Well, that and a repeated willingness to embrace Trump’s rhetoric, no matter how negative the place where Vance later ends up. As when he said during an interview Sunday that he would have done exactly what Trump wanted on Jan. 6, 2021, and blocked electors from states that voted for Joe Biden — triggering a dangerous challenge to American democracy.
Sign up for How To Read This Chart, a weekly data newsletter from Philip Bump
Vance was speaking with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, who seemed to be focused on testing the limits of the senator’s loyalty to Trump. If there’s a limit, Stephanopoulos didn’t find it.
Asked, for example, how he felt about Trump’s having been found liable for sexually assaulting E. Jean Carroll, one of many women who have accused Trump of misconduct, Vance waved it away.
“I think it’s actually very unfair to the victims of sexual assault,” Vance said, “to say that somehow their lives are being worse by electing Donald Trump for president, when what he’s trying to do, I think is restore prosperity.”
The prospect of future economic benefit may not be the consolation for assault victims that Vance assumes.
Vance also disparaged the verdict itself, suggesting that New York is one of several “extremely left-wing jurisdictions” where Trump is facing charges, implying that this was a stacking of the deck against Trump instead of a result of his alleged crimes while he lived in those jurisdictions. The argument that a jury would rule against Trump simply because of politics, of course, is of a piece with the prevalent idea on the right that Democrats are members of a credulous hive-mind.
(As an aside, the senator’s effusive disparagement of wealthy donors bankrolling aggressive legal fights may not land well with his primary political patron, Peter Thiel.)
Stephanopoulos then asked Vance about the 2020 election.
“Had you been vice president on January 6th,” the ABC anchor asked, “would you have certified the election results?”
This is what Trump insisted Vice President Mike Pence not do on that day, asking Pence to instead reject electoral votes submitted by states that preferred Biden. Eventually, Vance said that’s what he would have done.
“If I had been vice president, I would have told the states, like Pennsylvania, Georgia and so many others, that we needed to have multiple slates of electors, and I think the U.S. Congress should have fought over it from there,” Vance said. “That is the legitimate way to deal with an election that a lot of folks, including me, think had a lot of problems in 2020.”
It is not a legitimate way to do so, at all. Particularly when considering the purported “problems” that Vance identified.
“Do I think it was a problem that big technology companies, working with the intelligence services, censored the presidential campaign of Donald Trump? Yes,” he said at another point in the interview. “Do I think it’s a problem that Pennsylvania changed its balloting rules in the middle of the election season in a way that even some courts in Pennsylvania have said was illegal? Yes, I think these were problems, George.”
Let’s deal with the second one first. Pennsylvania expanded voting access to allow more mail-in ballots before 2020, yes. But it did so in 2019, before the pandemic, with legislation passed by the Republican-majority legislature. Republicans tried to challenge those changes, arguing that they violated the state constitution, and a lower court in early 2022 ruled that the changes did violate the state constitution. But that ruling was overturned by the state Supreme Court.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in fact, had considered the question in November 2020. Its chief justice, Thomas Saylor, pointed out that even if the law were unconstitutional, “there has been too much good-faith reliance, by the electorate, on the no-excuse mail-in voting regime created by [the law] to warrant judicial consideration of the extreme and untenable remedies proposed by appellees.” In other words: People had already voted by the millions under the law, so even if it shouldn’t have been in place, those legal votes should not be tossed out.
Which is what Vance argues: Because the rules were changed (over a year before the election), those voters (most of whom would probably have otherwise gone to vote against Trump in person) should have their opinions disregarded. Since, you know, that was a “problem.”
Vance’s other argument is no less contrived. He’s regurgitating a common right-wing claim that the government pressured social media companies to block online information. More accurately, he’s exaggerating that common claim to suggest that Trump’s campaign was targeted.
The short version of all of this goes as follows. Elon Musk, believing rhetoric that Twitter sought to crack down on right-wing accounts and viewpoints, stumbled into buying the company. He turned over internal material to writers motivated to similarly believe that originating rhetoric and, in December 2022, they began producing cherry-picked documents to suggest that the government told Twitter to silence right-wing voices. This included muffling coverage of Hunter Biden in October 2020, an event that has been overhauled in the right’s collective memory to have been determinative in the election results. (It was not.)
The reality is that the government sought the help of social media companies in halting misinformation about voting and about the coronavirus pandemic. Given that Russian hackers had been the trigger for the wide release of stolen information in 2016 in an effort to swing that election, there were also conversations about being alert to potential foreign interference efforts. When the Hunter Biden story broke only weeks before Election Day, it was (briefly) muted out of concern it was a similar effort.
Lawyers for Twitter have acknowledged that Vance’s framing is incorrect. But consider what he’s arguing: that because some Twitter accounts were muted for spreading misinformation or (again, briefly) for sharing the Hunter Biden story, the results in several states that backed Biden should be rejected?
What’s more, that they should have been rejected for that reason in January 2021 — nearly two years before these dubious or debunked allegations were even made?
That’s the giveaway, really. Vance isn’t saying there were problems that necessitated reconsidering the 2020 election results, giving Trump a second term in office. What’s he’s saying — and what Trump has done all along — is that he wishes Trump had a second term in office, which came down to the Jan. 6 counting of electoral votes, and so he offers some after-the-fact rationalizations for why that would have been okay.
This is intellectually dishonest and deeply problematic for democracy. If there were still any question, J.D. Vance made clear in this interview that he has willingly followed Trump into the “very negative place” he once warned about.
Read the full article here