Opinion As Herschel Walker’s son erupts, the GOP has only itself to blame

cigaretteman

HR King
May 29, 2001
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By Greg Sargent
Columnist |
October 4, 2022 at 12:15 p.m. EDT






If Herschel Walker loses the Georgia Senate race — which now looks more likely than it did 24 hours ago, given the extraordinary new revelations rocking his campaign — it will make it much harder for Republicans to win the majority. So let’s put a marker down now: Leading Republicans cannot be permitted to bury their own role in making Walker the nominee.


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Unsurprisingly, their active involvement in securing Walker the nomination is deeply entangled with ongoing GOP kowtowing to Donald Trump — and with continued GOP footsie-playing with the pathologies of Trumpism. Republicans are already scrambling to point fingers, but to paraphrase a great old song about regret and loss, this is their own damn fault.
Walker’s campaign is facing “stunning developments” and is “in crisis,” news media accounts say, after the Daily Beast reported that the anti-choice Walker paid for an unnamed former girlfriend’s abortion back in 2009.






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Walker has strongly denied the allegation, blaming Democrats and the Fake News media. But the Daily Beast reports having seen the woman’s receipt for the abortion as well as a personal check from Walker reimbursing her for it, and said it confirmed the story with one of her confidantes at the time.

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To top it all off, in a remarkable eruption of anger and pain, Walker’s son Christian tweeted a torrent of criticism of his father. He then posted a video of himself tearing into his father, accusing him of betraying “family values” with affairs and multiple marriages.
The Republican response is three-fold: Some are publicly insisting this is all a big nothing burger, and others are blaming Democrats, while still others privately move to pin the blame of a potential Georgia loss on Christian Walker in ugly and vicious terms.







And so, if Republicans are going to anonymously blame this young man in advance, let’s note that a meltdown of this colossal scale by Herschel Walker’s campaign was utterly predictable.
Let’s take stock of what was known about Walker long before he won the nomination. Way back in July 2021, the Associated Press reported that Walker’s ex-wife had secured a protective order against him and that relatives had informed her that he’d told them he planned to kill her.
Walker denied to police that he’d made the threats, per the AP, but one relative testified to this under oath, and a judge saw “good cause” to grant the protective order. What’s more, as the AP delicately put it, Walker “alarmed business associates with unpredictable behavior.”

Even one of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R) own top lieutenants knew this was serious trouble, tweeting out the AP story and dubbing it “about as comprehensive a takedown as I’ve ever read.”






Anyone who knows how politics works could see this as a clear warning against nominating Walker. But then McConnell ultimately ended up endorsing Walker in the primary, anyway.
McConnell’s calculation here is instructive. As Politico reported at the time, McConnell and GOP leaders initially saw Walker’s past as a serious liability but then decided they were impressed by Walker’s fundraising and his television performances.
At the time, McConnell also confidently predicted the midterms would be a referendum on President Biden. And McConnell declared that Walker could unite GOP voters, given that Trump had endorsed Walker as someone with long personal connections to him.

In other words, Republicans saw Walker as a good vessel for a midterm election that would be all about Democrats, not them: Walker could raise money, had high name recognition, and could keep Trump voters in the fold. Who cared if his past suggested he probably has no business being anywhere near the Senate, by Republicans’ own previous lights?








Things have changed since then. The death of Roe v. Wade, the easing of inflation and gas prices, and revelations about Trump’s insurrectionism and legal peril have meant these contests aren’t exclusively referendums on Biden and Democratic rule.
Now, amid that shifting political environment, Republicans themselves admit that weak candidates like Walker could be putting their Senate hopes in jeopardy. But if this is so, the cynicism that drove the accommodation with Walker is at least partly to blame.

It’s sometimes said that McConnell is one of the few Republican leaders truly trying to move the party away from Trump. But that’s an overly credulous reading: In reality, McConnell has at key moments sought to harness Trump’s pathologies in highly destructive ways.
For instance, McConnell refused for weeks in 2020 to recognize Biden’s win in a failed effort to keep Trump voters energized for the Georgia runoffs, helping fuel the lies that inspired the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. The continued backing of Walker is the latest example of McConnell’s effort to coopt Trumpism.


One of Trump’s innovations has been to persuade Republican politicians that no scandal is too damaging to survive, provided they deny at all costs, never apologize, give no quarter whatsoever to accusers and bull-headedly plow through, blaming the whole thing on the Fake News all throughout.
In Walker, however, Republicans have been handed a test of this proposition that looks like a whole lot more than they bargained for.

 

cigaretteman

HR King
May 29, 2001
73,027
52,690
113
The video had all of the hallmarks of a Christian Walker social-media post. In it, the unquenchably effusive son of Georgia Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker sits in the front seat of his car, gesticulating with well-practiced enthusiasm and near-shouting his opinion for the benefit of his followers.

“Men,” he exclaimed, “we need you to stop running around” [having sex with] “every woman in town. … Stick to your significant others and raise your kids.”

This is a theme of Christian Walker’s: Men should not cheat on their wives and should be present in their children’s lives. The recent allegations involving Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine, for example, spurred more than one video from Walker on the subject.

What’s notable about this video, though, is when it was published: July 2021. Before his father announced a run for U.S. Senate. And well before Christian Walker used his modest-but-well-tended online platform this week to blast his father as a hypocrite and a liar shortly after the Daily Beast reported that his father had paid for an abortion.






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The Washington Post has not independently confirmed the report, and Herschel Walker is denying it.
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When Herschel Walker announced his candidacy in August 2021, Christian Walker was the only child he was generally known to have had; it has since been revealed that he has three others.
Christian Walker was onboard with his father’s candidacy at the outset, sharing Donald Trump’s endorsement of his father soon after the announcement and posting a video of him embracing Herschel Walker during a campaign event at Mar-a-Lago in December.

What changed, the younger Walker says, is that his father wasn’t forthright about his own past. In a video posted on Twitter on Tuesday morning, Christian Walker explained the shift.
“I did one event last year when we were told he was going to get ahead of his past and hold himself accountable,” he said. “None of that happened. Everything’s been a lie.”










That was tame compared with the tweets following the Daily Beast report.
“You’re not a ‘family man’ when you left us to [have sex with] a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence,” Walker wrote on Twitter on Monday evening. “...[H]ow DARE YOU LIE and act as though you’re some ‘moral, Christian, upright man.’ You’ve lived a life of DESTROYING other peoples lives. How dare you.”

You probably noticed a theme here: The record of Christian Walker’s positions is clearly defined thanks to his energetic use of social media. And his prolific use of social media is part of his very deliberate effort to establish himself as an online influencer in a largely unfilled niche: conservative, Black and gay. He rose to prominence by criticizing the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, generating an audience in part thanks to ironic or critical commentary on his videos.










This journey is not unique. Embracing right-wing positions — sincerely or not — is a viable path to building an audience, as the New York Times explained in the context of Facebook last year. Donald Trump’s false claims about election fraud powered an ecosystem of social-media influence that right-wing voices scrambled to leverage. The magic of the internet is that, if it is leveraged cleverly, an audience can be cobbled together around nearly anything: dressing like animals, analyzing science-fiction television episodes, theorizing about secret satanic plots. It’s an attention gold rush in which there are plenty of hefty nuggets to be mined.
Most of Walker’s posts are centered on whatever the right-wing fury du jour happens to be. A recent series, for example, centered on his move from California to Florida, where he proceeded to tout Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s leadership. In other posts, he leverages his identity to rail against Pride month or lament the travails of White men — a well-worn path toward appealing to the right.

Walker also has an online shop for a brand called “CANCL,” in which he’s shown wearing both a sweatshirt reading “CANCELLED” and sweatpants reading “CANCEL ME.” He does not balk at contradictions.


It seems likely that his father’s campaign might at one point have thought his son’s online audience — not huge by the modern standards of influence, but substantial — would be a benefit. As Christian Walker noted on Tuesday morning, though, he hasn’t actively promoted his father’s candidacy in recent months, despite, he says, receiving various entreaties to do so. Instead, he’s occasionally revisited that theme from his July 2021 video: Men need to take responsibility for their children. Not the sort of message Walker’s campaign wants Republican voters — already iffy on the candidate — to focus on.
Christian Walker’s criticism has obviously frustrated his father’s allies. One, speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein, dumped any eventual Herschel Walker loss at his son’s feet — but declined to say it on the record.

Officially, that’s not the campaign line. When The Washington Post reached out about his son’s comments, the Walker campaign pointed to a tweet from the candidate.
“I LOVE my son no matter what,” Walker wrote.
This spurred a furious rejoinder: “If you loved your kids you’d be raising them,” Christian Walker wrote, “instead of running for a senate race to boost your ego.”
This tweet — unlike so many others times in which the younger Walker rushed to share his anger — was quickly deleted.

 

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