J.D. Vance: Authentic outsider or pandering politician? Plus, Trump sues Big Tech. Good.

By Gary Abernathy

Does J.D. Vance really want to be a typical politician?

J.D. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” is running for the U.S. Senate, and while there’s much in his background to make him an intriguing candidate, he risks coming off as just another pandering politician based on his actions so far, as I argue in my new Washington Post column:

Vance is billing himself as the “conservative outsider,” and a new TV ad features him pledging to “shake the system up” while raising the taxes “of corporations shipping our jobs overseas.” Sound familiar? Vance obviously thinks Trump-style populism is the key to winning the hearts of GOP voters in Ohio, as do virtually all the other Republican candidates… Vance seems to be struggling with who to be. As Politico reported Monday, Vance said he regrets now-deleted tweets from 2016 “calling Trump ‘reprehensible’ because of the former president’s views toward ‘Immigrants, Muslims, etc.’ ” Vance recently trekked to Mar-a-Lago for an audience with Trump, as have others in the race. But the about-face smacks of pandering and no matter what he does now, his old tweets will undoubtedly be featured in attack ads ad nauseam. It’s too bad, because one gets the sense that Vance has something to offer in the future if he doesn’t surrender his credibility today

It’s currently unpopular with the GOP base to take any stance that seems opposed to Donald Trump. But it won’t be that way forever, and if Vance would bide his time and abandon the effort to walk back his anti-Trump comments from 2016, his authentic self might be able to get elected someday. In the meantime, he comes off as just another politician willing to say and do whatever’s necessary to win.

Trump sues Facebook, Twitter for wrongs that impact all

Donald Trump is suing Facebook and Twitter for banning him from their platforms, and while the lawsuits face little chance of success, it’s good to keep a spotlight on the speech-crushing actions of these monopolies.

As USA Today points out, “… the First Amendment, which states that ‘Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech,’ applies to government entities, not private domains. Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor, tweeted ‘the very first word of the First Amendment is 'Congress' (as in 'shall make no law...'). That means the First Amendment applies to governmental actors, not private companies.’"

That’s all true, and that’s exactly what we need to revisit. When a platform becomes so dominant, so overwhelmingly in control of communication and information, so arrogant that it bans even a president of the United States (as Trump was when the bans took effect), Americans of all politics, left or right, should be alarmed.

As I noted in a recent Post column, “Reining in the tech giants is overdue on a number of fronts. Their algorithm-driven manipulation of news feeds contributes to keeping Americans ensconced in their political bubbles. Their claim to be mere aggregators of information — and therefore exempt from the legal risks faced by traditional publishers — is belied by their increasing activism as editors and censors.”

And their control and manipulation of who can speak and what they can say is frightening, but not as frightening as how many Americans — especially members of the media who should care about freedom of expression — accept the practice with a shrug of their shoulders.

Trump may not win his lawsuit, but we can hope it leads to more legislative action to corral these arrogant, monopolistic behemoths. It would benefit us all.

Door-to-door vax plan is not great, but it’s not horrible

President Biden this week announced a more aggressive effort to vaccinate more people against covid-19 and its variants, including door-to-door programs in some communities. That promped a response from the always interesting Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican congresswoman from Georgia, who tweeted, “Biden pushing a vaccine that is NOT FDA approved shows covid is a political tool used to control people. People have a choice. They don’t need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations. You can’t force people to be part of the human experiment.”

Actually, all three vaccines in use were approved under the FDA’s emergency use authorization last winter. They have not yet received full approval.

At the risk of not sounding radical enough, I didn’t hear Biden say anything about forcing people to do anything. I’m not a huge fan of the door-to-door plan because it is a little aggressive for the government to do such a thing outside of the census, but I’m also not losing any sleep over it (unless they wake me up knocking on my door). As long as they knock, accept it and move on if you don’t answer or if you close the door in their face, no problem. Anything more and I would agree there’s an issue.

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