Campaigning for the Senate in Ohio in recent weeks, J.D. Vance has ridiculed claims that advocates of a border-wall were “racist.” But in multiple appearances in 2016, he made a similar argument to the one he is currently ridiculing – including saying that Republican electoral strategy had been to antagonize Black voters and minorities for three decades.
Vance was a critic of Donald Trump at the time, agreeing he was a “total fraud” who didn’t care about people and used issues like “the great Mexican wall” to give voters something to latch onto instead of policy solutions. Vance also told a New York City public radio host that many White working-class voters who supported Trump did not attend church regularly, making them susceptible to the sense of community in a Trump rally. At the same time, Vance argued racism did play a role in support for Trump, but not the biggest.
Now, the GOP hopeful strikes a different tone, mirroring rhetoric he once said was bad for the country to become more aligned with Trump in hopes of winning over those same supporters. Trump endorsed Vance Friday.
Vance released a video last week saying advocates of the border wall were falsely branded as “racist” for supporting building the wall and last month shared an ad from a PAC backing him that advocated for focusing on building a wall on the southern border – “JD Vance will finish the wall.”
Vance told CNN host Don Lemon in October 2016 during a discussion on minority voters that he believed the Republican Party had been “actively antagonizing” Black Americans to win elections for three decades.
“It’s not just that Donald Trump doesn’t speak to issues of special concern of minority voters or Black voters, it’s that he seems to like actively antagonizing a lot of the Black voters,” Vance told Lemon during a panel discussion. “Unfortunately, that’s been the Republican Party strategy for 30 years. I say that as a Republican who wants the party to get more Black voters. And Trump seems to be taking that strategy just to the next level. It shows in the polls, right? He’s not going to do especially well on Election Day.”
Taylor Van Kirk, a spokesman for Vance’s campaign, said in a statement, “JD has been up front about being wrong about President Trump and strongly supported him in 2020. President Trump’s policies rose millions of Americans, of all colors, out of poverty.”
Vance was a CNN contributor from March 2017-2018.
A March 2022 Fox News poll has investment banker Mike Gibbons leading the crowded field of candidates competing in the GOP primary with 22%, followed by Josh Mandel, former state treasurer, with 20%. Vance is currently polling at 11%, while former state GOP Chair Jane Timken and State Sen. Matt Dolan are at 9 and 7%, respectively.
Vance also argued in 2016 that if White working-class people attended church, they would not be as attracted to Trump.
“I think Trump provides that sense of community that many in the white working class would have, if they actually went to church,” Vance told New York public radio. “I think if folks went to church a little bit more they may not be as excited or as attracted to the sort of social experience that Trump provides.”
Vance said racism played a role in supporting Trump
During the heat of 2016 presidential election, Vance was even more specific in diagnosing the role racism and xenophobia he said played into Trump’s electoral support. Though he said it was not the largest element or reason for his support, Vance did say racism played an element in support for Trump.
“There is definitely an element of Donald Trump’s support that has its basis in racism, xenophobia, but a lot of these folks are just really hardworking people who are struggling in really important ways,” Vance said in a September 2016 PBS Newshour Interview. He also said in another interview, that “race is definitely a part of the Trump phenomenon” and that Trump’s exploitation of racial resentments
In a July 2016 interview with American Conservative, a right-leaning publication, he added Trump was making the problem of racial resentment “worse” by talking about “rapist immigrants and banning all Muslims” as part of his message.
But Vance went further than identifying race as a part of Trump’s appeal by claiming some voters were attracted to his racial rhetoric because they were racist.
“Definitely some people who voted for Trump were racist and they voted for him for racist reasons,” Vance said in a one-on-one at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. In a separate 2016 radio interview Vance said that some Trump supporters “obviously don’t have views about race that a lot of us would be comfortable with.”