Instead, it’s Vance who has had a realization: He’s decided that Trump’s cultural heroin is too powerful to resist, so he might as well become a dealer. In the crudest electoral terms, Vance’s epiphany proved right. After winning the former president’s endorsement last month, Vance overcame a ham-fisted campaign and rose from the middle of the pack to triumph in Tuesday’s GOP primary for U.S. Senate in Ohio.
If Vance’s Trump-fueled victory tells us little new about Trump, what does it say about Vance? The standard view among progressives and never-Trump conservatives is that Vance’s choices are purely craven. When he wanted to sell books to cosmopolitans, he marketed himself as a bold truth-teller; when he wanted to win a Senate seat, he boldly discarded his old ideas.
But the best rejoinder to this interpretation comes from Vance himself. Even if the men agreed on the problems facing America, Trump’s term in office showed—just as Vance predicted—that he was unable to address them. “What Trump offers is an easy escape from the pain. To every complex problem, he promises a simple solution,” Vance wrote. “He never offers details for how these plans will work, because he can’t.”
On the campaign trail, however, Vance has adopted Trump’s stump style. He has blamed Mark Zuckerberg for Trump’s loss in 2020, flirted with election-fraud conspiracies, charged into culture-war attacks on Alec Baldwin and LeBron James, and found a steadfast ally in Marjorie Taylor Greene. None of this will help left-behind Ohioans, as he knows. They may or may not realize it; many may be cynical about their futures but happy to just have someone sticking it to their cultural enemies. That may be understandable, but it’s the sort of nihilist scapegoating 2016-era Vance would probably have rejected.
“Trump’s promises are the needle in America’s collective vein,” Vance wrote back then. Today, he’s happy to help you get a fix.
Read More: J.D. Vance Wins Ohio Senate Race