By Jonathon Van Maren
It’s been barely a month since J.D. Vance’s senatorial campaign launched, and he is already pretty sick of being accused of using culture war issues to distract from economics. From the Washington Post to Vanity Fair, the consensus is that the author of Hillbilly Elegy has turned from an explainer of Trump to an imitator. So, I asked him: How does he respond to those who say he’s simply trying to gin up low-information voters with red meat irrelevant to their daily lives?
“I just find this argument so preposterous,” Vance replied. “Everyday people are not just mindless drones who go to work and earn a wage and feed their kids and go to sleep. They’re actually people with values and morals and a sense of what’s right and wrong. To engage in the culture wars is really just to respond to the fact that the left has attacked the core values of a lot of normal Americans. Somebody has to stand up to them, and it might as well be us.”
Which is not to say he hasn’t gotten this criticism directly. “This frustrates me a fair amount because I hear this a lot from my friends on the left who say J.D., we appreciate your focus on trade and manufacturing—that stuff is really important,” he told me. “However, middle-class Americans don’t just care about their jobs. They also care about what their kids are taught. They care about religious values. The idea that engaging in the culture war is a distraction from the concerns of normal Americans is preposterous if you talk to normal Americans.”