Oliver Willis on why the Herschel Walker campaign made him sick
"It was this very obvious lowering of the bar."
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By Aaron Rupar
There was too much wrong with Herschel Walker’s Senate bid to discuss all of it in a single newsletter, but an aspect of it that flew a bit below the radar is how insulting it was.
The best thing I read on this topic came courtesy Oliver Willis and his Oliver Willis Explains Substack. His November 16 piece — “Herschel Walker's Vile Campaign Is An Insult To Black People Everywhere” — gets into how Walker’s run was as if “one of those old, racist lawn jockeys came to life and mounted a campaign.” He writes:
Herschel Walker’s campaign for the US Senate seat in Georgia makes me physically ill. For months now, every time I have seen his media appearances or stump speeches, I feel a pain in the pit of my stomach. Watching him perform is an insult to Black people in America, both living and dead. It is vile and it is a product of the modern Republican Party.
Certainly I find Walker’s political positions (or the positions he has been told to espouse) abhorrent, but that isn’t the cause of my discomfort. What is so deeply disturbed by the spectacle of Herschel Walker is that it is such an openly racist display of the utter contempt that white conservatives have for Black people.
Willis’s post came in the period between November’s election and Tuesday’s runoff, when there was still a shred of doubt about Walker’s political fate. So with his campaign now swept into the dustbin of history, I called him up to do a postmortem.
A transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.
It seems somewhat counterintuitive to say a Black candidate embodies racism. So explain why you think Walker’s campaign did that.
The crux of it is that if Republicans were really interested in running a Black candidate, they would've run someone who’s actually qualified. It was just obvious to everybody, including voters, that Herschel Walker was completely unfit.
It was this very obvious lowering of the bar. You could see over and over again how Republicans were like, ‘well, this is a Black guy and he's clearly not as good as the rest of us. We're going to have to prop him up for weeks and weeks and weeks and we got to put the whole Fox machine behind him.’ And it was such a contrast with someone like Reverend Warnock.
When Warnock had President Obama campaigning with him, it didn't look like Obama was propping him up. Obama was out on the stump with him as he would do with any other candidate. But then you had Walker giving meandering speeches that were bad even by the low bar of a Trump speech. He wasn't even making coherent insults.
And it’s not like there aren’t other Black Republicans. Look at Tim Scott. I don't agree with a thing he stands for, but Tim Scott does not run how Herschel Walker ran. Tim Scott ran like a normal Republican candidate. You can disagree with him, but he didn't look like a fool.
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