Warnock, Walker And A Nation Adrift

“There’s no excuses in life,” Herschel Walker said late Tuesday, his penchant for poor grammar on full display in defeat, just as it was throughout what he described as “one heck of a fight.”

Raphael Warnock’s victory in the Georgia runoff punctuated a humbling (“humiliating” is probably more accurate, but I’ll be generous) midterm election for the GOP, whose poor showing despite generationally high inflation in the US and Joe Biden’s subterranean approval numbers, was generally blamed on Donald Trump both by Democrats and many Republicans.

Trump-backed candidates (including Walker) were widely rejected by voters, or at least that’s the prevailing narrative. I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate. Much depends on the definition of “widely.” America’s top pollsters can (and surely have) run the numbers to demonstrate the average margin of defeat for Trump’s motley crew, which included celebrities like Walker and Mehmet Oz, as well as firebrands like Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who this week insisted her loss was attributable to a “crooked” election, while claiming the state had “officially… entered Banana Republic territory.” (The quote is verbatim from Lake’s official campaign Twitter account, “@KariLakeWarRoom.” I’d note that “Banana Republic,” as a proper noun, is a clothing store. It’s not usually capitalized in the context Lake used it.) But whatever pollsters might say about the margin for Trump’s chosen candidates, it’s disconcerting that they commanded any meaningful share of the vote at all.

American politics is a duopoly, and often, what counts as a “landslide” would be a nail biter in any other context (e.g., sports). Too many voters simply don’t care whether a given candidate is fit for office if that candidate represents their party. That’s always been true in America, of course, but it’s pervasive in the Trump era and, arguably, much more acute.

Walker wasn’t just a flawed candidate, he was a liability on 2022’s key “culture wars” issue, which the Supreme Court thrust to the fore this year, to the detriment of Republicans in the midterms. Walker was accused of paying for abortions (he vehemently denies the claims), despite being avowedly pro-life. That was problematic, as was his ex-wife’s contention that he once put a gun to her head.

But hypocrisy is nothing new in American politics. The bigger problem with Walker was captured by comedian Dave Chappelle who, during a monologue for Saturday Night Live last month, described Walker as “observably stupid.” Chappelle wasn’t alone in that assessment. Georgia rap legend Radric Davis, whose pre-sobriety reputation was built atop jail stints and what, at the time, counted as some of the most flagrantly offensive lyrics the genre had ever heard (today, the same lyrics would barely raise eyebrows, another sad testament to the state of America), recently rapped, “They say I’m crazy and I just might be a little bit /  But you all voted for Herschel Walker, you idiots.” Davis is the furthest thing from a politically-minded, socially conscious individual. He can’t vote, and it’s far from clear that he would if he could. The fact that he took the time to notice, let alone comment on, Walker’s shortcomings, was remarkable.

Walker himself wasn’t especially shy about his intellectual disadvantage. “I’m not that smart,” he said, before debating Warnock. “He’s a smart man, wears nice suits, so he is going to show up and embarrass me.”

But Warnock didn’t embarrass Walker. Not in the debate, and not at the polls either. The margin (51% to 49%) was very thin considering the stark juxtaposition between Walker and Warnock, who The New Yorker aptly described as “one of the singular political talents in the Democratic party.”

“I am Georgia,” Warnock declared Tuesday, during a speech in Atlanta. “I am an example and an iteration of its history, of its peril and promise, of the brutality and the possibilities. But because this is America, because we always have a path to make our country greater against unspeakable odds, here we stand together.”

That the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church (where Martin Luther King Jr. was baptized, ordained and served as co-pastor) only managed to defeat a scandal-ridden football star who, forgive me, sometimes came across as partially illiterate, by less than two percentage points (in a runoff, no less), is highly distressing in the context of America’s fractious democracy.

Warnock said, “The people have spoken.” He was right about that. More than 1.7 million of those people “spoke” for Walker, a man who, in March, questioned Charles Darwin using the following logic: “At one time, science said man came from apes. If that’s true, why are there still apes? Think about it.” A lot of people have thought about it, as it turns out. Spoiler alert: Darwin is correct. (Walker’s remark, “observably stupid” as it was, wasn’t even original. Other conservatives, including Tim Allen, have posed the same question — and received the same ridicule.)

Democrats will spend Wednesday celebrating Warnock’s victory, and Republicans “soul-searching,” as the New York Times put it. I’d gently suggest that no one should celebrate a scenario in which a candidate like Warnock only manages to defeat a candidate like Walker by a slim margin in a contest for a seat in the US Senate. It’s not just Republicans who should engage in soul-searching. The entire nation needs to reflect on where we are, how we got here and how we can correct the situation.


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16 thoughts on “Warnock, Walker And A Nation Adrift

  1. Walker is by far the most unelectable candidate that I’ve ever seen in my life. Right wing media has done an absolutely fabulous job brainwashing its viewers. That programming is literally rewiring people’s brains to think that this guy who has no business being in government, much less as a senator, was the best option.

    1. It’s no longer about the individual. It’s about the party.
      If I were a moderate republican, I can’t say I wouldn’t have voted for Walker. Control of the Senate commitees would have mattered more than the flawed candidate.
      Curse the primary voters for making Walker the nominee.

  2. To some extent I would agree that the US is a duopoly. But I really like your quotation from Darwin. Human beings, whether democrat or republican, or European, or Chinese give themselves too much credit. Our pride, hubris, and prejudices, combined with our limited awareness and self-centeredness make democracy, however we can manage it, the best bet for our collective well-being. There’s a reason Hershal Walker was his party’s candidate in Georgia. The republicans are trying to find any solution to Trumpism that works. Their party is in absolute disarray. Hershel was the best they could do in the circumstance.

    All of the detached and isolated Americans, democrats and republicans, in the far reaches of our country, who lost interest in American politics after George Bush senior and Bill Clinton’s election, migrated to Trump like bugs to a lonely lightbulb in the dark night. The question for me that’s on the table right now is the extent to which those numerous, lost, wandering American nomads will remain engaged.

    The republicans have an ongoing dilemma. Will they be outrageous in character, like Trump? Will they be soft-spoken button-down politicians, like Brian Kemp, who actually campaigned hard for Hershel Walker after Trump was exorcised from Georgia’s scene for this cycle. I reckon it’s likely the republicans will remain lost in the wilderness until well after 2024.

  3. I said the same about Trump to my friends Before he beat Clinton. We have a profound sickness in the United States. And it has been germinating for years and won’t be cured in the short term.

    1. Like other political movements that have come and gone over US history, the sickness ignited by Trump is an anomaly that is a product of our history, and we the people of the United States will work it out. I doubt the Trump sickness is profound. I reckon it’s a product of democracy, to which we’ve been trying to accustom ourselves for almost 250 years.

      Having the freedom to exercise willful ignorance and stupidity is, unfortunately, a choice we have exercised often in our history. Democracy is a template for US politics, which we as individual Americans try to revise every day. The question in my mind is whether human beings in America actually can consistently exercise the US democratic system to their collective benefit. Experience suggests the answer is no.

      Democracy is at best a process of trial and error. It requires a system of checks and balances else we would surely fall off the edge of the earth. But rather than say we have a profound sickness I would say Americans are profoundly human. This is at once our downfall and our saving grace.

  4. I was dismayed more by the margin than pleased with the outcome. The highlight of my day, therefore, was the high priestesses of the law and order party being snubbed by the family of Brian Sicknick at the Congressional Medal of Honor ceremony at the Capitol. Last time I felt pride like that in my country was when McCain turned his still-living thumb down.

  5. Great piece H, you had some nice digs in this article.

    The situation is a goddamn shame and its the only America I’ve ever known. I was 10 when nitwit Newt came onto the scene.

  6. I wouldn’t worry too much about Republican soul searching. The Goldwater disaster of 1964 produced Tricky Dick. Bobby Jindal’s post mortem on 2012 said “ we can’t be the party of stupid”. And here we are.

    1. Ha! Bobby Jindal! Awesome! A fond memory of a genuine republican, and an American of Asian heritage who believed in truth!

      Very relevant and timely recollection. Thanks, Bill!

  7. Our psychiatrically troubled politics
    are global, not just national. Bolsonaro, Italy, how about that folied insurrection in Germany? Or how about Xi Jinping repeating Japan of the 1930s…Best of all, Vlad the Invader who says the Russian army was stabbed in the back in 1916…..

    1. It seems like the government of the USA is primarily being run by the DNC and the RNC, not necessarily the individually elected representatives. The majority of the people of the USA are in agreement on many, although admittedly not all issues- based on public opinion polls.
      Unfortunately, it is in the best interest of both the DNC and the RNC to keep everyone divided- which provides a better framework for raising money.

  8. H-Man, Walker was picked by white Republicans to supposedly rally black voters in urban areas to the Republican cause, With a minor cross over, the handlers believed victory was certain. The handlers gave no credence to black voters being able observe when a candidate is “observably stupid” which means the handlers were “observably stupid” as well, This whole scenario was reminiscent of the carpetbagger days of the old South except in this case instead of coming from the North, it was Texas.

  9. Folks: might I gently remind you that that ex Auburn football coach tommy tuberville won a 6 year term as senator from Alabama and couldn’t name all 3 branches of the federal government. We are doomed:(

  10. Has anyone seen any reliable exit polling to tell us who voted for Walker? Should I assume it was a lot of white folks in Georgia who thot he could be controlled by the same people that put him up for election? People who relate to his intellect and true attitudes/values? A combination?

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