J.D. Vance—whose book Hillbilly Elegy was lauded as the best Trump Voter Explainer™ by liberals and conservatives alike during the 2016 election, is reportedly being urged by Mitch McConnell to jump into the Ohio Senate race.
Last week, GOP candidate Josh Mandel announced that he was withdrawing from the race, citing his wife’s medical issues. This suddenly left Republicans without a major challenger to incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown. According to Politico, McConnell “has told associates that he would prioritize the race if Vance jumps in.”
Vance’s 2016 memoir about growing up in Appalachia launched him to fame. It was a New York Times bestseller, was placed on many a college syllabus, and was praised across the board as the key text for understanding the Trump voter. Hollywood is even making Hillbilly Elegy: The Movie, billed as a “contemporary economic drama.”
But as many have pointed out, the book is not much more than a recycling of welfare-bashing tropes. The only difference is that it targets the white working-class of Appalachia instead of people of color. It is bootstrap mythology at its finest. “Public policy can help,” Vance writes, “but there is no government that can fix these problems for us … it starts when we stop blaming Obama or Bush or faceless companies and ask ourselves what we can do to make things better.”
That Vance is the favored candidate of conservatives like McConnell is no surprise. (He also met with Stephen Bannon when the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation was looking for its new president.) But Republicans aren’t the only ones to blame. The fact that Senator J.D. Vance is even a thing being contemplated is a reality created by all those who praised his bad book in the first place.