Column: Herschel Walker is unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate
The current incarnation of anti-intellectualism in Republican politics — epitomized by the campaign of former football star Herschel Walker for U.S. Senate in Georgia — started in earnest in the winter of 2012 with a quip from former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who was seeking the Republican presidential nomination. At a tea party campaign stop in Michigan, Santorum called President Obama a “snob” for saying he wanted “everybody in America to go to college.”
The truth is there’s no evidence Obama ever said that, but that is irrelevant. Politicians misquote, mislead and sometimes flat-out lie about each other during campaign stops. What made Santorum’s misrepresentation notable, though, is that he got a bump from his remarks despite the fact that he himself held a bachelor’s and two graduate degrees.
For the record:
11:44 a.m. July 14, 2022An earlier version of this column said Trump received an MBA; he has a bachelor’s degree.
It didn’t take a private investigator to find this information out. It was available on his campaign website — not that his supporters cared. They chose to ignore the hypocrisy of his comments about college because of their dislike of Obama, their dislike of Democrats or, perhaps, simply because the facts didn’t confirm what they thought they already knew.
The truth is Santorum held more degrees than Obama at the time of his remarks — 3 to 2.
Now to be fair, Santorum’s overall point was there’s nothing wrong with choosing an occupation that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree. But Obama agreed with that, which is why he launched his “Educate to Innovate” campaign in his first term to help get high schoolers better prepared for tech jobs.
Santorum, the rich guy with a law degree, went on to win 11 states partly because he couched himself as an everyman despite being a 1 percenter. That and his sweater-vest thing.
That moment in Michigan is when the fervent dislike the modern-day conservative harbors for so-called snooty, overeducated liberals really took off. Fast-forward a decade and anti-intellectualism is now such a common aspect of Americana that not only do many Republican voters reject vaccines and climate change, they also dismiss our leading scientists (see: Fauci, Anthony) and instead listen to the My Pillow guy for medical advice.
Enter Walker, who is currently the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Georgia.
Walker was clearly unfit for the job even before he announced, given his threats to have a “shootout” with police and the domestic violence allegations made against him in the early 2000s. Traditionally, conservatives would have disqualified him for the things that were revealed after his announcement, such as lying about serving in law enforcement and dissembling about the number of children he has fathered.
But alas, no matter how many times he is revealed to have said something that wasn’t true — including his claim that he graduated from college — polls continue to show him in a virtual dead heat with incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), who graduated from divinity school and has never been accused of saying he was going to blow his ex-girlfriend’s head off.
But Warnock is a Democrat, so…
Look, if this was about sticking with an elected official embroiled in a personal scandal, maybe I could understand. Like President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky episode. But this isn’t about a scandal. This isn’t about a gaffe or two. This is about something much more basic. It’s about someone who should not be in the U.S. Senate because he is patently not fit for office.
Don’t believe me? Read Walker’s response when he was asked about school shootings less than 24 hours after 19 children and two teachers were killed in Uvalde, Texas:
“You know, Cain killed Abel,” Walker said. “You know and that’s a problem that we have. And I said, what we need to do is look into how we can stop those things.”
As if our legal system has not considered addressing murder before.
Walker went on: “You know, they talk about doing a disinformation. What about getting a department that could look at young men that’s looking at women that’s looking at social media. What about doing that?”
Walker also questioned the theory of evolution, suggesting that because there are still apes in the world, humans can’t be descended from them.
I could go on, but really, what’s the point?
“I love the poorly educated,” said Donald Trump, following a caucus victory in Nevada in 2016. “We won with the poorly educated — I love the poorly educated. We’re the smartest people, we’re the most loyal people.”
The former president received a bachelor’s degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, but sure, he’s Team Poorly Educated. And now he’s firmly behind Walker, a man whose explanation of air pollution includes the idea that “our good air decided to float over to China’s bad air.” As if air makes decisions the way we decide what to eat for dinner.
The problem with Walker’s candidacy is not that we’re setting the bar lower than before. It’s that the bar has been removed altogether.
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