Herschel Walker and the Politics of Hypocrisy
The latest revelations about the Georgia Republican should end his campaign. Will it?
Georgia has been on the mind of every Democratic strategist. Our Senate candidates are well-positioned against deeply flawed MAGA extremists in Arizona and New Hampshire; and yet, Senator Raphael Warnock remains in a very tight race with Herschel Walker. The fact that Raphael Warnock, a decent man and effective Senator, is in a dead heat with Herschel Walker, a man who held a gun to the head of his ex-wife, is enough to make one think American politics is irretrievably broken.
But then, late Monday night, the Daily Beast broke a blockbuster story that seemed to shake up the race in dramatic fashion. Per the Daily Beast:
A woman who asked not to be identified out of privacy concerns told The Daily Beast that after she and Walker conceived a child while they were dating in 2009 he urged her to get an abortion. The woman said she had the procedure and that Walker reimbursed her for it.
She supported these claims with a $575 receipt from the abortion clinic, a “get well” card from Walker, and a bank deposit receipt that included an image of a signed $700 personal check from Walker.
To make matters worse for Walker, his son Christian, a Right Wing TikTok influencer, took to the Internet to bash his father for being a dangerous liar.
For a candidate running on a radical anti-abortion platform and depending on high turnout from evangelical voters, this revelation should be a death blow, right?
Echoes of the Not-So-Distant Past
After weeks of stories about the Republicans’ momentum in the race for the Senate, I was reveling in this news on Monday night. Finally, a bit of good luck for the good guys. But then Tommy Vietor reminded me that Herschel Walker's story had eerie parallels to another October blockbuster story. Monday was October 4th, and the infamous Access Hollywood tape that was supposed to end Trump’s 2016 campaign dropped on October 7th.
After Trump was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault with Billy Bush (what a sentence to write!), Republicans distanced themselves from his campaign, and pundits read him last political rites. Utah Congressman turned middling Fox pundit Jason Chaffetz even unendorsed Trump because he claimed he couldn’t support Trump and look across the dinner table at his wife and daughters.
In the end, the Access Hollywood tape was only a bump in the road. Voters did not abandon the racist reality TV star. Republican elected officials largely stuck with him. Chaffetz presumably started dining alone because he re-endorsed Trump within weeks.
Now, 2022 isn’t 2016. This is a very different race with very different candidates, but it’s worth reexamining what we all got wrong about the impact of Access Hollywood so that we can understand how this moment could impact the current race.
Why Did Republicans Stick with Trump?
At the time of the Access Hollywood tape, the general assumption was that voters would abandon Trump over such a crass, cruel and revealing moment. How could anyone not wearing blinders want this troglodyte to lead our country? This was certainly the calculation Republican leaders made. Don’t, for one second, think that Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell or Chaffetz were actually offended by Trump’s words. They just assumed that he was a sinking ship and, like the rats they are, made for the nearest exit.
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