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On Tuesday it was a rant About liberals wearing masks: “I’m in DC today and just saw a group of girls rowing on the Potomac – out in the sunshine – all in masks. Totally insane. “For the past several months, Vance has been defending the memory of Rush Limbaugh. shielded Tucker Carlson from allegations of white supremacy, railed against it Social media sites that have blocked Trump’s accounts and on the side of the gender traditionalists against universal childcare, which he called “an elite attack on the working class”. The response was overwhelming: snark, anger, hate retweets and some comments that almost feel sad and match the feeling: We thought we knew you. What happens?
The simplest answer is that Vance has his eye on a Senate run – Peter Thiel, his former boss, recently donated $ 10 million to a PAC on his behalf. A certain level of righteousness is required to win a GOP area code. And Vance’s enemies in Ohio are already reminding voters that he once called Trump an “idiot”.
But there’s a deeper reason a cerebral cultural figure like Vance would convert to Trump-style trolldom: In today’s political and media culture, trolling is the shortest and easiest path to a level of attention you would never get any other way.
His fiery Twitter account is just the cornerstone of JD Vance’s gradual reinvention. The measured, nuanced view of working class culture that defined Vance 1.0 – the approach that made him a political competitor in the first place – was meant to be provocative, but in a different way. When Hillbilly elegy was released in 2016 as a kind of Rosetta Stone brought into a world many leftists had never encountered, and Vance became a rare bipartisan figure that liberals could praise, pity, and understand at the same time. By doing New YorkerCalled Joshua Rothman Hillbilly elegy “One of the saddest and most fascinating books of this campaign season.” By doing New York TimesJennifer Sr. commended Vance for “driving the conversation”. He did the rounds of interviews on sites like slate and Vox. And his policies, conservative but critical of Trump for his stance on immigration and the tone of his campaign, seemed to align him more with urban republicans of the blue state than with the new populist-nationalist wing that was increasingly defining the party.
But something has changed in the last four years. Vance became a Trump supporter. And with that, his tone and temperament seemed to change from forgiving and unifying to aggressive and mocking. It wasn’t just liberals who lost a pet; Anti-Trump Republicans have felt a similar sense of betrayal as another one-time ally of the dark side is lost. “Vance’s move from pioneering writer to Trumpist troll fits in perfectly with the decline of the Republican Party,” wrote Mona Charen in The Bulwark.
When exactly this new version of Vance began is hard to say, but it’s easy to find anti-Trump comments from him in 2016 and 2017. Vance regularly clears his tweets, and his most recent feed, dating back to February, is filled with Carlson-style scolds against waking, along with some tweaks to Establishment Republicans. His political allies who had their eye on this race in Ohio said so Washington Examiner that his changing view comes from the heart, based on Vance’s “step-by-step observation” of Trump’s leadership.
But it wasn’t just Vance’s take on Trump’s agenda that changed. His new tone on Twitter shows he’s following the 45th President’s game book, covering his lack of political experience with the emotion he can fuel from hot-button culture war themes. And, as Trump has shown, Twitter is the # 1 venue for this campaign strategy.
Twitter isn’t real life or anything like that, but it’s a place where political brands are made and burnished as long as you’re thick-skinned enough to play the game. What “the game” entails has changed over time, but at this point it is essentially a ping pong match played over a viper pit. Every day a partisan audience waits for transgressions from the other side, which is an opportunity for caustic comments, hate retweets and downright anger.
Next up is the media takeover as the people clapping back on trolls hold up their Twitter trophies. Vance’s tweet about rowing got a nice round-up of responses on HuffPost and a triumphant piece on Mediaite. He was pleased that Vance had been “torn to pieces for complaining about girls rowing in masks.” It’s all good news for Vance who can now make the right enemies and inspire the right supporters, and the cycle continues.
You might see the whole process as a depressing sign of the state of human discourse. Or, you could view Twitter’s toxic stew as a feature rather than a bug – a predictable means of elevating your profile to stratospheric levels. A new group of politicians are increasingly following this playbook, acting just like online influencers like public servants. In January, time reported that incoming North Carolina MP Madison Cawthorn had emailed fellow Republicans announcing that “I built my staff on communication rather than legislation.” MP Marjorie Taylor-Greene hasn’t let an office address in the Longworth building stop her from acting like an upstart YouTuber trying to make a splash with her incendiary fodder. The calculation works for all sides: Liz Cheney made the media rounds happy after her exclusion from the management of the house and found that she could get more attention Trolling the trump card right than her when she tried to influence her from within. Provocation is good for business.
Vance’s fiery fodder has already forced him to compromise in real life. After a few controversial tweets, he stepped down from the board of directors of a company that uses green technology to produce food for Appalachians. (In Vances tellIt was a mutual decision to protect the company from its Twitter sound-offs that weren’t going to stop.)
Even so, Vance is doubling its new, angry image on Twitter and other outlets, potentially burning more bridges in the process. On May 3, he published a comment in the Wall Street Journal It was hard to imagine how Amy Chua, Vance’s mentor at Yale, co-authored his war on universal childcare with a scholar from Brigham Young University’s Ruth Institute (whose motto is “Inspire Survivors of the Sexual Revolution”) Law and an accomplished one Working mothers may have responded to the headline: “Small children are clearly happier and healthier when they spend the day at home with a parent.”
But Vance certainly knows what he’s doing – and indeed there is a decent precedent for abandoning a career as a measured thinker to become a cartoon character in a partisan war. The best model is Tucker Carlson himself, who has evolved from a well-respected right-wing intelligence figure to a red meat thrower over time, and hey, he’s the one with the soaring prime-time ratings.
Because of this, some of Vance’s critics have turned to his Twitter feed with appropriate cynicism, suggesting that perhaps it was his old person – and his tightrope act of crossing two worlds – that shouldn’t last. In response to the rudder tweet, podcaster Ed Burmilla ridiculed the previous iteration of Vance as a code switching conservative: “Con’sarn it, I’m just a regular guy here … doing normal hillbilly stuff when I spied out of nowhere the helmsman I knew at Yale . ” There’s nothing like trolling back.