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J.D. Vance: The Republican Senate Candidate Running on Racist Conspiracy Theories in Ohio

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Read the newest analysis from America’s Voice here.

Washington, DC –  A new analysis from America’s Voice titled, “J.D. Vance: The Republican Senate Candidate Running on Racist Conspiracy Theories in Ohio,” highlights Ohio Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance’s public nativist radicalization as he sought to win the Republican primary. In the piece, America’s Voice political director Zachary Mueller details how tens of millions of dollars were spent to amplify misinformation, xenophobia, and white nationalist conspiracy theories to Ohioans as Vance and his fellow Republicans competed to win the favor of both Donald Trump and his radicalized base. 

The full piece can be found here and it is also excerpted below:

On May 3, Ohio Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance took the stage for a victory night speech after winning the most expensive Senate primary ever, and continued to spew the same nativist dog-whistles that were an essential part of his primary campaign.

…Once a prominent “never-Trumper,” Vance landed an endorsement from Donald Trump in the final weeks of the primary. Vance’s latest conversion to die-hard MAGA came as soon as he started to campaign for the seat last year picking up support from the most prominent voices on the radicalized right throughout his campaign. And like them, Vance fully embraced the absurd and deadly conspiracy theories about a migrant “invasion” and the “great replacement.”

…In an attempt to burnish his radical-right credentials after years of being a public face opposing Trump, J.D. Vance actively courted figures immensely popular with the Republican base. Figures like Tucker Carlson, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Turning Points USA founder Charlie Kirk and of course, Trump himself, all of whom loudly peddle racist, xenophobic, and election lies. Vance quickly sounded like those he surrounded himself with, making a racist conspiracy theory about a non-existent immigrant “invasion” a core part of his primary campaign.

…This rhetoric around “invasion” is inextricably tied into the white nationalist ideas of a “great replacement,” which research from the University of Chicago found was the “most important driver of the insurrectionist movement” that sparked the invasion of the U.S. Capitol by an angry mob in January 2021. Vance ran on these ideas and surrounded himself with others who amplified them. 

…J.D. Vance was hocking anti-immigrant fear-mongering coated in a thick layer of misinformation nearly a year before the primary election. As Congress was considering creating pathways to citizenship for undocumented neighbors last summer, Vance falsely attacked the proposal as an “open-border policies”  that would lead to “rising crime, lower wages for Americans and a drug epidemic crushing too many Ohio families.”

…As the primary approached, Vance began to refine his misleading nativist attack line. He employed a version of the public story about his mother’s struggles with opioid addiction to drive an attack around a spurious connection between fentanyl and migrants at the border. 

…In the week before the primary,  Vance took his arguments to a new extreme. In an interview with Roger Stone, Vance suggested that President Joe Biden is intentionally allowing fentanyl to enter the U.S. through the southern border to kill off MAGA voters. “If you wanted to kill a bunch of MAGA voters in the middle of the heartland, how better than to target them and their kids with this deadly fentanyl?” Vance then said, “It’s like Joe Biden wants to punish the people who didn’t vote for him and opening up the floodgates to the border is one way to do it.” The New York Times reported that Vance made the remarks “with a straight face but no evidence,” citing the fact that “fentanyl deaths did rise sharply in 2021, but they rose sharply in 2020 as well.” 

…Vance and his primary opponents spent millions on ugly anti-immigrant attacks to win over slices of the Republican base. And Vance will likely continue with nativist political attacks through November to try to continue to energize a base that may still be skeptical of his commitment to their brand of politics. However, Democrats and the media should be deeply suspicious of a narrative that claims the radical conspiracy ladened anti-immigrant appeals on offer have broad appeal and efficacy in a general election, even in a red state. Recent evidence suggests the majority of voters are skeptical of GOP’s extremism on the immigration issue. Polling from late April essentially found strong Democratic voters trust Democrats’ immigration vision, strong Republican voters trust Republicans, and independent voters are split down the middle. 

…This is not to suggest that Democrats are in good shape on immigration as a 2022 issue. But the type of nativism advanced by Vance and by his fellow Republicans isn’t a silver bullet, either. And Democrats like Tim Ryan might be able to appeal to swing voters and motivate key parts of their own base by leaning into their values and solutions on the issue.

…While Ohio has moved right in recent election cycles, the Vance/Ryan Ohio Senate race will be a competitive contest that we all should be watching closely. Vance is the latest avatar for the Republican Party’s radical turn towards dangerous nationalist conspiracy theories and xenophobic disinformation. Ryan is an experienced Democratic legislator, who could put up a real fight against Vance if he can break through the noise and nativism and provide a real contrast in values, vision, and solutions.