As many of you know, the author of Hillbilly Elegy is running for a United States Senate seat from Ohio as a national (Trump) conservative. Over at The Washington Post, Simon van Zuylen-Wood offers one of the best profiles of candidate Vance that I have read.
Here is a taste:
Vance’s concerns dovetail with a number of recent polemics from across the political spectrum, including Daniel Markovits’s “The Meritocracy Trap,” Michael Sandel’s “The Tyranny of Merit,” Patrick Deneen’s “Why Liberalism Failed” and Ross Douthat’s “The Decadent Society.” (Vance has said Douthat’s book, which can be read as an expansion on the “flying cars” lament, is the work that best encapsulates his belief system.) American Affairs, the comically dense quarterly journal that informs national conservatism’s policy side, and which Vance reads, is in some ways a never-ending critique of the “professional managerial class.” All these sources, in turn, borrow from a previous generation of, well, proto-post-liberals, including the critic Christopher Lasch, who attacked ostensibly tolerant yuppies for believing they’d earned their spoils and therefore feeling little need to give back to their communities.
For Vance, the story of the past few decades is that the social permissiveness of the left fused with the free-market creed of the right to create the soulless ethic known as neoliberalism. It’s why Vance will decry unregulated capitalism in one breath and porn in the next. It’s also why so many national conservatives are drawn to Catholic social teaching, as opposed to Protestant work-ethic individualism. In his NatCon speech, you could hear Vance articulating both sides of the argument: “The fundamental lie of American feminism of the past 20 or 30 years is that it is liberating for women to go work for 90 hours a week in a cubicle at Goldman Sachs“…
Vance’s solution is economic and spiritual nationalism. On the campaign trail, he riffs that in the old days “what was good for GM was good for America.” The winners of the new economy, in his formulation, are bad for America: liberal-leaning tech companies that cover up for hiring cheap foreign labor with “woke” posturing about gender and race.
The political forefather of this vision is probably Pat Buchanan, who inveighed against free trade and multiculturalism in the 1990s. But it also draws from the milder “Reformicon” blueprints of 10 years ago, as well as older strains of leftism, such as the anti-globalism of the Seattle WTO protests. One unlikely text Vance has cited is Elizabeth Warren’s 2004 book “The Two-Income Trap,” about the financial pressures families experience when two parents enter the workforce.
Read the entire piece here.
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