Carrick Flynn is Oregon’s J.D. Vance

The amount of money chasing a relative nobody like Carrick Flynn in his quest to become Oregon Democrats’ nominee for the new 6th Congressional District has aroused much speculation. Opponents assert a popular story that he’s the bought and paid for Manchurian candidate of cryptocurrency money to advance cryptocurrency interests. I’ve got another theory. Flynn has merely found success in life much like J.D. Vance has in Ohio.

J.D. Vance, the Trump-endorsed winner of the Ohio Republican Party’s U.S. Senate nomination, has a story arc that goes like this:

  1. He was raised poor and rural.
  2. He was in no position to attend an elite college, but he excelled at his state’s leading public university.
  3. He then went to and graduated from Yale Law School.
  4. He made his name by writing.
  5. His writing led him to influential people.
  6. Those influential people came to believe in him enough to support him generously in his quest for public office even though he has no political experience.
  7. This led to a leading political figure endorsing him too.

The arc of Carrick Flynn’s life is shaped similarly:

  1. Like Vance’s Middletown, Ohio, Flynn hails from the not-so-toney Vernonia, Oregon and a similarly low-income household.
  2. With no chance to get an elite education, Flynn went to the University of Oregon just like Vance went to Ohio State University. Both studied hard in college and made the most of what they had.
  3. Like Vance, Flynn advanced from his state school to the Ivy League when he was accepted to and graduated from Yale Law School.
  4. Though Flynn didn’t publish a best-selling memoir, like Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, Flynn spent seven years as an academic researcher writing about the various ways artificial intelligence could transform humanity.
  5. Like how Vance’s book led him to anti-establishment donors like Peter Thiel, Flynn’s academic papers led him to idealistic donors trying to make the world a better place through a governing philosophy called “effective altruism“, donors such as Sam Bankman-Fried.
  6. Like Vance’s patrons, Flynn’s find him to be an authentic instantiation of their worldview. They don’t need an experienced Democratic pol. They are looking for a true believer, an actual idealist.
  7. While Vance’s connections managed to land him former President Trump’s endorsement, Flynn’s connections earned him the support of Nancy Pelosi’s House Majority PAC. She doesn’t have the same sway with Democratic primary voters as Trump has on Republicans, but this may be heading toward a similar outcome.

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of We were winning when I was there