The moral collapse of J.D. Vance

Not so long ago, he talked about the self-defeating bias against education among poor whites. He acknowledged the self-destructive habits of some of the people he grew up around. Vance wrote, in this very magazine, that Donald Trump “is cultural heroin”—a powerful charge from someone who hails from the epicenter of the opioid epidemic—and provided a “quick high” that could not fix what ails the country. All of that vanished once Vance decided he wanted to go to Washington—and after the Trump supporter Peter Thiel dropped $10 million into a political action committee.

Instead of a truth-teller in his own community, Vance as a candidate has become a contemptible and cringe-inducing clown. His attempts at authenticity are so grating because they are so blatantly artificial. His recent tweets, for example, attempting to ingratiate himself with rural Ohioans by slagging New York City were embarrassingly amateurish; we can only wonder which social-media consultant thought them up. “Serious question,” Vance tweeted. “I have to go to New York soon and I'm trying to figure out where to stay. I have heard it's disgusting and violent there. But is it like Walking Dead Season 1 or Season 4?”...

Instead of a candidate who’s willing to speak hard truths to his people, Ohioans now have a native son who has returned to weaponize their resentment and cultural dysfunctions. His ambition is fueled by the money of others who would never deign to live in the Midwest. And like other populist charlatans, he has convinced himself that he should be anointed to lead the rubes out of their misery.

Vance would no doubt welcome terms such as populist, savior, native son. But when thinking of a plastic fraud trying to harvest their votes, poor and working-class voters might come up with a different word.