In January 2021, Ohio’s Republican Senator Rob Portman announced that he is retiring at the end of his term and will not seek re-election in 2022. Now, you might think I’d be jumping up and down with joy, but the announcement did not please me in the least, for Portman is one of the few remaining Republicans in the Senate with both intellect and a conscience. While I have frequently disagreed with Portman’s ideology – and have often let him know of my disagreements – he has never been one of the obstructionist, destructive ones like McConnell, Ernst, Cruz, Hyde-Smith, Hawley, Kennedy, Johnson, Paul, Rubio, Tuberville and many others.
One of the reasons Portman gave for his decision to retire is that “it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy.” Of course, he has added to that gridlock by blindly refusing to vote to convict the former guy in either of his impeachment trials and by basically “following the party line,” aka “whatever Trump says.” However, Portman’s retirement does not bode well for the future.
The thing that most concerns me at the moment are the candidates who are running to replace Portman. On the Republican side, there are two extreme right-wingers: Josh Mandel and James David Bowman, better known as J.D. Vance, author of the book Hillbilly Elegy (which I have not read and have no desire to read). There are Democrats running for the seat, namely Morgan Harper and Tim Ryan, but unfortunately the majority of Ohio voters have drunk the Fox “News” Kool Aid and seem determined to turn the state blood-red and it will be an uphill battle for any Democrat to win over enough voters in this bigoted state to take the senate seat.
Josh Mandel was once the State Treasurer for eight years and prior to that was a state legislator for four years. In 2012 he ran for the U.S. Senate and lost to incumbent Sherrod Brown. In 2018 he tried again, but dropped out due to low polling numbers. Sherrod Brown is still the Democratic senator, by the way, and a fine one at that. So now it’s 2022 and Mandel is throwing his hat in the ring once again. A few of his talking points:
- A Trump bootlicker, he claims to believe Trump’s claims of a stolen 2020 election and promises to carry forward Trump’s agenda
- He is against women’s rights
- He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and leave millions of families without access to healthcare
- He claims that climate change is a fraud
- He is completely against LGBTQ rights and would remove anti-discrimination protections in housing and employment
- He is anti-immigration
- He calls for “one religion” for the United States (his, of course)
- He has suggested closing public schools and leaving public education to churches and synagogues
- He claims ‘separation of church and state’ is a myth
Obviously, or at least to me it’s obvious, this is NOT the sort of person we need sitting in the United States Senate, making decisions that will affect our lives for years to come. But then, neither is Mr. J.D. Vance …
I thought it telling that in a story about Vance, written last summer by Molly Ball of Time magazine, Vance indicated to Ball that his decision to evolve from his earlier anti-Trump conservatism was born of a desire to win support from Republican voters. Trump is “the leader of this movement, and if I actually care about these people and the things I say I care about, I need to just suck it up and support him,” he said.
Vance has a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy, and a J.D. from Yale Law School, which only proves the point that education does not necessarily walk hand-in-hand with intelligence. Vance shares many of Josh Mandel’s view, such as that women’s rights should not exist. On the topic of Russian aggression against Ukraine, he responded that “We should care far more about our own border than that of Ukraine!” Obviously, he is against immigration … all immigration.
Vance has received millions in funding from the ignoble multibillionaire Peter Thiel and is also funded by the equally ignoble Mercer family, backers of Trump, Breitbart, and other less-than-honest organizations, which should tell us something about his values, or lack thereof. Vance recently blamed “the childless left” for all the troubles in the U.S., calling specifically out Kamala Harris, Senator Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and praising the far-right dictatorial president of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, for encouraging married couples to have children. The planet is already over-populated and Vance thinks the nation’s woes will be solved by injecting even more people to feed is the solution?
But the thing that bothers me most about Vance is the way in which he completely switched tracks for his own political gain. He started as a Trump-hater, saying “I’m a Never Trump guy”, “I never liked him”, and “My god what an idiot.” Fair enough … I feel the same … but then, as noted above, when he realized that any hopes of a political future in the Republican Party would require him to pander to Trump, to lie, to lick Trump’s boots, he reversed course and now seems to think that Trump is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Hypocrisy. One can never know quite what this man thinks, since he has proven that he will turn in whatever direction he thinks he can gain the most.
It is to be hoped that one of the Democratic candidates running to fill Portman’s seat can garner enough enthusiasm to win in November, but the hope is a slim one, I fear.