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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

 
A Thoughtful Conservative? Time Will Tell 

by tristero

J.D. Vance is being touted as an actual fleshnblood version of that heretofore mythical creature, The Thoughtful Conservative. Here is a NY Times review of his new book, Hillbilly Elegy. And he sure sounds promising. He happily beat the odds of his social milieu and not only thrived, but excelled. It's a wonderful, moving story. However:
Time and again, Mr. Vance preaches a message of tough love and personal responsibility. He has no patience with an old acquaintance who told him he quit his job because he hated waking up early, only to take to Facebook to blame the “Obama economy.” Or with a former co-worker at a tile warehouse who missed work once a week though his girlfriend was pregnant. 
Squint, and you’ll note the incendiary nature of Mr. Vance’s argument. It’s always treacherous business to blame a group for its own misfortunes. Certainly, an outsider cannot say what Mr. Vance is saying to his kin and kind. But he can — just as President Obama can say to fellow African-Americans, “brothers should pull up their pants,” as he did on MTV. 
The difference is that President Obama believes poverty, though it may have a cultural component, is largely a structural problem, one the government can play a large role in fixing. Mr. Vance, a conservative, takes a far dimmer view.
Yeah, I've heard this one before. And I've seen the exact behavior Vance talks about as well (although I come from a very different background) and it's galling. But it's also quite clear to me that the problems created by poverty are extremely complex and that Obama is absolutely right: this isn't going to solved by essentially telling people to act with more gumption. It's going to take a larger community effort. A government effort.

And then there's that famous interview with Vance referred to in the article. And again, he sure sounded Thoughtful. Until I read this:
To me, this condescension is a big part of Trump’s appeal.  He’s the one politician who actively fights elite sensibilities, whether they’re good or bad.  I remember when Hillary Clinton casually talked about putting coal miners out of work...[emphasis added]
This seemed a bit weird for Clinton to say, So I looked it up. In fact, she clearly meant the exact opposite of what Vance suggested (although she should have known that Fox News types would rip it completely out of context):

Look, we have serious economic problems in many parts of our country. And Roland is absolutely right.  Instead of dividing people the way Donald Trump does, let's reunite around policies that will bring jobs and opportunities to all these underserved poor communities. 
So for example, I'm the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right? 
And we're going to make it clear that we don't want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.  
Now we've got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don't want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on. 
So whether it's coal country or Indian country or poor urban areas, there is a lot of poverty in America.  We have gone backwards. We were moving in the right direction. In the '90s,  more people were lifted out of poverty than any time in recent history. 
Because of the terrible economic policies of the Bush administration, President Obama was left with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and people fell back into poverty because they lost jobs, they lost homes, they lost opportunities, and hope.   
So I am passionate about this, which is why I have put forward specific plans about how we incentivize more jobs, more investment in poor communities, and put people to work.
Now I'll give the guy the benefit of a doubt and just assume that he heard the remark completely out of context. But I wouldn't be surprised if, like so many other sightings of The Thoughtful Conservative, Vance and his Thoughtfulness turns out to be just one more hallucination by a media desperate to appear fair and balanced - and who do so by providing terrible rightwing ideas and their spokespeople a status they don't deserve.