Do We Care About Candidate Quality?
It is our job to learn from events, of course; the whole point of following the news is to fuel understanding.
So, what have we learned by the overly narrow runoff election in Georgia in which more Democratic urban voters outnumbered the larger rural, Republican areas of the state to reelect Sen. Raphael Warnock over one-time football star Herschel Walker. The punsters were unrestrained by fact or research in reaching for useful lessons.
There is room for debate on issues, but we should not be supporting candidates who are facing criminal charges for their personal and political behavior.
The good news is that democracy and persistence on wanting to pursue voting through a variety of state legislative hurdles to reduce that opportunity held, despite the parties dropping a half-billion dollars on this race alone, and despite featuring a candidate whose flaws were on display every week of the campaign.
The bad news is that it seems as if it didn’t matter who was running. The real question to me was how people could vote for Walker at all, never mind at rates that made it an uncomfortably close race until the arrival of big urban precinct results around Atlanta.
Until his concession speech, Herschel Walker proved consistently unable to show himself capable of speaking full sentences, of understanding public issues, of reflecting himself as a person of moral character, of promoting even a single idea about what government is meant to achieve. He was a terrible candidate.
And yet, Republican voters, like Democrats, showed up in remarkably large numbers to vote for an empty jersey so long as it had the appropriate Republican team color. We insist on voting against Them, not for anything.
Does it Matter?
Whatever else you want to say about Warnock, he is a serious person. His leadership at Ebeneezer Baptist Church has translated well into a senator who seems pointedly fixated on building coalitions and pursuing issues of social betterment, including policing changes, voter rights and generally sensible policies.
He is neither the most liberal nor the most outspoken senator, he is regarded even in his first couple of years as a teammate who seeks to understand issues. The emphasis here is on serious and engaged in the job.
The insistence of would-be kingmaker Donald Trump to handpick Walker as another celebrity who should be ushered into a Senate seat to quietly reflect a MAGA agenda proved ineffective – again – and a basic insult to Georgia voters. As we all saw, Walker underperformed in Republican areas of the state in any effort towards rebutting the expected bigger numbers from the state’s more urban counties.
One television reporter dutifully interviewed a voter who explained that she was supporting Walker because she does not like inflated prices at the supermarket and gas pump. The reporter failed to ask the logical next question: What was Walker going to do about either, especially since monthly figures show that both as starting to crest.
So, as with professional baseball, we’re being asked to support, rally, finance and vote for different colored uniforms, not for the players who fill them. In return, successful ballplayers are returning that fan love by signing onto the contracts with the next high-paying team rather than sticking with whatever made them successful.
Ultimately, our elections are about our candidates, not just the team colors, right? Georgia results say different.
It is inexplicable why voters have chosen some of the current senators or members of Congress, regardless of party, in cases when the office holder has abused the office even to the point of facing charges for violations of law. There is room for debate on issues, but we should not be supporting candidates who are facing criminal charges for their personal and political behavior.
Yet, we have Trump who is eagerly supported as leader of a Republican Party, even though his candidates lose.
Herschel Walker, who turns out to live in Texas and not Georgia, faces multiple allegations over years of domestic violence. He talks about vampires and werewolves on the campaign trail rather than policy over Ukraine, education, immigration, or inflation. As a Black candidate, he is perceived by Black voters as anything but supportive of issues advancing civil rights, policing changes, voting rights and a long list of economic programs. But he was a Trump choice.
The question that resonates from the election is how voters could see Walker as a positive, making this a contest altogether. Even the Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who stepped up to promote Walker rather than a disruptive Trump, basically had argued that it would be better for him as a Republican governor, to have a Republican senator to call for federal help.
Our elections have become ridiculous in expense and in the selling of slogans. We need to set campaign limits, dump “debates” that are sales pitches, devote actual interview time to determine once again what candidates stand for, not against. If they can’t tell us what they are going to do, don’t support them. You would not hire them; you should not be trapped into supporting them.
Republicans moving into the Houser majority somehow believe that Americans want endless examinations of Hunter Biden rather than thought-through solutions for inflation. The closeness of the new Senate majority should be a reminder that who is in the Senate does matter, and that we need people who can understand more than making America great again.