A not-so-fortunate son makes good, and explains why he’s so unique

One distressing departure the GOP has taken from traditional conservatism doesn’t concern immigration or foreign policy, but agency. I’m not talking about deciding which government agency to shut down, but rather the idea we can, and do, act and make our own choices.

The opposite notion has long been purveyed by the left, which deems us largely the sum of our circumstances. If we aren’t “rich,” we must be “underprivileged” — and government must set that right. That’s not to deny success comes more easily to some of us, or that we all need help sometimes. It is to say actions have consequences, and that no matter our circumstances, we can make matters better or worse.

Donald Trump's supporters react as he speaks in Valdosta, Feb. 29. (Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s supporters react as he speaks in Valdosta, Feb. 29. (Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images)

So when Donald Trump promises to make us happy, healthy and wealthy again, liberals’ first thought must be to sue him for copyright infringement. Meanwhile, many conservatives ask: Yes, government often gets in our way, but when did we decide it’s up to Washington to fix everything wrong in our lives?

There could not have been better timing, then, for J.D. Vance’s new book, “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.”

Vance grew up among erstwhile Kentuckians in Middletown, Ohio. His mother was a drug addict, serially married and rarely reliable. He was largely raised by his foul-mouthed and fiercely protective grandmother. They were not technically poor, but they so mismanaged their money that they may as well have been.

By his own account Vance was also headed for a dead end. But he improved his grades; delayed college to enlist in the Marine Corps, which straightened him out; graduated from Ohio State University and Yale Law School; and now lives a fairly charmed life on the West Coast.

The point of his memoir, however, is neither to gloat about his success nor to denigrate those he left behind. Ultimately, it’s to explain why his story, which should be exceptional only in the details (Yale, Silicon Valley), is practically a fairy tale.

“I once ran into an old acquaintance at a Middletown bar who told me that he had recently quit his job because he was sick of waking up early,” Vance writes. “I later saw him complaining on Facebook about the ‘Obama economy’ and how it had affected his life. I don’t doubt that the Obama economy has affected many, but this man is assuredly not among them.”

Earlier in the book, he recalls a co-worker in a tile warehouse. The man was 19 with a pregnant girlfriend; the warehouse employed both. But not for long: Both were chronically absent, and rarely productive when they were present. First the girlfriend was fired, then her beau.

“When it happened,” Vance recalls, “he lashed out at his manager: ‘How could you do this to me? Don’t you know I’ve got a pregnant girlfriend?’” Perhaps someone should have asked him the same thing.

“The most important lesson of my life is not that society failed to provide me with opportunities,” Vance writes, pointing to his “entirely adequate” public schools and financial aid. “These programs are far from perfect, but to the degree that I nearly succumbed to my worst decisions … the fault lies almost entirely with factors outside the government’s control.”

By all means, let’s fix what’s wrong with government. But we will not improve our lives, much less make America great, waiting for an agency other than our own.

Reader Comments 0

83 comments
FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Mr. Vance's story inspires. 

The lazy dude and the 19 y.o. and his pregnant girlfriend's story "gains" sympathy which won't provide squat.  

EliasDenny
EliasDenny

Anything to make Trump our king so we can worship here.

lvg
lvg

AJC reports that 19% of Georgia Seniors are malnourished and have difficulty getting food or ability to afford nutritious food.Georgia ranks ninth in elderly malnourishement.


Kyle, Vance and Cons have a message for them: starve and die if they can't survive without government assistance.


Food stamps- no way! Long live Anne Raynd

Starik
Starik

So unique?  Shouldn't it be unique?

Bruno2
Bruno2

@Starik I'm unable to post except as a reply to others now for some reason, but wanted the blog to know that the FDA approved eteplirsen today, a treatment for Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy.  As a result, SRPT shot up to over $56 per share.  I tried my best to get y'all in at $21. 

I'll look for my old posts to prove it........

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

It shouldn't be unique that people who are able will take advantage of the hundreds of billions spent on education and handouts, and do something with their lives besides be parasites.

But that wouldn't really work for the Democrat party, so what we get from them is a nonstop effort to infantilize their voters and provide them with ready-made excuses for why they're so pathetic and needy.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Good editorial on this in the WSJ today.

We'll all congratulate the company for providing this treatment for a rare condition (and one only experienced by boys) until it's learned that the risk-takers expect to actually recoup their investment and (gasp) earn a profit.

Seems their biggest risk now is from know-nothing, anti-science Democrats.

Bruno2
Bruno2

@Lil_Barry_Bailout 

You may not remember, but I tried to get Kyle into SRPT a few times starting in June.  Earlier this year, I tried to get everyone over at Bookman's place to buy steel, which is similarly up more than 100% since that time.  It's possible to make huge gains in the stock market, but you have to take a risk, of course.  The trick is to go opposite of the crowd.  When everyone is spitting on a stock, or an industry, that's when I'm all ears.  When everyone loves a stock, that's when I sell.

Bruno2
Bruno2

@Lil_Barry_Bailout My life story is one of self-improvement and overcoming odds.  I have little respect for those who settle for excuses instead.  Obviously, some people are more blessed than others in terms of intelligence, but everyone has a chance to do their best within the range that God gives them.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Does Hillary have a message or a plan she is trying to implement as President, other than supporting more of the failed Obama policies and more of her incessant grifting?  


She is just out there everyday, whining about Trump and attacking him personally.  Makes you believe that she knows she is taking on water and folks aren't buying anything she sells, so her only strategy is to try to diminish Trump.  

MarkVV
MarkVV

@RafeHollister Repeating "failed Obama policies" is a stupid attempt to transform a lie into a Goebbels- like truth.

Starik
Starik

@Lil_Barry_Bailout Respect for a bad immigration law = stupidity. Tax cuts with big defecits = stupidity.  Tax cuts that hurt programs for the poor of all races, self defeating.  The poor just turn to the untaxed criminal economy. White privilege? Not anymore.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Opposition to paying for some loser's abortion = War on Women.

Starik
Starik

@Lil_Barry_Bailout Abortions are utilized, often, by winners who can't properly raise a kid.  Good decision.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Are you aware of any programs for the poor that have been cut?

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Did tax revenue go up or down after W's tax cuts?

Whose deficits were bigger, W's or Obama's?

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

If you're going to kill your kid, at least do it on your own dime.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

  Is it any wonder Trump leads in the polls with only one group? Uneducated whites ?



Uh huh




Democrats Are Losing Control of Black Americans

Mrs. Johnson-Houston describes what attracted her to the Democratic Party:

One of the things that always attracted me to the party were the ideals of equality, fighting for the little guy and our openness to differing opinions, but lately I have seen my party take a turn that makes me uncomfortable. Somewhere along the way we stopped fighting for the little guy and became the party of the smug, educated elites who look down on those with less education and deem them unable or unworthy of being able to make personal decisions for their own lives.


http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/09/democrats_are_losing_control_of_black_americans.html


Sound familiar, smug elitist?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@IReportYouWhine Must be why Trump is poling behind Johnson and Stein with black voters.


Smug elitist ? No


Just educated enough to spot a con man when I see one.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@Hedley_Lammar @IReportYouWhine You might want to check some polls that are generated outside of your bubble.


This is so over, hillary can't even stand up anymore. Never mind that she sucks as a candidate.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

"the fault lies almost entirely with factors outside the government’s control.”"


I totally disagree (sorry for not commenting earlier but I was at work) and here's why. Who is in charge of educating our children and has been for over fifty years now. Government. And they are not doing a very good job of it, obviously. When do you think the last time a child was challenged in school and rewarded for success, while the failures were sent to the corner with a dunce cap on their heads? When do you think was the last time a child was given a education that provided them with a firm foundation for later success, instead of a reason to whine and moan about evil everybody else in the country is to them?


And the parents went through the same system, so spare me on their responsibilities (the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone. For  the liberals out there.)  


And this is where Trump comes in; school choice. Let the community decide what compromises the education their children receive, let them tailor it to their local needs, let them be responsible for the outcomes. Get the feds out of it.



Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@IReportYouWhine And this is where Trump comes in; school choice. Let the community decide what compromises the education their children receive, let them tailor it to their local needs, let them be responsible for the outcomes. Get the feds out of it.


Yes. That way they can teach creationism to kids in Kansas. And raise a generation of idiots.


Is it any wonder Trump leads in the polls with only one group? Uneducated whites ?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@IReportYouWhine Children are not under government control.  Parents can decide to raise their kids as they please.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Lil_Barry_Bailout

Actually, it is the "Bushphone" and costs the taxpayers nothing.


"The president has no direct impact on the program, and one could hardly call these devices "Obama Phones," as the e-mail author does. This specific program, SafeLink, started under President George Bush, with grants from an independent company created under President Bill Clinton, which was a legacy of an act passed under President Franklin Roosevelt, which was influenced by an agreement reached between telecommunications companies and the administration of President Woodrow Wilson." http://www.factcheck.org/2009/10/the-obama-phone/

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

According to the Obamaphone lady, it's an Obamaphone. And please tell me you're not so stupid as to believe there's a free lunch.

TicTacs
TicTacs

When Americans started accepting mediocrity,  they began their quest to become a second rate nation.  This will be the plight of the working man.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

That's pretty stupid and ignorant.

9/11 was conceived, planned, trained for, and deployed on Clinton's watch. The security and intelligence organizations that failed us on 9/11 were Clinton's doing.

9/11 was just another hot potato tossed by a leftist to a Republican.

And Our President Bush cleaned it up, without blaming his predecessor like your Idiot Messiah does when things don't go his way.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Jefferson1776 I thought you supported Obama, he is the one who says we are doing about as good economically as we can and a few terrorist attacks are just an acceptable level we have to learn to live with.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@Lil_Barry_Bailout 

Clinton, was to preoccupied with his dalliances and cigar dildo props to be concerned with national security. He had to send Sandy Berger, to stuff his trousers with classified information like Hillary, stuffed classified information from her home brew server into removal bleach. Don't ya just love the corruptocrats.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@AvgGeorgian @Lil_Barry_Bailout The recession ended in Jun 2009, thanks to Bush's initiative.  The recovery will end............................................... whenever we get someone who knows how to grow the economy.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@RafeHollister @Jefferson1776  , The problem is that the last time we had a Republican, the economy totally collapsed and we had the 9/11 attacks.  Nearly 3,000 people died on 9/11 alone. 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Lil_Barry_Bailout

Let's see if your statement above works for other problems.


That's pretty stupid and ignorant.

The Great recession was conceived, planned, trained for, and deployed on Bush's watch. The budget and planning organizations that failed us in The Great Recession was Bush's doing.

The Great recession was just another hot potato tossed by a right wing fanatic to a Democrat.

And Our President Obama cleaned it up, without blaming his predecessor like your Idiot Messiah does when things don't go his way.


Pretty nifty, huh?

Starik
Starik

Republicans need to change their focus, and move toward the 21st century.  Don't repeal Obamacare, fix it, then pass single-payer.  Stop abusing Mexican immigrants, and fix the immigration law so that it matches people who want to immigrate and work here with people who are needed in our economy.  Move to the right-center so we won't have to choose between Trump and an extremist like Cruz. Ditch the part of the "base" that's far right and try for the centrist vote.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Starik Like the part about single payer but fear the use of immigration matching "needed workers" as a ploy to keep wages for current citizens artificially low.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Starik Pay field workers and other immigrants what they're worth, at least the minimum wage.  Raise the minimum wage. Nobody with a full time job should be desperately poor.

Caius
Caius

The lesson from the past 84 years is that we do, in fact, expect government to fix everything we believe is broken.  Whether it is broken or not is not important.  As a result what we argue about politically is not whether we will "fix" what is broken but how we will use government fix it.

Take a couple of hours and look at both the Clinton and Trump campaign websites.

Government, government, government and more government. And the end is not in sight.



Starik
Starik

@Caius Who decides what's broken and needs a government fix? People who benefit from the current political system have disproportionate influence

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Caius An oversimplification.

“As a result what we argue about politically is not whether we will "fix" what is broken but how we will use government fix it.”

When are we talking about “how we will use government to fix it?” In political debates! And what is at stake in political debates? The government! Therefore, in political debates it is quite appropriate to focus on selecting the people in the government, who will fix what the voters believe is broken and the government should fix.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Starik @Caius  "Who decides what's broken and needs a government fix?"

What is your answer? Have you heard of a system called "democracy?"

Starik
Starik

@MarkVV @Starik @Caius Which becomes less democratic every day, as candidates continue to be bought by large contributors.