How much is too much for Herschel Walker’s ‘family-values’ voters?

October 5, 2022 5:50 am

Herschel Walker spoke in early 2022 at a Faith and Freedom Coalition gathering in Atlanta. (Photo: Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder)

You can tell Herschel Walker was raised right. After all, only a gentleman would think to send a “Get well” card – hand-signed, from #34! — to the girlfriend whose abortion he had just financed.

That’s classy, or as close to classy as you’re going to find in this mess.

It is not classy to campaign on the theme that abortion – all abortion, even in cases of rape or incest – is murder, while you yourself have secretly “murdered.” It’s not classy to act all high and mighty and deny a choice to others that you yourself have exercised because you found the pregnancy you helped to create “inconvenient,” because you already had more outside children than you wanted to support.

Yet this is the man whom Georgia Republicans chose as their nominee for the U.S. Senate, the man whom they instructed in how to run a conservative “family-values” campaign. His opponents in the GOP primary warned their fellow Republicans that if they nominated Walker, this day would come. And it has come.

As Walker’s son Christian angrily posted on Monday: “’Family values,’ people? He has four kids, four different women, wasn’t in the house raising one of them. He was out having sex with other women.” According to the younger Walker, his father had also threatened to kill him and his mother, forcing them to move six separate times in six months in hopes of hiding from his wrath. Christian Walker also complained bitterly about the pressure that the right had secretly placed on him to be silent about his father, a request that he largely granted, he said, until finally the lies became too much to tolerate.

And yet, for the time being, Republicans at both the national and state levels are saying they stand behind Walker and his candidacy. What does “conservative” even mean anymore, if the lies and the abortions and fake charities and spousal abuse and violence mean nothing? Hypocrisy is always present in politics, among both parties, but the question has been asked often about Donald Trump, and it’s relevant again here: How much is too much?

Judging from the right’s continued support of Trump, the answer is that “too much” is an empty concept. Trump has survived and thrived through countless cruelties and crudities, and maybe, just maybe, that will prove the case here as well. However, questions of morality aside — because clearly they aren’t being considered here – on sheer pragmatic grounds I have a hard time believing that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other national GOP figures will continue to pour tens of millions of dollars into Walker’s campaign against Sen. Raphael Warnock. I think the money spigots will soon run dry. With the midterms less than five weeks away, they ought to have other races in which to invest their cash, races in which the chances of success are now greater than here in Georgia.

In addition, the abortion question is causing problems for Republican candidates all over the country. Part of the Democrats’ message has been that Republicans claim to oppose abortion until their own wives, daughters, sisters and lovers become pregnant, when suddenly arrangements are made that aren’t available to the poor and the less-connected. The Walker story dovetails too perfectly with that argument for  Republicans to try to defend it.

From the beginning, Walker has been treated as nothing more than a tool, a weapon that Republicans could deploy to win a seat they wanted. They didn’t care that he was extremely ill-suited to that purpose, by nature and training, that he might be destroyed by it, together with his family members. We all kind of knew it would end this way, even if we could not have anticipated the details and timing.

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Jay Bookman
Jay Bookman

Jay Bookman covered Georgia and national politics for nearly 30 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, earning numerous national, regional and state journalism awards. He has been awarded the National Headliner Award and the Walker Stone Award for outstanding editorial writing, and is the only two-time winner of the Pulliam Fellowship granted by the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the author of "Caught in the Current," published by St. Martin's Press. Bookman was also once the editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.