In today’s GOP, bad money drives out good, and the worst get on top. Vance has either been radicalized or he has simply calculated that to win as a Republican, he needs to avoid angering Trump and embrace both his populist/nationalist politics of victimhood and his style. I’m not sure which option is worse.
It’s also the latest sad example of how Trump has co-opted or corrupted an entire generation of potential young conservative stars. What would Marco Rubio or Nikki Haley have accomplished had Trump never emerged on the scene? How about Josh Hawley? Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, it seems to me, is the only rock star we have left—largely because she’s immune to the vicissitudes of the electorate.
We can debate whether Trump has revealed character flaws or created them. The conservative movement could have benefited from a sane, serious, and successful young conservative like the guy I interviewed in 2016. As the Bulwark’s Mona Charen wrote, “Vance is an extremely bright and insightful man who could have been a fresh voice for a fundamentally conservative view of the world.”