One of the dumbest and most embarrassing Republican primary elections of this cycle has concluded and now, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Ohio is JD Vance.
Vance won the nomination on Tuesday after a campaign focused on his personal debasement which was likely designed to court Donald Trump’s oh-so-valuable endorsement. During his campaign, Vance abandoned his past academic persona that he cultivated after the success of his memoir “Hillbilly Elegy” — a time when he would go on podcasts with Ezra Klein to discuss “microaggressions” — to instead rage against wokeness, immigrants, the “childless left,” Ukrainians, and indigenous people.
Similar to many of his Republican counterparts, Vance has adopted a fake persona of a firebrand populist, fighting for the little guy against “woke” corporations, globalists, and immigrants. However, there is little in Vance’s campaign or record to suggest he is nothing but a hack dependent on elites to bolster his political ambition.
We already know that Vance depended on the endorsement of one supposed billionaire, Donald Trump, to win the nomination, but there was another billionaire — a verified one — behind Vance who was much more instrumental to his success.
Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist worth $9.13 billion and who is best known for being the co-founder of PayPal, gave Vance an eyebrow-raising $15 million in his bid to become the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Ohio. This is the largest amount ever given to boost a single Senate candidate and amounts to oligarchic domination of supposedly democratic elections.
Another trend in the Republican Party right now is to rail against big tech. Vance has made the argument that his Silicon Valley experience working in Thiel’s technology-focused capital firm, Mithril Capital, uniquely positions him to take on technology corporations. Yet, the only thing that remains clear is that his boss seems to benefit greatly from the technology sector. Thiel was the first outside investor in Facebook and made over $1 billion from his shares of the company when he sold them in 2012, while somehow remaining on Facebook’s board of directors. When it comes to their vapid rhetoric against big tech, Peter Thiel and JD Vance like to have their cake and eat it too.
The influence of Thiel over Vance’s campaign was so massive that a super PAC funded by the billionaire was actually in charge of most of the advertising for the candidate and built out an extensive data operation while identifying supporters to encourage them to attend Vance’s events. The super PAC even set up a public website in which thousands of pages of polling data, research memos, and opposition research documents were publicly published in an effort to skirt federal laws prohibiting the coordination between super PACS and candidate campaigns.
Now that the Ohio primaries are behind us, JD Vance will face Democrat Tim Ryan in November. We can now expect Peter Thiel to continue showering Vance’s campaign with millions of big tech dollars and for his super PAC to continue doing much of the heavy lifting.
JD Vance likes to paint himself as a populist fighting on behalf of the little guy, but the reality is that he is a Yale-educated phony who is willing to say and do anything for political gain. He is backed by two billionaires who have done nothing to help working people and, if he does become a U.S. Senator, expect his tenure as a senator to be similar to his campaign, completely beholden to corporate interests while distracting us with idiotic culture wars.
Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. He tweets from @tomaskenn.
is a former reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a fomer Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.