The Family Man in the Arena

It has been said that the most important aspect of the 2022 midterm cycles is not going to be the general election, but the primary elections. If that is the case, then there is one primary election in particular that is easily the most significant of the entire 2022 cycle: The Republican primary for the open U.S. Senate seat in Ohio.

At the center of this race is the latest candidate to enter the fray: Author and venture capitalist, J.D. Vance. His candidacy is truly unique in that it is not about a seasoned politician simply climbing the ladder, or a member of the donor and consultant class seeking elected office for the first time: His is a candidacy that, at its core, represents the very concept of the citizen politician.

The Fall of the Family

 Ever since he first authored the seminal work Hillbilly Elegy in 2016, Vance has established himself as one of the clearest spokesmen in the nation when it comes to one of the most pressing, and depressing, political developments of our time: The stunning decline of the American working class and middle class, particularly in the Rust Belt. Having grown up in the Midwest himself, he saw firsthand the impact of economic outsourcing, the implosion of the manufacturing industry, and the rise of the opioid crisis, depression, and suicides in response to it all. 

Vance expanded on these themes in his powerful keynote address to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s recent weekend conference, “The Future of American Political Economy.” On Friday night, Vance captivated the audience with his discussion of the sharp decline in the American birth rate. After all, before we can guarantee prosperity for our posterity, we first must secure that posterity itself. 

Harking back to his now-iconic autobiography, Vance referred to a valuable lesson his “Mamaw” taught him: Ultimately she did not care if he made enough money or had a good job; all that mattered to her was that he became a good husband and a good father. This, Vance argues so eloquently, is the true American Dream. The American worker’s dream is not the dream of a Mitt Romney—to own private jets or to have an obscene amount of wealth—but rather, it is just the desire to live a good life. But that requires Americans to be able to raise a family on a middle-class wage.

Why the Culture War Hurts So Much

But it’s not only a matter of being able to live and raise a family within humble, middle-class means. The struggle to preserve the American Dream is also a cultural battle. This is why Vance sets his crosshairs directly on the culture war.

Living a good life, Vance says, is also about respect; it is about being respected, but it is also about making sure that you teach your children to love and respect all of the same things that you loved and respected when you were growing up. In perhaps the defining line of the night, Vance decreed that “American patriotism is knowing where you came from, so that you know where you’re going.”

This is exactly why the Left has set their sights on American history and culture itself, with an obsessive determination to remove statues, rewrite history books, and redefine America not as a shining city on a hill, but as a fundamentally evil and racist nation. Every single person alive today is defined by where they came from and who they came from. The Left knows this, and thus knows that if they succeed in taking away our history, then they make it easier to control the population, since such a population, without anything worth preserving from its past, is malleable and open to their suggestions.

Vance notes that the Left’s war on American culture has two fronts—cultural and financial—and this is why it is so painful. They specifically target the middle- and working-class, rather than the ultra-wealthy or the poorest of the poor, because Middle Americans are the most likely to be patriotic. They are the ones who most enthusiastically celebrate the 4th of July; they are the ones who dutifully pay their taxes; and they are the ones who are most likely to enlist in the military, or have children who will enlist, to go fight and risk their lives in distant lands.

To that end, the Left makes sure that their cultural battles have financial consequences. The culture war is the battlefield, and cancel culture is the tactic for fighting it. Think of how many Americans are fired from their jobs, suffer devastating personal financial losses, or are otherwise completely railroaded for the slightest of offenses: Wearing a MAGA hat, using the “OK” hand gesture, calling the police on a black criminal, and so on and so forth.

The Roots of the Left’s Rage

When it comes to cancel culture, Vance has first-hand experience with the phenomenon. After speaking out about the importance of increasing the American birth rate in 2018, the Washington Post immediately denounced him for sending out a dog-whistle call for more “white babies.”

But Vance was quick to make clear that he did not want sympathy from his audience: “Do not cry for me,” he said. Instead, we should cry for the unnamed American who got fired for wrongthink, whose name isn’t in a headline, and who doesn’t have the wealth to withstand such a financial onslaught, or who cannot afford the lawyer fees to defend himself in court, much less in the court of public opinion.

Moreover, even those who do find institutional support from the Right—such as Jack Phillips, the baker in Colorado—find themselves relentlessly hounded by the Left. Phillips, Vance reminded the audience solemnly, is now heading back to court for the third time. The Left will never leave him alone, because they have no intention of leaving any of us alone.

And why is the Left so hell-bent on making life miserable for Americans who love their country? This, too, ties back to the issue of having children. Going through the list of all of the leading figures of the post-Biden Democratic Party—Kamala Harris, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Pete Buttigieg, among others—they all have one thing in common: None of them have children of their own. 

While Vance made clear that this is not an attack on people who can’t have children or simply choose, for whatever reason, not to have children, it cannot escape our notice that so many of those who go out of their way to dictate our political future and control our society are childless—that is, they have no personal stake in the future. 

Many in the Democratic Party, the media, and other ranks of our elite appear perpetually angry and unhappy. Is it a coincidence that so many of them are childless as well? Is it a stretch to think that when they are unhappy, they want to make sure everyone else around them is unhappy, and they seek to erase the happiness of others that they so greatly envy? When the media is unhappy and our political leaders have no vested interest in the future beyond their own personal and immediate gains, we are doomed as a country. 

To this end, not only should we increase birth rates and restore the value of the family, but we should place even greater value on parents than on non-parents. Perhaps it was hyperbole, but Vance drew an understandably enthusiastic reaction from the crowd when he declared that we should consider giving votes to American children, with one caveat: Let their parents control those votes. Let parents have more political power than non-parents, because the parents have earned that right.

True Victories 

Protecting the American family, Vance makes plain, should be the ultimate purpose of the American Right and any movement or party associated with it. All of the other major issues of our time, such as immigration and trade, tie back in some capacity to the wellbeing of the family unit. When families are plentiful and prosperous, our nation as a whole is happier. 

“If I lose my Senate race,” Vance concluded, “I won’t be miserable. Because I still have my wife and my two sons to go home to.” Indeed, many people would consider this a far more worthwhile victory than any political one. But if such a man did win the election and headed off to Washington to serve his home state, it would also be a great cultural victory. Vance might have the chance to help stop the things that are making life so miserable for his fellow Americans, in the first place.

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About Eric Lendrum

Eric Lendrum graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the Secretary of the College Republicans and the founding chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He has interned for Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the White House, and has worked for numerous campaigns including the 2018 re-election of Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22). He is currently a co-host of The Right Take podcast.

Photo: (Photo by Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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