Is Herschel Walker the worst candidate the Republicans have ever run?
By Jill Filipovic
Republican men can be accused of any number of horrors, and not risk their party’s support
Thu 27 Oct 2022 14.29 EDT
It’s possible that Herschel Walker is the worst candidate the modern Republican party has ever run for national office, and in an era of conspiracy theorists, Christian nationalists and Donald Trump, that’s saying a lot. Walker embodies everything the Republican party has claimed to oppose: violent crime, abortion, homes broken by absentee fathers, race-based affirmative action and straight-up incompetence. And yet no matter what Walker is accused of, up to and including acts many Republicans define as murder, he retains the support of the Republican party, and his race for a Georgia Senate seat remains a tight one.
It’s not just that the modern Republican party has accepted as a norm that there should be absolutely zero moral or ethical expectations from the people they run for office. It’s that they seem to relish breaking the rules they want to set for others. It’s not hypocrisy so much as the celebration of conservative male impunity.
Walker has now been accused by two different women of pressuring them to get abortions, and paying for the procedures – allegations which he denies. By the “pro-life” definition of abortion, one widely accepted within the Republican party, abortion is murder, which means that Walker allegedly paid to murder his own children. That Republican voters don’t see this as a problem suggests that they don’t really buy what their own movement is selling, and don’t actually believe that abortion is in fact murder. But they are nonetheless prepared to criminalize it.
And the two women who say Walker paid for their abortions are different women from the ex-wife who has accused Walker of domestic violence. The latest woman to accuse Walker has remained anonymous, so it’s impossible to know if she is a different woman still from the one who accused Walker of stalking around her home and threatening her, or the other one who says Walker allegedly threatened to “blow her head off” if she left him. The first woman who came forward about Walker’s involvement in her abortion is, however, the mother of one of the several children Walker fathered out of wedlock and then did not publicly acknowledge – and had been sued to support – until after journalists tracked them down during his Senate campaign.
Walker has described fatherless Black families as a “major, major problem” in the US. Last year, he told conservative celebrities Diamond and Silk that the typical irresponsible Black father “leaves the boys alone so they’ll be raised by their mom”, he said. “If you have a child with a woman, even if you have to leave that woman – even if you have to leave that woman – you don’t leave that child.”
Walker did in fact leave his own children. At least one of their mothers had to sue him to get him to admit paternity.
Still, this is the man selected by the party of “family values” to represent Georgia – and this is a man who believes he should get the job.
Rightwing commentator Dana Loesch seemed to sum up the Republican view on Walker when she said of his abortion funding, “I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.” Walker has denied the accusations, but not even Republicans seem to believe him. “I don’t know if he did it or not,” Loesch said. “I don’t even care.”
Republicans definitely care when women choose to have abortions, though. The Republican party line is that abortion is murder and should be criminalized. Walker himself believes as much, and has voiced his support for Georgia’s strict abortion criminalization law, as well as Republican efforts to outlaw abortion nationwide.
And it’s not just that Walker is by any measure a profoundly immoral person, with his long string of violent criminal behavior and abuse of women. He is also almost indescribably vapid, a man with what seems to be a shockingly light grasp of the most basic of concepts (he at least seems to recognize his own intellectual limitations, saying, “I’m not that smart”). He struggles to string together a coherent sentence. Climate change, he has said, is not worth fighting because “since we don’t control the air, our good air decided to float over to China’s bad air so when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move. So it moves over to our good air space. Then now we got to clean that back up, while they’re messing ours up.”
He is also a serial fabulist, although it’s unclear if he’s purposely lying all of the time, or if he truly does not understand what is happening around him at any given moment. Walker claimed he was his high school’s valedictorian and in the top 1% of his graduating class in college; in reality, he did not graduate from college, although he has since lied about lying about it. Walker told a group of soldiers, “I spent time at Quantico at the FBI training school. Y’all didn’t know I was an agent?” They did not know he was an agent because Herschel Walker was not, in fact, an agent. Nevertheless, he has persisted in claiming that he was in law enforcement, holding up an honorary sheriff’s deputy badge as proof – the rough equivalent of a child brandishing their kiddie pilot wings and claiming they can fly the plane.
And while Republicans are crowing about the Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman’s depressing debate performance and claiming that he is mentally unfit for office – Fetterman is recovering from a stroke, and though his doctors say he is not cognitively impaired, he still struggles with auditory processing and stumbles over his words – they are also excusing Walker’s bad behavior by pointing to his history of concussions. And Walker himself has said he simply doesn’t remember much of his violent past, and has pinned blame on what he says are his multiple personalities – a disorder he sought treatment for by a guy whose professional credentials are a degree in Bible from the Dallas Bible College and a master’s degree in theology, and who blames demonic possession for mental illnesses, claims to be able to cure homosexuality and diagnoses mental disorders based on what color crayon a patient selects (the therapist himself is colorblind).
Imagine, for a moment, if Kamala Harris had what seems to be inadequately treated multiple personality disorder, a history of violent criminal behavior she blamed on her other personalities, and several children with multiple different men who she attempted to hide during her campaign – the rightwing outrage and attacks would be vicious and unending, and she would not be in office. Michelle Obama had the audacity to simply exist in the public eye, and for that was subject to a barrage of racist and sexist vitriol, including Fox News calling her “Obama’s baby mama”.
Republican men, in the meantime, can be proudly incompetent, self-defined imbeciles, moral degenerates and violent misogynists, and they don’t risk their party’s support or conservatives’ ballots.
This is hypocrisy, yes. But Republicans aren’t ashamed of it not just because they seem to lack the capacity for shame – although that is certainly true – but because the below-the-surface conservative ethos isn’t about any real attachment to family values, moral uprightness, or fetal life, but rather a return to a traditional gender order where men dominate political, social and economic life, and women are financially and socially dependent on them, primarily tasked with raising children and tending to the home. Outlawing abortion helps to reinforce this patriarchal order by constraining women’s opportunities and our ability to choose the course of our own lives, but it’s the “patriarchal order” part of the equation that’s more desirable than the “preventing abortion” part of it. When Walker wants the women he allegedly impregnated to end their pregnancies because additional out-of-wedlock children are inconvenient for him, his future and his political career, that upholds the kind of traditional male power structure conservatives seek to reinstate – and is the kind of abortion exception Republicans can apparently get behind.