As long as we’re talking about the decline of America’s political life, let’s talk about Herschel Walker– a human representation of that decline.
Walker–for those unfamiliar with him, as I happily was until recently–is the Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia. His nomination owes much to America’s obsessions with both sports and celebrity; he was evidently once a good football player.
At least he was good at something…
I can’t describe Walker any better than The New Republic.which headlined the linked story with a question: Is Herschel Walker Running to be the Senate’s Dumbest Liar?
Last month, the two-time All-Pro running back from the University of Georgia won the Peach State’s Republican Senate primary. A rabid right-winger, Walker has fully backed Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen, going as far as to say that Joe Biden didn’t get “50 million votes.” (Biden received more than 80 million.) He has urged revotes in a number of close states, including Arizona, Pennsylvania, and his home state. In chilling fashion, he called on Trump to conduct a “cleansing” of the country in the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration.
Walker is, even by recent GOP standards, an absolute firehose of lies. He’s also, to put it bluntly, absolutely godawful at lying. His deceptions seem to arrive in the news pre-collapsed—they are easily uncovered and incredibly numerous; his falsehoods have been repeatedly revealed over the last several months. At this point the “False Statements” section of his Wikipedia page is longer than the one recounting his ongoing campaign to be Georgia’s next senator.
The article enumerates a number of the lies Walker has peddled. For example, he has boasted that he was proprietor of a food service business that was a “mini–Tyson Foods,” claiming that it employed more than 100 people and generated nearly $100 million in sales. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the company’s profits were less than $2 million; that Walker didn’t own or run it, but had simply licensed his name to the business; and it had only eight employees.
In February, meanwhile, Walker boasted that “I still have about 250 people that sew drapery and bedspreads for me.” That sounds impressive! There’s just one problem: It isn’t. While Walker has claimed on his website that “[Herschel Walker Enterprises] and Renaissance Hospitality provides major hotels, restaurants and hospitals with custom fabric bedding, drapery and window treatments,” the truth is that Renaissance Hospitality doesn’t exist anymore—it dissolved a year ago. Moreover, Walker didn’t even own the business—a friend did.
There’s lots more. On several occasions, Walker claimed to have worked in law enforcement, although he never did. He has repeatedly railed against single-parent families, especially absent Black fathers. Small problem: The Daily Beast initially revealed that Walker has a son, now 10 years old, whom he never sees, and subsequently found others–there are (at least) three children for whom Walker is an absentee father
The portrait that emerges is a pretty simple one: The guy is a liar and a dummy. Walker spouts off in interviews and the campaign trail, inflates his successes, and makes bold claims that are comically easy to disprove. His campaign occasionally acknowledges them or tries to walk them back—it acknowledged the parentage of his son, for instance—but Walker has managed, either by wit or by accident, to keep following the Trump North Star, charging forward, headlong into the next incident. This candidacy is ultimately a test of how much Trump broke our politics—and how much a lesser facsimile of the former president can lie again and again and still succeed in American politics. Perhaps our politics are sturdy enough to survive it. It’s still no fun watching voters have to stomach this sort of stupidity and deceit.
If Walker was just a one-off, that would be dispiriting enough; he is, after all, the nominee of a major party for the Senate of the United States. But he has lots of company. (And let’s be clear, virtually all of the bumbling, moronic, ego-driven narcissists who embarrass America daily come from the once-Grand Old Party. Marjorie Taylor Green, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert…In the Senate, you have Tommy Tuberville (who didn’t know there were three branches of government), James Inhofe…and those are just the ones who come immediately to mind.)
Dick Lugar is spinning in his grave.
How did American politics descend from debates over the common good and sound policy–from issues of governance–to today’s version of “let’s make a deal.”? When did celebrity come to be more important than competence, anger and bile more important than intellect, self-aggrandizing bluster more important than verifiable truth?
For those of us who are worried that the country is in decline, the rise of the idiocracy is compelling–albeit depressing– evidence.