As a potential Conservative Senate candidate from Ohio, author JD Vance can claim a seldom authentic connection with the white working-class voters who helped make Donald Trump president.
In his best-selling 2016 memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, Vance told the story of his escape from generations of poverty and addiction in the shadows of Appalachia, thanks to an extremely loving grandmother and a stroke or two of lonely happiness. (The Netflix film adaptation was less well received than the book.)
Even if 36-year-old Vance were a Democrat, his life story – the Marines, Yale Law School, venture capital, and national standing – would make gold for political biography.
But when the Republican Party embarks on an extremely weak transformation from the Country Club Party to the Working Class Party after the Trump presidency, Vance and his political fate attracted a disproportionate amount of excitement in conservative circles – and one growing pile of real gold.
Even before confirming he’s going to run for office, Vance is worth a campaign slush fund based on donations from tech billionaire Peter Thiel, a formerly ardent Trump supporter, and the heir to the hedge fund of at least $ 10 million. Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer reported for the first time in Forbes magazine.
The new face of the Republican Party’s working class is apparently being rolled out on a clearly ruling class budget.
But a successful Vance candidacy could indeed be worth a very large sum for Republicans, who might see a rare opportunity to end the tricky project, decades of hostility over employee issues – from wages to unions to health care to health care – Giving legitimacy to the huge economic aid package that Joe Biden signed just last month – behind a red curtain.
“You won’t get there on standard workers ‘issues,” said David Pepper, former Ohio Democratic Party leader, of the Republicans’ attempt to rename themselves. “There is no possibility.”
The common wisdom among political strategists has long been that the Republican Party, whose supporters are disproportionately white, will face a demographic time bomb when US voters diversify. Trump put the theory down a bit last year by making its way among Latinos and, to a lesser extent, African American men.
The “working class” pitch is in part an appeal to these new Republican curious voters. But Trump also pointed to another, powerful way for the Republican Party to expand its reach: by attracting a growing proportion of white working-class voters who were once unionized and democratic, but supported Trump in both 2016 and 2016 2020 40 points higher than the national spread.
Republican strategists are trying to figure out how to keep these voters. An internal Republican memo that Axios unveiled this week, referring to the Cementing GOP as the working class, said: “The Republicans of the House can expand our electorate, increase the turnout and recapture the House by enthusiastically renaming themselves as the Working Class Party and reorient. ”
Plutocrats within the party who may disagree are keeping mum for the time being or placing their bets discreetly while the party’s leading brands in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election – Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley – have taken up the message and are running with it.
“The Republican Party is not the party of the country clubs, but the party of hardworking workers,” said Cruz hypnotically in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February.
“We’re a Labor Party now,” Hawley tweeted the day after the November election. “That’s the future.”
Democratic partisans claim that half a century of Republican commitment to increasing the comfort of the richest Americans, coupled with a newer strategy to prevent voters from voting, cannot be eradicated by simple assertions of newborn political intentions.
But unfortunately for Democrats, in a world where politics has largely broken away from politics – taken over by cultural wars and other sinister currents stirred up by Trump, including racial resentment and the immigrant scapegoat – Republican strategy is with their arrival doesn’t admit dead top democratic strategists themselves.
“The Democratic Party sees itself as the party of the working people,” said David Axelrod, former adviser to Barack Obama, in a debriefing of the 2020 elections, “but for many working people and the party it is not so.” have to find out. “
Both sides recognize that branding is important, and Vance could come into play in Ohio in 2022. The Senate seat opened unexpectedly earlier this year when incumbent Republican Rob Portman, a meek Trump skeptic who nonetheless supported the former president, said he had had enough of Washington.
Older-style conservatives who dislike Trump but knowingly nod at the scenes in Vance’s book describing people who “played the welfare system” encouraged him to enter the race.
“I hope Vance will run for the seat of Ohio Senator Rob Portman in 2022,” tweeted Rod Dreher, executive editor of American Conservative magazine. “He’s just the kind of new Republican we need.”
However, assuming that Vance’s law school at Yale or the money from Silicon Valley wouldn’t detract from his working-class credibility to Ohio voters, he could face a second crisis of authenticity that could halt his candidacy right before he even made one can face only democratic opponents.
To get to the general election, if Vance runs, he must first survive a Republican primary race – and in the world of grassroots Republican politics, where allegiance to Trump is vital, Vance is downright vulnerable.
“I think I’ll vote third because I can’t stand Trump,” Vance told NPR on a book tour in 2016. “I think he’s harmful and is leading the white working class to a very dark place.”
Perhaps worse, Vance wrote admiringly of Barack Obama in the New York Times in 2017, saying he “missed” the former president “and the example he set”.
His main opponents would relentlessly pound him on numerous earlier statements like this, and in the past few months a new version of JD Vance has furiously diverged from the old JD Vance. He has tweeted broadsides against the “ruling class”; suggested that immigrants pose a pandemic threat; appeared on Fox News to destroy Meghan and Harry and beat up Biden for immigration; gone to big tech taking Silicon Valley money; and even played Twitter Footsie with QAnon.
“He’s clearly trying to mimic that Trump Genu lesson we’re seeing from some of the other candidates, which is a bit embarrassing for JD Vance because his brand was very different just a few years ago,” said Pepper, the former Democratic Party chair.
It remains to be seen whether the internal tensions – not to mention hypocrisy – of a Vance candidacy funded with cash from the coast or the larger Republican rebranding project prove too great to sustain in real life. At the moment both are untested political theories.
But with a $ 10 million war chest, Vance has enough to get into the game.
“That’s a lot of money that will help him a lot,” said Pepper, adding that Vance’s popularity as a writer turned out to be low profile with Ohio voters for the time being. “But if the only reason he’s in the game is because of the big tech on the coast, that kills the ‘I’m a Trump guy’ narrative – but it also kills his narrative of the portrayal of the worker.”