Herschel Walker And The Rise Of The Black GOP Firebrand

Even as the GOP plays footsie with white nationalist ideology, some Black Republicans are finding they can harness white grievance and win.

Herschel Walker could be the next junior senator from Georgia. The 60-year-old former American football player won the state’s Republican primary in a blowout race on Tuesday night, and he will face off against incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock in the general election this November.

Walker is a part of a new class of Black Republicans, endorsed by Donald Trump and more right-wing than ever.

For the last 40 years, the party has catered to an increasingly aggrieved white base culminating in the election of Donald Trump. But now, a record number of Black people are on the Republican ticket ― and the party is thrilled.

“They’re excited about Black candidates because Black candidates are living, breathing, walking refutations of the liberal canard that American conservatism is inextricably intertwined with and dependent upon racism,” Luke Thompson, a GOP strategist, told the New York Post in January.

The GOP can use Walker to point to their burgeoning supposed inclusivity, but putting a Black face on extremism will only help the white conservative cause.

Walker first made himself into a political operative by campaigning for Donald Trump during the 2020 election and championing the same right-wing narrative of his white counterparts.

“Don’t take our FREEDOM for granted. AMERICA is under attack by BLM. BLM are marxist who want to destroy America,” Walker tweeted in 2020 during the racial justice protests in response to the murder of George Floyd.

Before he officially announced he was running, Walker tested the waters by denouncing issues important to Black activists. In February 2021, he told Congress that he didn’t believe Black Americans should get reparations because perhaps Black people were culpable for the slave trade.

“Who is the guilty party?” he asked. “Should we start at the beginning where African Americans sold your African American ancestors into slavery?”

Then the following July he complained about US Olympians who protested at that year’s games.

“...I think it’s the wrong place and wrong time, as a people we have to decide to elect the right people in the office because if you get the right people into office and hold people accountable, we wouldn’t have these problems,” he explained in a confusing jumble of words.

But the GOP quickly figured out that the party doesn’t really need to stand for anything beyond being against whatever the liberals want. Walker’s lack of policy knowledge and positions is just keeping in trend with his own party.

His campaign website is sparse. There are vague promises of protecting the American family and defending the police, but no real explanation on what or how those would translate into lawmaking.

Not only is his platform lacking, but Walker has been accused of domestic abuse by former partners ― allegations that he attributed to dissociative identity disorder.

If Walker beats Warnock in the fall, he would become the 12th Black Senator and the second one from Georgia in history.

Walker has been called out by his Republican opponents for running a very limited campaign. He refused to participate in debates and only does interviews with conservative media which can tightly control what soundbites get heard by the public.

But when Walker does make public appearances, his talking points are the standard conservative talking points.

“I’m sick and tired of them wanting to teach CTR in school,” Walker said in March, getting the acronym confused. “Critical race theory, can you tell me what that means?” The question was rhetorical, but over the last several months, the GOP has used CRT as their boogeyman du jour; criticizing the academic theory is a requirement for Republican candidates.

Then last week, Walker announced that he wants to ban abortion in all instances, even in cases of rape or incest.

“There’s no exception in my mind,” he said. “Like I say, I believe in life. I believe in life.” Walker’s stance on abortion mirrors that of today’s GOP which almost appears to be in a battle to be the most extreme on abortion.

It may seem counterintuitive that as the mainstream GOP embraces its more noxious elements, there would be a surge in Black candidates embracing it.

With both the Trump wing and the more establishment wing of the party embracing Walker’s run despite his lack of experience and his non-existent platform, the GOP can shield itself from liberal attacks while increasingly growing more dangerous.

And for Walker, he gets the benefit of making himself a household name using one of the easiest paths out there — Black conservative firebrand.

Today’s GOP is playing footsie with white nationalist ideology, ruminating on the constitutionality of interracial marriage and parroting ideas that were once taboo for polite company. But their voters understand racism to be an either/or situation. If Walker is embraced by Republicans, then the party can’t be racist. And therein lies the danger for the future of the country.

A Black Republican winning in a battleground state is a huge victory for the conservative party that indicates even Black people can run on the white grievance platform — and win.

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