Reprinted with permission from Alternet
On July 1, right-wing "Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance announced that he is seeking the GOP nomination for Ohio's 2022 U.S. Senate race, and some pundits have mentioned him as a possible presidential candidate for 2024. When it came out in 2016, "Hillbilly Elegy" was widely read — even by liberals and progressives, who wanted to hear what Vance had to say about social and economic problems in rural Appalachia. But recently, the 36-year-old Vance has been sounding more and more like a Trumpian culture warrior, and Never Trump conservative Tim Miller notes how much of a "culture war it boy" Vance has become in a hilarious but scathing video posted on YouTube and The Bulwark on July 1.
Although Miller is conservative, he isn't far-right and has been a blistering critic of former President Donald Trump. In 2020, Miller left the Republican Party after many years and endorsed now-President Joe Biden in the presidential election. And his Vance video slams the "Hillbilly Elegy" author right away, with Miller asking, "Did Hollywood help propel a new race-baiting, culture-war 'it boy' to political stardom?"
"This is J.D. Vance," Miller explains in the video. "He looks like a cross between Elmer Fudd and three babies in a trench coat. And he's running for Senate in Ohio, with his eyes on a future presidential bid."
2016 was not only the year "Hillbilly Elegy" was released — it was also the year in which Trump defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in that year's presidential election, losing the popular vote but picking up more electoral votes. Miller recalls that Vance was anti-Trump in 2016 but has since flip-flopped and become very Trumpian rhetorically.
"You may have seen his Netflix movie 'Hillbilly Elegy,' which was based on his critically acclaimed book," Miller observes with biting sarcasm. "It was lauded as a nuanced portrait of the Trump-supporting White working class that was all too often tarnished as racist or backwards. And back then, J.D. played reviewers like a fiddle. He texted his agent saying that Trump winning would be terrible for the country, but good for book sales. Everyone from Seth Meyers to Bill Gates used J.D.'s story to help them understand this crazy species that they'd never encountered in the wild: the Trump voter."
Miller slams Vance as a shameless opportunist, saying, "Now, Vance is parlaying that media success into politics, and the former Trump skeptic has taken a dark turn. These days, he's a Trumpstan, and he's relying on racial resentment to reach the very voters that he was supposedly shining a more empathetic and nuanced light on. His Twitter feed has turned into kind of a Trumpian cosplay, but without any of the former tweeter-in-chief's je ne sais quoi."
Vance recently resorted to fake outrage after Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, during a congressional hearing, said he "wanted to understand White rage."
"In response," Miller observes in his video, "J.D. rage-tweeted, 'The conservative [American]s you trash are disproportionately bleeding for this country.' Ah, so only angry White men serve in the military. Boy, that's some subtle stuff there, bro. I wonder if the audience picked up on the dog whistle."
But as much as Miller lambasts Vance in his video, he also expresses regret — pointing out that instead of pandering to White racists, he could be genuinely shedding light on the economic problems of White rural America.
Indeed, a major void was left after the death of journalist/author Joe Bageant, the self-described "redneck leftist" who specialized in liberal commentary on economic pain among rural Whites. Bageant, who died of cancer in 2011, is best remembered for his book Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War.
Miller, with frustration, explains, "Here's the worst part about J.D.'s new shtick: The points he's made over the years about liberal elites looking down on and ignoring the forgotten hillbillies were right. They do do that! J.D. could have been a model for a new, more empowering kind of politics. But instead of changing the way politicians address White working-class problems, he's using the same demagogic bullshit about race and crime and gays that every populist asshole has been employing since the AIDS crisis and Jim Crow. And instead of telling them the truth, he's going with his dad to Trump's conspiracy-election-fraud jamboree and going along with Big Lie BS."
Watch the video below:
Tim Miller's NOT MY PARTY | Will JD Vance Find Political Stardom? www.youtube.com