The race for the US Senate in Georgia between Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock should never have been so close

The good news is that among the mid-term contests staving off a red wave is the US Senate race in Georgia, which was too close to announce Wednesday morning and almost guaranteed that the Democratic incumbent, Rev. Raphael Warnock, will face his Republican rival. Herschel Walker, in a December runoff.

The bad news is that it should never have been this close.

From the moment Walker launched his campaign, it was obvious that he was unqualified and unprepared—traits that only grew more prominent with every stop on the trail. Walker showed less a lack of knowledge about fundamental issues than a glut of incoherent and nonsensical theories on everything from climate change (“Don’t we have enough trees here?”) to evolution (“Why are there still apes? Think about it!”).

This detached relationship to facts and reality was also evident in Walker’s seeming inability to speak the truth, and his campaign veered from controversy to controversy as every invention made headlines. Lies about college degrees, a military career and business success were followed by revelations about three secret children, multiple allegations of paying for abortions and an alleged pattern of violent abuse of women. But Walker’s supporters hung on to him because he also helped spread the lie that defined MAGA rights — Donald Trump’s deranged insistence that the presidency was stolen from him, despite nearly two years of evidence proving that that’s not true.

Most importantly, too, was the Republican Party’s belief that defeating Warnock, the first black US Senator in Georgia’s history, would be as easy as leading an African-American competitor. The GOP, still aching about its 2020 losses in a longtime GOP stronghold, found in Walker a candidate who would not only follow the party’s white supremacist lines by promoting racial stereotypes — about black cultural pathology, dead fatherhood , crime and violence – but a party mascot whose blackness could be used to counter accusations of white Republican racism.

Walker’s Republican supporters were aware that he was totally unfit to be a Senator and knew there were numerous red flags regarding his character; in fact, a Washington Post The story tells of concerns among GOP staffers going back to early 2021 that Walker’s “baggage” could potentially bring his campaign to its knees. But those issues were seemingly brushed aside by many Republicans, who thought a Trump endorsement, coupled with Walker’s “overwhelming notoriety in Georgia as a Heisman Trophy-winning football star,” would be enough to propel him squarely to Warnock’s seat in Congress . And they figured being famous and black would be enough to siphon off enough African American support for Warnock to secure a Walker win.

As always, Republicans underestimated black voters, who initially did not support Walker, rightly viewed his MAGA connections with suspicion, and were put off by the myriad signs of his utter unfitness. Black people are particularly good at estimating the potential harm political candidates will do, a self-sustaining calculation Black voters have always had to make. Walker failed in every way.

But these GOP strategists were right when they predicted that their predominantly white base would accept a black candidate whom they saw as furthering their agenda rooted in anti-blackness and revanchist white supremacy. According to NBC News exit polls — which are likely to change in the coming days and weeks, but not so much as to undo the key findings here — 70 percent of white Georgians chose Walker to represent them in the Senate, compared with only eight percent of black voters. More than 70 percent of white male voters and 68 percent of white women voted for Walker, while only 12 percent of black men did the same. Black women — consistently the most reliable rejects of the GOP’s white supremacist nonsense — gave Walker just 5 percent of their votes.

“[GOP backers] thought being famous and black would be enough to siphon off enough African American support for Warnock to secure a Walker win.”

Also of note is that a staggering 88 percent of white evangelicals, or nearly nine out of ten, did not vote for Warnock — a true religious scholar with a PhD in systematic theology and pastor of one of Atlanta’s oldest and most revered black Baptists is Kirchen – opting instead for Walker, whose naked hypocrisy in the pursuit of political power is a common trait. It’s likely that those same white conservative voters will dismiss Walker’s moral failings, not just because it’s politically convenient, but because it’s consistent with the racist views they already hold about black people. (It’s hard not to recall that Trump was absolutely infuriated by Barack Obama’s achievements. He’s probably happy to be promoting a black candidate who doesn’t so thoroughly threaten his faith in innate white supremacy).

Between now and December 6th, when there is likely to be a runoff between Walker and Warnock, there will be a lot of media talk about why this race looked the way it did.

I can’t help but suspect that some media types will claim Warnock shakes more babies and kisses more hands, criss-crosses the state more, makes his political positions clearer, or even – in the dumbest shots of all – more should do to reach out to Republican voters. But at a certain point the realities lie in the truths about us, who we are as a country and where we are right now.

Sure, Warnock is progressive on issues conservatives oppose, but the devil here is in details of race, a changing Georgia, white fears of loss of status, and a black candidate they’re hiring to fulfill the GOP’s white racialist imperatives. That’s how we got here, even though Warnock is so much more qualified than Walker that it’s annoying that the comparison is even being voted on.

And even with that knowledge, there’s still no guarantee that Georgia will do the right thing. Should Warnock win – whether when the scores are tallied or in a run-off – it’s still humbling to us as a nation that it was ever so close. But if Walker wins, it’s a national disgrace. In any case, it should never have been so close. The race for the US Senate in Georgia between Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock should never have been so close

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