Back in 2016, I got pestered by several persons I know who insisted I had to, must, absolutely right now get to reading a book about the people around us here in central Pennsylvania and elsewhere in Appalachia. This guy who wrote the book gets it, they told me, he is now successful but he grew up poor, you see, and he wrote this story of his life as the son of an addict but it’s more than that.
It explains everything about why those rural people think the way they do, and how to “reach them.” The people telling me this were all fellow university employees, and they viewed the book as a guide to Why Things Are the Way They Are in our rural areas.
The book was “Hillbilly Elegy” by a relative unknown named J.D. Vance.
I was suspicious. Soon after the book’s release, there were people from Appalachia calling bullshit on the book. But, finally, I accepted the offer and dug in. I got just past halfway through it, and I really couldn’t finish it. For me, it was easy to see what the theme was.
Vance was writing another “blame the poors for their being poor” screed that was really not much different than any other version of this smug lecturing garbage that comes from people who are financially comfortable. The people trying to get me to read it were also financially comfortable, so I think there are at least a few reasons to be suspicious and think that they read the book as permission to be condescending about low-income people, especially those in Appalachia. Then it got made into a movie by Ron Howard, who has two settings: Pretty Good Filmmaker and Maudlin Schlockmaster. He was on the latter for this one.
Vance was portrayed by his fans as an empathetic person with real solutions and ideas. However, as you probably are aware, things with Vance took a bit of a turn.
In his run for the open Ohio U.S. Senate seat, Vance has gone full-on Ultra-MAGA. Vance was accepted at first because he was considered a member of the intellectual elite (hence the love for him among my fellow university people), who while conservative had “good ideas” that despite the yeoman work of a fawning media, never was quite clear about what those ideas were.
Vance has now revealed that those ideas include:
- Trump really won in 2020
- America is “Rome awaiting its Caesar” and says things like: “we’re going to have to get pretty wild, and pretty far out there, and go in directions that a lot of conservatives right now are uncomfortable with.”
- When/if Trump is reelected, purge the government and replace them top to bottom with loyalists, which is…pretty authoritarian.
- If the court challenges them, ignore the court and basically threaten them if they don’t back off.
That’s just a few of them. Why is he thinking this way? Well, his line is he went from the anti-Trump guy he said he was in 2016 to a full-on authoritarian because he “learned first-hand how corrupt Washington is.” That’s why he’s supporting Trump now. So shocked by the corruption, he’s gonna go with the most corrupt guy in our history.
It would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous.
So, how are the people like Howard who J.D. hoodwinked into thinking he was a serious thinker faring with the change? Well, they’re SHOCKED SHOCKED I TELL YOU SHOCKED!
Oh OpieRichie…ya got suckered, kid. You ain’t in 1950s Milwaukee or 1960s Mayberry anymore. “But I thought he was a reasonable conservative” is a popular lament of the grifted these days.
To be very fair to Howard, he was not alone in media and entertainment in pushing the J.D. Vance myth. This New York Times story outlines how much Vance relied on the very people he is currently trashing – media and Hollywood – for his big rise into prominence among the Ultra-MAGA set.
I just hope they learn a lesson here. And that lesson is simple: When the people who are suspicious about someone are trying to tell you why they are suspicious, don’t be so quick to dismiss them just because you want to believe in make-believe.
The last word goes to the Drive-By Truckers:
One thought on “I Hope J.D. Vance’s Liberal Fans Learned A Lesson”
Thanks for writing this. Now I don’t have to read Hillbilly Elegy or figure out why people were fooled by him.
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