. Not even close.
Just checking my DMs this morning:
Meanwhile, still providing aid and comfort…