J.D. Vance, the Republican Senate nominee in Ohio backed by former President Donald Trump, accidentally let his truth slip out during a moderated talk at Pacifica Christian High School in Santa Monica, California, last September. In a video reported by Vice News, the Hillbilly Elegy author seemed to make a case for staying married no matter what—even in cases of domestic violence. At one point in his 2021 conversation, the moderator compared the relationship of Vance’s grandparents detailed in his book to modern relationships, and asked Vance what's causing one generation "to give up on fatherhood when the other one was so doggedly determined to stick it out, even in tough times."
And Vance gave this response:
“This is one of the great tricks that I think the sexual revolution pulled on the American populace, which is the idea that like, ‘well, OK, these marriages were fundamentally, you know, they were maybe even violent, but certainly they were unhappy. And so getting rid of them and making it easier for people to shift spouses like they change their underwear, that’s going to make people happier in the long term.’”
“And maybe it worked out for the moms and dads, though I’m skeptical. But it really didn’t work out for the kids of those marriages. And that’s what I think all of us should be honest about, is we’ve run this experiment in real-time. And what we have is a lot of very, very real family dysfunction that’s making our kids unhappy.”
Sticking out domestic violence for the kids’ best interest, however, wasn’t a philosophy Vance was prepared to back outright during his campaign.
When Vice News asked why Vance suggested “it would be better for children if their parents stayed in violent marriages than if they divorced,” he told the media outlet it had posed a “bogus question.”
Vance responded by twisting statistics. Current domestic violence laws are extremely robust compared to the time in which Vance's grandparents were determined to stay together despite their “maybe even violent” marriage. In the 1970s, for example, “domestic violence remained largely unrecognized and virtually ignored in the legal, medical, and social spheres.”
Decades later, domestic violence is treated as a legitimate legal and public health concern, even when it occurs among unmarried couples. That change in standard practice has led to increases in reports of domestic violence in both married and unmarried couples. Avenues for assistance and relief—both in terms of safety and legal recourse—have become more widely available. But you can’t explain that to a man determined to maintain a patriarchy that supports his unexamined beliefs. Vance opted to lay blame at progressives’ feet:
”As anyone who studies these issues knows: domestic violence has skyrocketed in recent years, and is much higher among non-married couples. That’s the ‘trick’ I reference: that domestic violence would somehow go down if progressives got what they want, when in fact modern society’s war on families has made our domestic violence situation much worse. Any fair person would recognize I was criticizing the progressive frame on this issue, not embracing it.
But I can see that you are not a fair person, so rather than answer your loaded and baseless question, let me offer the following: I’m an actual victim of domestic violence. In my life, I have seen siblings, wives, daughters, and myself abused by men. It’s disgusting for you to argue that I was defending those men.”
And even in all of that rhetoric, Vance failed to say deny what he was asked to deny: that he believes staying married to violent partners somehow benefits the children who live with couples who should probably get divorced.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.