Who Writes American History?

My Fourth of July resolution is to tune out stories about possible 2024 presidential ambitions of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and pay attention instead, at least until November 8, to the Senate campaign in Ohio. Author-turned-venture capitalist J.D. Vance and Congressman Tim Ryan are running there to succeed retiring Republican Senator Rob Portman.

Vance, 37, gained fame as author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (2016). After high school, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps and served as a public affairs specialist in an air wing during the Iraq War. He then graduated from from Ohio State University, went on to Yale Law School, then left a corporate law practice for a venture capital in San Francisco. He returned to Ohio in 2016 to form, with partners, a venture fund of his own. Formerly an evangelical Protestant, he converted to Roman Catholicism in 2019. He opposes abortion rights.

Ryan. 49, is a ten-term congressman whose present district includes a much of northeast as Ohio, from Youngstown to Akron. In 2015, he explained to readers of the Akron Beacon Journal Why I changed my thinking on abortion.  The next year, he led an ultimately unsuccessful effort to unseat Nancy Pelosi as party leader of the House Democrats.

Might Ryan, if he wins, find a seat on that otherwise all-but-empty bench of potential 2024 presidential candidates, at whose opposite end sits Clinton? It is plausible, if not likely. After all, former Ohio Gov.  John Kasich had a shot at derailing Trump as Republican nominee in 2016. In any event, lie Vance, Ryan seem likely to remain in public life for years to come.

Jane Coaston, a journalist, is a third star rising in the mid-term elections, and probably well beyond. The New Yok Times hired her away from Vox last autumn to run a weekly discussion show, The Argument. Coaston grew up in suburban Cincinnati, according to Graham Vyse, of The Washington Post , the daughter of union Democrats who were “giant hippies,” before learning to distinguish among varieties of conservative thought as editor of the Michigan Review at the University of Michigan. She gained prominence with a National Review article in 2017, “What if there is no such thing as Trumpism”  Her talk-show discussion with two leading Republican theorists after Vance’s Trump-endorsed primary victory in May was especially illuminating.

Control of the Senate will almost certainly become the dominant story of the midterm elections.  The Pennsylvania Senate race is interesting, too. To me, at least, it seems likely, that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will cost Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) his leadership of the Senate. This column is mostly about economics, but the investigation of preferences change is gradually becoming an important part of economics

Immigration, foreign wars, globalization, and climate change: all these national issues will take a back seat in November elections, which are about leadership in particular states.  They will resurface, along with women’s rights, in 2024. Historian Jill Lepore wrote a couple years ago that America, like any other nation-state, requires a “national story.” She was right. Voters write it, election by election.

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