The Corner

Culture

Smearing Pro-Lifers, Especially J. D. Vance

The Washington Post Company building in Washington, D.C. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

For most of its length, Marissa Brostoff’s Washington Post op-ed on the alleged links between the pro-life movement and white nationalism is merely propagandistic. At the end it becomes a despicable smear of conservative author J. D. Vance (a friend who is now affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute, as I am).

The headline reads, “How white nationalists aligned themselves with the antiabortion movement.” The article doesn’t come close to making the case that white nationalists, in general, have done any such thing; at best it makes a case that some white nationalists have opposed abortion. That other white nationalists have supported it, and explicitly rejected the pro-life movement, is a fact Brostoff ignores. She mentions the links between the other side of the abortion debate and eugenicists only in the most defensive manner possible: “While abortion access itself is in no way an expression of eugenic ideology, mainstream reproductive rights organizations for too long made a truce — and even found common cause — with supporters of eugenics.”

Brostoff concludes by suggesting that Vance agrees with white nationalists that whites are committing “race suicide” through abortion, allowing themselves to be “replaced” by nonwhite immigrants.

[A]s replacement discourse enters the conservative mainstream, talk of birthrates comes along with it. “Our people aren’t having enough children to replace themselves. That should bother us,” J.D. Vance, author of the best-selling “Hillbilly Elegy,” told his audience at the National Conservatism Conference last month; earlier this year, he described himself as “appalled” by Democrats’ permissive attitudes toward abortion. Vance did not spell out exactly who was included in the word “our.” He didn’t need to.

Here are the sentences preceding Vance’s reference to “our people”:

There are a lot of ways to measure a healthy society, but the most important way to measure a healthy society is by whether a nation is having enough children to replace itself. Do people look to the future and see a place worth having children in? Do they have economic prospects and the expectation that they’re going to be able to put a good roof over that kid’s head, food on the table, and provide that child with a good education? By every statistic that we have, people are answering “no” to all of those questions.

Vance “didn’t need to” say that he was talking about white people — and note the technique: Vance’s not saying something is evidence he meant it — because he had already explained he was talking about our “nation” and “society” as a whole. Brostoff didn’t need to quote any of those sentences, of course; to carry off her smear, she needed not to.

Update: The Post has taken down the passage about Vance. The article now concludes with, “As replacement discourse enters the conservative mainstream, talk of birthrates comes along with it.”

But even this new conclusion makes no sense. The smear of Vance was necessary to appear to justify the comment about the “conservative mainstream”; now the alleged justification for the comment is a remark by some white nationalist you’ve never heard of.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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