By Soo Rin Kim
Looking back to the public’s opinions of Donald Trump as he vied for the Republican candidacy in 2015 can often feel like a cruel joke. His outlandishness as a political figure made statisticians and pundits write off growing support as a passing phase. But his brazen personality ended up being a boon to his polling numbers. How could we not predict the groundswell of support his meretricious delusions of grandeur would drum up?
Perhaps it's because a person like Trump was an aberration in American politics. Ronald Reagan’s similar background in entertainment couldn’t compare to Trump’s commanding presence in the public consciousness as a gaudy showman who had never stepped foot into the arena of government.
Republicans often refer to the novelty of Trump, someone inexperienced in politics and willing to “tell it like it is,” as a panacea for what they perceive to be a country hostile to the right. Now that he has been ousted from office, many have rushed in to replace him, using the same bold tactics that have been proven to work so well in Trump’s popularity contests.
Herschel Walker is a Georgia senate candidate who has picked up on the opportunity afforded to him by Trump’s precedent. The former NFL running back stumbles headfirst into ridiculous controversies, which have been good fodder for the media circus that has pitched its tents around his campaign.
Most recently he has been ridiculed for flashing a fake police badge in his attempt to rebuff the arguments of Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock. Though at the time he denied that he was using a prop, his PR team seems to have leaned into the gimmick and plans to distribute 1,000 fake badges at an upcoming rally.
This bizarre strategy pales in comparison to another Walker controversy, which made him the center of a fierce debate over Republican hypocrisy in post-Roe America. A woman has alleged that Walker once sent her a $700 check to cover the costs of an abortion, though he denies that this was his intent.
Walker has been known to be extremely hard on abortion. He is one of the many Republicans who have begun the fight to criminalize those who receive the procedure, now that Roe has officially been overturned. Owing to his headstrong stance, this allegation caused an uproar, but oddly enough the furor has been restrained to the left.
One would assume that the right would be more outraged at Walker for turning his back on so-called “moral” ideals. However, they have mostly remained loyal, keeping the senate race incredibly close.
What would compel conservatives to dismiss claims that Walker may have once actively promoted the very act they were recently so triumphant in banning? Strangely the same demographic who has been known to be skeptical of things from the legitimacy of an election to the word of a healthcare official is remaining blind in its support for Walker.
It’s simple cognitive dissonance that keeps Walker neck and neck with Warnock. Conservative Georgians are willing to ignore something the candidate might have done which, if true, would be detrimental to their cause, so they can vote for Walker in good conscience.
Donald Trump’s many allegations regarding misconduct of a private or sexual nature were similarly ignored or banally dismissed as “locker room talk,” but this sort of refusal to acknowledge a candidate’s personal failings can at least be considered to be within the realm of logic. Accusations of assault or disrespect don’t diametrically oppose some of the Republican party’s core beliefs.
So why are the allegations against Walker largely unseen in the polls when Republicans should be furious? Perhaps it’s because Republican Georgians have been sent into a bit of a panic over the past few years.
In 2020, Joe Biden won the state in the presidential election. That same year Georgia elected its first Black and Jewish senators, respectively Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. These three results have been a wake-up call for Conservatives to organize. When Walker appeared in the running, it was clear that this pseudo-Trump figure could shake up the state’s liberal-leaning federal offices.
In short, Walker is overkill. Georgian Republicans have struggled to grapple with the state’s new blue identity and have produced a candidate that seems to have been grown in a lab for the purposes of pushing the most extreme of right-wing ideals in the most radical and newsworthy ways possible.
Republicans need to lower their defenses and truly assess Walker’s competence as a candidate totally independent of Trump’s looming shadow and the threat of Georgia’s apparently large Democratic voter base. Politics that are situated in fear and retaliation almost always backfire on those who vote for a hypocrite out of a panic-induced frenzy. After all, who knows how Walker’s documented unreliability will harm those who have supported him most if he should ever enter office?