Defending J.D. Vance: Its about shelf life and winning over the other side

Defending J.D. Vance

I’ve had a few opportunities to meet J.D. Vance recently, both of which fell short on aligning schedules.  I have been traveling a lot this year, and coming out of the Covid burdens, it has been a busy time.  Vance is running for the Rob Portman Senate seat that I talk about in the video above.  So are Josh Mandel and Jane Timken, along with several others.  All of the candidates seem like they have something good to bring to the seat as Portman exits.  As I also said in the video, I knew Rob Portman when he first started in politics.  He was a kind of Ross Perot Reform Party guy back then, and over time as the glaciers of D.C. politics have worn away at him, he has become a serious RINO, essentially no better than Mitt Romney.  This doesn’t surprise me, nor do the reports that J.D. Vance was a Never Trumper in 2016.  This past week the media looking to churn up controversy in what they consider to be the front runner in the race, J.D. fresh off his successful movie, the Hillbilly Elegy, and book by the same name. Vance has good funding from Peter Theil in the vicinity of $10 million, which is a good start for an Ohio senate race.  I think a lot of the bad media is a good sign for Vance and that a proper defense of him is warranted.  But again, as I mention in the video, the purpose of a primary is not to determine the best character who can run for that seat; it’s who has the best shelf life once they win it.  Which candidate can hold their life together long enough to withstand the rigors of elected life in a powerful seat?

I will meet with Jane Timken coming up soon, which I plan not to miss.  J.D. has had events practically in my backyard as he’s from Middletown, and if I get another chance, I’ll make room for it.  I know Josh Mandel pretty well from his Tea Party activism, and if I had to pick, it would be him right now.  I personally like him, but he doesn’t have much of a reputation as a winner.  He lost a challenge to the socialist Sharrod Brown, and he’s had family trouble.  To me, that’s a shelf-life problem.   I warned Rob Portman of the shelf-life issue when he was making his first run for congress and when he did win, I maintained some relationship with him for a few years after.  His shelf life was about seven years.  Some people like Rand Paul and his father have lasted a lot longer.  Some don’t last much beyond their freshman years intact with their Mr. Smith Goes to Washington intentions. It’s a cutthroat business that a lot of politicians don’t understand until they get there.  A primary election is an excellent way to give them a taste and let voters figure out what that political shelf life might look like.

I wasn’t very excited about J.D. Vance, I’ll admit, when I had those two invites to meet him over the last few months.  I am skeptical of anyone who works for any period with the very liberal film director Ron Howard.  Ron did a great job on the movie Hillbilly Elegy, and he couldn’t have done that good of a job without working closely and getting to know J.D. Vance.  The film and the book are essentially about the life story of Vance and how Middletown, Ohio fell from grace and produced problems for a displaced Appalachia family.  The Vance story is one I know well.  I could tell the same story for thousands of people I know in Hamilton and Middletown, Ohio, who came from Kentucky and West Virginia to get jobs at Fisher Body in Hamilton and Armco in Middletown.  Vance was a darling to liberals, which he played to his advantage while it lasted.  The movie was Academy Award level material, and the book was a New York Times Best Seller. As I’ve said many times, you don’t get those accolades unless you give progressivism a sacrifice on Kong’s Skull Island.   Much like the book The Deer Hunter did, capitalism was painted as the cause of Middletown’s failure, of the small town of Appalachia culture that failed the people of those communities.  But in reality, it’s tampering by government with the markets that ruined those jobs.  It was union activism that made the supply chain unreliable in many cases, and it is that behavior that causes economic downturns anywhere. 

But I saw more than that in Hillbilly Elegy, not just in J.D. Vance himself. He prevailed in the story despite the massive setbacks from his drug-addicted mom and the seemingly dysfunctional antics of his grandmother.  Again, I know lots and lots of these kinds of people, and I know the real story of their lives better than Hollywood, looking to make a statement about the failures of capitalism.  I saw a person in Vance who understood personal responsibility and overcoming barriers, which was a metaphor for his life and the town of Middletown as a whole.   And since 2016, and especially once he was done with the movie, I was not surprised to see a kind of Trumpian candidate that fits well in the American First platform of President Trump.  Vance gets the philosophy and knows how to hit the cable news stations and sell it.  The question everyone has is what kind of shelf life does J.D. Vance have, and does he genuinely believe what he’s saying now. 

Oh, I remember 2016 when Vance was posting on Twitter disparaging things about Trump.  I knew a lot of Republicans who were right along with him.  They were Never Trumpers, just like Glenn Beck was.  Glenn Beck and I shared a mutual friend in Doc Thompson, and there were always talks of doing work on The Blaze, which often put Doc in a tough spot.  I was so mad at Glenn Beck that I swore him off forever. I’m happy to see he has since found his mind now that it’s obvious how good the Trump presidency was.  But if I refused to deal with people who were Never Trumpers, who has since seen the light, I wouldn’t be able to talk to anybody.  There weren’t many of us who were pro-Trump in 2016 who were willing to admit it publicly.  I was a Trump supporter from the beginning and have watched many people change their minds, so it isn’t surprising that Vance has now seen the light.  To my mind, it’s all about building teams, of winning over people’s minds.  So I welcome Vance and people like him who have learned and evolved.  Welcome to the winning team!

Yet when the primary election is held, and whoever wins among these candidates for the Portman Senate seat, we must keep in mind shelf life.  We want a person who will be just as good ten years from now as they are during their freshman year.  We want someone who will be able to still talk about America First after they’ve had a line of lobbyists outside their office trying to buy them off with easy money and cheap wine that will be all too tempting to consume.  And for J.D. Vance’s enduring love for a self-destructive mother hell-bent on drug abuse, I think the young man knows something about overcoming adversity.  He might be the kind of person who can withstand the rigors and maintain a long shelf life in a powerful seat in public office. I’d be more than willing to give him an honest look.

Rich Hoffman

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