The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Hillbilly insincerity

Washington Post columnist Matt Bai has no patience for the "new breed of Republican charlatan" represented most clearly by US Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH):

My office shelves are full of these “books that miraculously explain our political moment” from over the years —“Don’t Think of an Elephant!,” “God’s Politics,” “The Radical Center” — and I’ve come to understand that their success is never an accident. Show me a book that captures the post-election zeitgeist of a worried intelligentsia, and I’ll show you a shrewd, ambitious author who sensed an opening and steered right into it. If the Pentagon could engineer a fame-seeking missile, it would look a lot like “Hillbilly Elegy.”

So I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised when Vance’s argument turned out to be mostly pretext and his convictions nonexistent. Almost immediately, Vance started entertaining a career in Republican politics. By 2022, when he ran for the open seat left by retiring Sen. Rob Portman, Vance had gone from Never Trump to Long Live the King; his conversion included a spirited embrace of Trump’s stolen-election nonsense.

Look, there’s nothing new about cynical opportunism at the highest level of our politics. Richard M. Nixon shredded reputations to make himself the ultimate Cold Warrior, then repositioned himself as a moderate in the Goldwater years. Bill Clinton used conservative talking points to deflect attention from his antiwar protesting days.

But there were basic lines of duplicity that neither Nixon nor Clinton nor any other American politician of the last century would cross — in part because they had some genuine convictions about the value of public service, and in part because a robust and reasonably trusted news media would never have let them get away with it.

History tells us that repressive movements enabled by cowards and hucksters are just as bad, if not worse, than those perpetrated by the legitimately hateful. You can wreck a country with cosplaying careerists just as easily as you can with bloodthirsty revolutionaries.

We've always had these people, and we always will. But we can stop elevating them to public office.

Add comment

Loading