Celebrate the Facts!
6/12/2022 0 Comments
Herschel Walker, chosen by Donald Trump, and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, suit up for a Senate race in Georgia that will likely determine which political party runs the United States Senate. Two African American men running for national office in the deep South is unusual enough. Add lots of unsavory details about Walker’s life, millions of dollars of dark money from both sides funding attack ads, and a close race, and one has a fascinating matchup with immense consequences. Polling data for the race indicate it’s a coin toss, with the average volatility associated with statewide races early in contests.
Raphael Warnock graduated from Morehouse College, earned a Ph.D., and became an ordained Christian minister. For more than 15 years, Warnock was Senior Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, formerly held by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Warnock narrowly won the Georgia Senate seat in a January 2021 runoff election for the remaining two years of his predecessor’s term. Warnock comes across as calm, articulate, and astute and can turn on the charisma when he needs it, giving him a good asset in debates and television appearances and speeches.
Herschel Walker was a star football player at the University of Georgia, then went on to a lackluster career in the National Football League and in the United States Football League. Walker met Donald Trump when he played for a team Donald Trump owned, the New Jersey Generals. After football, Walker parlayed his football fame into business endeavors, with far from perfect results. Trump urged Walker to run, and Walker moved to Georgia from Texas to pursue the seat.
Walker’s pitch is he’s a non-politician, an outsider, and inspired by God. Walker claims God is his general manager, coach, and quarterback. Walker is not ready to cede God’s will to his opponent, even if he’s a Christian preacher. Walker is articulate, soft-spoken, and likable, and with his football pedigree, he is a state hero and will ride that horse to the finish line.
Liberal tribal media will harp on Walker’s idiosyncrasies, many failures in business, and credible allegations of domestic violence, all problems Donald Trump shrugged aside. Walker hopes to catch that same lightning in a bottle in his race.
Quick Georgia facts:
Given the relatively high African American percentage of about 32% of the population, race will be the central issue in this campaign. The Republicans, led by Donald Trump, groomed Walker as their candidate, with the unspoken goal of peeling off enough of the African American vote to make the difference in a close race. Their reasoning, at initial investigation, appears valid, but a deeper analysis reveals some fatal flaws. The most prominent is Walker’s apparent denial racism exists, as he maintains civil rights leaders and politicians in general wish to separate people for some unexplained reason.
One is prone to speculate that reasoning won’t resonate with African American voters, who have experienced racism’s uglier side all their lives. But instead, Walker’s hazard is African American voters coming to view him as a tool of the white establishment, resulting in his rejection by the same cohort he desperately needs to penetrate to win the seat.
Walker’s other issues are manifold. A recent investigative report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution detailed Walker’s history of business failures, litigation, and misrepresentations. Walker also has numerous credible allegations of domestic violence, to which he has affirmed responsibility. Whether this acknowledgment will immunize him from damage is unknown.
Walker’s biggest weakness is his absolute lack of charisma. He’s heavy on reading from his teleprompter, and his campaign is about God and football, with a bit of anti-environmentalism and anti-immigrant xenophobia. Audiences seem to enjoy the reminiscence of Walker’s glory days in football, and God plays well in the deep South, but Walker’s delivery lacks fire. He seems more funeral director than preacher in his delivery, which will hurt him in the race, particularly in contrast to Warnock.
Warnock’s strategy is to attack Walker on his somewhat spotty business record and his habit of making rather unusual statements. Early in June, Warnock dropped an attack ad featuring footage of Walker promoting a product to prevent covid. Warnock’s error may be in tagging his opponent as a mentally deranged white-wing wingnut. Even if the characterizations contain some element of truth, the strategy could backfire as voters grow to know Walker as a more reasonable person.
In a larger framework, there is no national race to bolster turnout. While this will affect both candidates, it likely will damage Walker more, as Trump voters will be less likely to turn out without their prophet at the top of the ticket.
Add to that the governor’s race, where the incumbent, Brian Kemp, squares off against Stacey Abrams, a transformational political figure, both bold and articulate. Abrams will bring white progressives, traditional liberals, and African Americans in a gutter fight rematch that was close last time. And Abrams is all about race, racism, voting rights, and progressivism. On the other hand, Kemp, a traditional Southern conservative Republican, is no favorite of the Trump crowd, as he declined to climb onto the Trump election lie bandwagon in the 2020 election.
Money status for the candidates as of early May 2022:
Warnock has much more cash on hand, and although that can change, Warnock will likely continue to be able to outspend Walker. In addition, Warnock can rely on dark money PACs for smear ads on Walker, harping on mental health issues, his domestic violence history, and spotty business record.
Walker will undoubtedly continue with God, football, and xenophobia, blaming Warnock for high gas prices and hordes of criminals laden with drugs coming across the border. Walker will have a tough time being more religious than Warnock, who has real credibility in the area as opposed to Walker's cross-hugging old-school rhetoric.
An unspoken unknown is how much Walker’s presence at the top of the Georgia ballot will suppress the white vote, representing about 60% of the population of Georgia. Georgia, a former Confederate state, has robust elements of racist traditions. There are undoubtedly some percentages of white voters who wouldn’t vote for Jesus Christ if he was black, let alone a mortal. Walker has a more significant hill to climb in the white cohort than the African American contingent because he can’t afford a reduced turnout among the white Republican base voters.
The ground game appears to favor Warnock. Walker has a checkered past, and more unsavory information likely will come out about him as time goes by. Warnock has been in the public eye for a long time, and if there were distasteful unknowns, they would already be public. Walker also is thin on policy and substantive governance knowledge, which would be evident in a debate. Whether Walker will accede to such is unknown, but one might speculate he would only if compelled by unfavorable polling data. Warnock also has money to spend Walker into oblivion, and in a close race, that’s critical.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.