On Herschel Walker’s candidacy: is Andrew Sullivan becoming a Democrat?

October 8, 2022 • 1:30 pm

As James Carville said the other day in a video I posted, “[the Republicans have really stupid people who vote in their primaries”, and thus “they tend to elect really stupid leaders.”

One of those stupid leaders is Herschel Walker, an ex football star now running as a Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia.  Walker is unbelievably stupid and hamhanded—so far away from the semblance of a rational politician that Andrew Sullivan devoted mostof his weekly column to a splenetic dissection of Walker’s idiocy and hypocrisy.  Americans will know one example of that: Walker is running as a hard anti-abortion candidate, who sees abortion as murder, yet all the evidence shows that he paid for one of his girlfriends to get an abortion. And, despite the palpable evidence (including a check and get-well card from Walker), the candidate says he doesn’t even know the woman.

Walker also said this about evolution, as reported by CNN:

“At one time, science said man came from apes, did it not?” Walker, the frontrunner for the Georgia Republican Senate nomination, said in an appearance over the weekend at a church in Sugar Hill, Georgia. “If that is true, why are there still apes? Think about it.”

Yes, I’ve spent my life thinking about this stupid creationist canard, but only a moronic Republican (which is almost a redudancy) would parade that kind of ignorance in public. I expect every reader of this website should be able to refute Walker’s claim. (By the way, why don’t reporters ever ask candidates if they accept the fact of evolution? Anybody answering “no” should automatically be deemed unfit for office.)

As reader Steve noted, when he sent me the link (I do subscribe), “I think [Sullivan] is at the top of his form in this post.” And indeed he is. In fact, Sully rails so hard against the Republican party as a whole that he might as well start calling himself an independent centrist.  Click on the screenshot to read:

The intro, clearly showing a disaffection for Republicans:

There are times, I confess, when I decide to pass on writing another column on how degenerate the Republican Party is. What else is there to say? It’s not as if the entire media class isn’t saying it every hour of every day. And it’s not as if the depravity of the party hasn’t been a longtime hobbyhorse of mine. Unlike most of the Never-Trumper set, I was writing about this derangement on the right in the 1990s. I tore into George W. Bush’s spend, borrow and torture policies. I wrote a book on what I thought conservatism really was in 2006 — and why the GOP was its nemesis. I couldn’t have been clearer about what Palin represented — even as Bill Kristol selected her to be a potential president.

But then you come across the Senate candidacy of one Herschel Walker, and, well, words fail. No magical realist fiction writer could come up with something so sickeningly absurd. Walker is, of course, inextricable from his longtime friend, Donald Trump, who made his campaign possible in March 2021. . .

Sullivan goes hard on Walker’s unbelievable stupidity (and also mentions the man’s evolution denialism):

Walker is, to start with, very dumb. I don’t usually note this quality in a candidate and it doesn’t make him a huge outlier in politics of course. Being brainy, moreover, can be a serious liability for some pols. But seriously: this stupid?

Here is Walker’s grasp of climate change: “Our good air decided to float over to China’s bad air so when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move.” Here’s his take on John Lewis: “Senator Lewis was one of the greatest senators that’s ever been, and for African Americans that was absolutely incredible. To throw his name on a bill for voting rights I think is a shame.” On the Inflation Reduction Act: “They continue to try to fool you that they are helping you out. But they’re not. Because a lot of money, it’s going to trees. Don’t we have enough trees around here?”

After running through Walker’s sins of lying, abuse, harassment, stupidity, and hypocrisy, and wondering how any Republican can still support Walker’s candidacy, but observing that they do so out of tribalism, Sullivan argues:

I am not saying that the Democrats are not also corrupted by rank tribalism. At their worst, they are, as I often point out. I am saying that they do not compare with the current GOP in its hollowness and depravity and madness.

Walker shows that there is no principle they will not jettison, no evil they will not excuse, no crime they won’t “whatabout,” and no moron they won’t elect, if it means they gain power. There is degeneracy among many Democrats, sure. But the Republican party is defined by this putrescence. Burn it down.

Burn it down, with “it” being the Republican party? That’s not the Sullivan of yore! But you have to hand it to Andrew: he’s persuaded by reason and sometimes changes his mind. In this case, he was also persuaded by stupidity.

But there is a slight nod to faith in the piece. I don’t consider it terribly significant—though I aways thought Sullivan’s own Catholicism was a striking departure from his rationality—but reader Steve wanted to mention it. In one part of his piece, Sullivan attacks Republicans who still support Walker, despite his failure as both candidate and human being, because he can win:

It’s rare to see this kind of nihilist consequentialism expressed so nakedly. It’s rare to hear someone publicly say something so deeply hostile to any shred of Christianity. (Christians never believe the ends justify any means. Christianism is defined by that principle.) But nothing matters to the current GOP more than victory, by fair means or foul, by democratic processes or not.

And here’s where Steve finds some fault:

[Sullivan] does, however, betray his weakness for his religion in this sentence: “Christians never believe the ends justify any means.” On the contrary, the history of Christianity shows the continued reliance on the pious fiction or noble lie to gain adherents.

The column referenced, a good one, is by Neil Godfrey, and recounts the “noble lies” of Scripture: outrageous claims (like Jesus walking on water) seen as metaphorical by some theologians. Their end was to make converts; their means was to use Biblical claims the theologians didn’t accept but that demonstrated the miracles of God and Jesus.

But you don’t even have to go to the Bible to see lots of Christians violating Sullivan’s claim by showing that “the ends justify any means.”

The Inquisition is but one example.

That aside, Sullivan’s column is remarkably good.

32 thoughts on “On Herschel Walker’s candidacy: is Andrew Sullivan becoming a Democrat?

  1. > [Walker said] “Think about it.”

    How did this usage become so popular? What demographics use it? How did it originate?

    1. Think about it.

      .. meaning, simply repeat what I said over and over like in a prayer until it sounds like a single sound .. meaning, simply, believe.

      It’s Fantasyland.

  2. The stupidity is obvious, but the rank hypocrisy of his co-conspirators is even more galling. The Repubs claim abortion is murder, but it’s quite ok when one of theirs commits it. As one former elected official said, “I could shoot somebody” and not lose any voters.
    If Walker can win, our country is doomed.

  3. The root problem is not that Trump and Walker are what they are, it’s that so many US citizens will vote for them and hold them up as heroes. The republican party didn’t choose these candidates, they simply discovered that they were the most electable, and had no moral misgivings about taking advantage of that.

    There is deep rot in the country, it’s always been there but is now metastasizing. Every election cycle is a constitutional crisis. It’s possible the country will weather this, it’s been through worse. We’ll see.

  4. The GOP isn’t a political party anymore; it’s a neo-fascist cult of personality fueled by lies, ignorance, religion and hate. I wish more Americans would wake up to this reality. I also find it absurd that the MSM still treats the GOP as a legitimate political party who respects the Constitution, Democracy and the American people.

    1. Writer Brynn Tannehill has culled from various sources 13 characteristics of fascism. They are:

      1. Misogyny and sexual anxiety
      2. Contempt for the poor, the weak, and human rights in general
      3. Belief in a mythic better past followed by a descent into depravity
      4. Anti-egalitarian and xenophobic fear of changes in the social ordering
      5. Religion and Government intertwined
      6. Rejection of expertise and anti-intellectualism
      7. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism
      8. Corporate power and the wealthy are protected
      9. Labor power is suppressed
      10. Anti-urbanism, and agrarianism as a definition of who the “real” people are
      11. Selective populism headed by a single man from which all political power flows
      12. Enemies are both weak and strong, creating a sense of victimhood
      13. Conspiracy theories and propaganda creating an unreality that feeds into fears and scapegoating


      What current political party in the United States does this remind you of? All fascists are not Nazis. But, fascism can destroy democracy without gas chambers or necessarily starting wars. Speaking of destroying democracy, I recommend highly an article posted on the Atlantic site entitled “How Hitler’s Enablers Undid Democracy in Germany” by noted scholar of Nazism, Christopher Browning. He describes how Hitler, after his failed 1923 putsch, resorted to the legal mechanisms within the Weimar Republic to bring it down. The Republicans today are doing the same thing today. After the failed January 6th, 2021 failed insurrection, the Republican strategy seems to be to destroy democracy in America through legal means, the same approach that Hitler used in Germany. They hope to elect officials, mostly on the state level, but with the assistance of the Supreme Court to perpetuate Republican rule regardless of the outcome of elections. So, yes, indeed, the Republican party is neo-fascist or just fascist for short.


      I think Sullivan understands this and is why he is revulsed by the Republican Party. I doubt very much that he will declare himself a Democrat. He probably views himself as an independent or unaffiliated.

      1. Thanks for the links. Yes, every one of those 13 characteristics fits today’s GOP. Orban in Hungary has succeeded in doing the same thing after his initial loss. Declaring news is fake, a loss means rigged elections, etc., etc. And once in power, takes over the machinations of elections and the media. Of course, he and Putin are the new fanboys of this neo-fascist movement. History repeating, and this time manifesting in America as well…it’s beyond frustrating.

      2. This corresponds to Jason Stanley’s characterization of fascism:

        “Fascist politics includes many distinct strategies: the mythic past, propaganda, anti-intellectualism, unreality, hierarchy, victimhood, law and order, sexual anxiety, appeals to the heartland, and a dismantling of public welfare and unity.”
        (pp. xiv-xv)

        “The most telling symptom of fascist politics is division. It aims to separate a population into an “us” and a “them.” Many kinds of political movements involve such a division; for example, Communist politics weaponizes class divisions. Giving a description of fascist politics involves describing the very specific way that fascist politics distinguishes “us” from “them,” appealing to ethnic, religious, or racial distinctions, and using this division to shape ideology and, ultimately, policy. Every mechanism of fascist politics works to create or solidify this distinction.

        Fascist politicians justify their ideas by breaking down a common sense of history in creating a mythic past to support their vision for the present. They rewrite the population’s shared understanding of reality by twisting the language of ideals through propaganda and promoting anti-intellectualism, attacking universities and educational systems that might challenge their ideas. Eventually, with these techniques, fascist politics creates a state of unreality, in which conspiracy theories and fake news replace reasoned debate.

        As the common understanding of reality crumbles, fascist politics makes room for dangerous and false beliefs to take root. First, fascist ideology seeks to naturalize group difference, thereby giving the appearance of natural, scientific support for a hierarchy of human worth. When social rankings and divisions solidify, fear fills in for understanding between groups. Any progress for a minority group stokes feelings of victimhood among the dominant population. Law and order politics has mass appeal, casting “us” as lawful citizens and “them,” by contrast, as lawless criminals whose behavior poses an existential threat to the manhood of the nation. Sexual anxiety is also typical of fascist politics as the patriarchal hierarchy is threatened by growing gender equity.

        As the fear of “them” grows, “we” come to represent everything virtuous. “We” live in the rural heartland, where the pure values and traditions of the nation still miraculously exist despite the threat of cosmopolitanism from the nation’s cities, alongside the hordes of minorities who live there, emboldened by liberal tolerance. “We” are hardworking, and have earned our pride of place by struggle and merit. “They” are lazy, surviving off the goods we produce by exploiting the generosity of our welfare systems, or employing corrupt institutions, such as labor unions, meant to separate honest, hardworking citizens from their pay. “We” are makers; “they” are takers.

        Many people are not familiar with the ideological structure of fascism, that each mechanism of fascist politics tends to build on others. They do not recognize the interconnectedness of the political slogans they are asked to repeat.”
        (pp. xvi-xviii)

        (Stanley, Jason. How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. New York: Random House, 2018.)

      3. “So, yes, indeed, the Republican party is neo-fascist or just fascist for short.”

        If you’re really an historian you know that during the Vietnam War era, protesters called LBJ a fascist. During the 1980s, Ronald Reagan was called the “fascist gun in the west.” The term may have once had all of the implications that Brynn Tannehill enumerates, but by now calling someone a “fascist” amounts to little more than a substitute for thought.

        1. Good try, but your analogy fails. It is irrelevant whether or not LBJ or Reagan were called by some as fascists in regard to referring to the Republican Party today as fascist. The only thing that matters is whether the Republican Party exhibits the characteristic of a fascist movement. That it undoubtedly does. If you do not believe this is the case then your job is to show that it does not. Even if you can demonstrate that one or two of the thirteen is not accurate, the remaining eleven would be strong enough to resist the attempt not to call the Republican Party fascist. Or, perhaps, you don’t disagree with the characteristics of the Republican Party, you just don’t like the label “fascist.” Well, the label is not really important; what it connotes is.

        2. There’s a distinction, Gary, between the issue whether the term “fascist” has been overused by the Left in the years since the end of WWII (it has) and the issue whether today’s Trumpist Republican Party has demonstrated a number of characteristics indicative of fascism. (Again, it has.)

          Also, I don’t think there’s a basis to question our fellow commenter Historian’s bona fides as a historian; he’s consistently demonstrated his chops on the topic.

  5. Republican politics have become a virtual reality playground where you can vote for candidates who actually think and talk like you do when you imagine becoming a politician and setting folks right with just a few pithy words of wisdom and some down-home common sense. That’s how you run a country! The stunned look on people’s faces alone is worth it.

    [Sullivan] does, however, betray his weakness for his religion in this sentence: “Christians never believe the ends justify any means.” On the contrary, the history of Christianity shows the continued reliance on the pious fiction or noble lie to gain adherents.

    Not to pick nits, but God presumably created a world with great pain, suffering, death, and evil for millions so that a worthy few could experience His Glory for Eternity. If that’s not “the ends justifies the means” on a mega scale, I’ll eat my Facts vs Faith.

  6. “he doesn’t even know the woman”

    FWIW, this woman making the charge also claims to be the mother to one of his kids!

    But, as hypocritical as this is, the main point is that Walker is a freaking idiot.

  7. I was raised in Georgia and most of my family is still there. I have lived in Maryland for 25 years but am now in Atlanta for a project that will last until the end of the year. It’s fascinating to have a front row seat on this campaign.

    The Republicans realize they are selling a pig in a poke. What is striking is the almost complete absence of any pro-Herschel Walker ads. Only the NRA (“he won’t take away your guns”) is running overt pro-Republican ads. The vast majority of the Republican campaign ads are anti-Democrat without even mentioning the Republican opponent. “Liberal spending is causing inflation.” “Warnock voted with Biden.” etc etc

    In the current local polls Walker is trailing. There is a debate scheduled for 10/14 in Savannah which may or may not take place. But what it all hinges on is turnout. For most Americans the midterms are a snooze. If there is heavy turnout (especially black voters) it’s likely the Democrats will win. If it’s low turnout (especially black voters) it’s likely the Republicans will win. The dirty little secret is the the Republicans are already a minority party in Georgia. They realize it which explains their focus on voter suppression efforts.

  8. My favorite Walker moment was when he asked why there are still monkeys if evolution is true.
    That was before we learned of his numerous progeny, and before we all looked at what this guy has to say more broadly, or the fabrications about his life which he tries to inflict on people who vote for him. His judgement on evolution made me laugh out loud.

    But he’s their guy! So that’s that, then. Doesn’t matter that he’s an obvious moron.

  9. I’m afraid idiocracy is about to become real.

    “Idiocracy is a 2006 American science fiction comedy film…The film tells the story of Corporal Joe Bauers (Wilson), a U.S. Army librarian who, along with prostitute Rita (Rudolph), takes part in a government hibernation experiment. The experiment goes awry, and Joe awakens in the year 2505, in a dystopian world dumbed-down by mass commercialism, rampant anti-intellectualism and the domination of low culture, to find that he is by far the smartest person on the planet.”

    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiocracy

    Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBvIweCIgwk

  10. I imagine all WEIT readers would agree that ‘package deals’ are a bad idea when it comes to politics. I can’t abide them, and find myself quite unable to get completely on board with any party’s platform in a whole-hearted way. I doubt if I’m alone in being socially liberal (up to a point, which the ‘progressive’ left has brought more sharply into focus for me) and fiscally conservative. However, rather than regard this as a tragedy, I choose to look on it as an advantage: I can be a swing voter (which is not as exciting as it sounds). Knowing all party platforms are flawed by containing things I dislike, I don’t vote for a party, I vote against the one in power when it starts to show signs of rot. Always by the rare third term, usually during the second, and rarely during the first term, like Trudeau’s Liberals. Corruption always sets in, and out they go.

  11. Walker is a moron. Anyone who raises the “Why are there still apes?” trope is either demonstrating his own stupidity or is cynically banking on the stupidity of his audience.

    No, he does not have the qualifications to be a senator. His job, if he gets there, is simply to vote in line with the other Republican senators. The smart ones are dishonest (with few exceptions) and the dumb ones, like Walker, are used by the smart ones. The dumb ones are too stupid to evaluate the issues in their own, so they vote with the smarter ones who use them as puppets. The Republican Party is a sick cult.

  12. I once sat ringside at a prizefight next to former heavyweight champ Leon Spinks — not the most articulate of ex-athletes, even in the best of circumstances — and yet drunk and with his false teeth out that night, ol’ Leon spoke more sense than Herschel Walker.

    Walker is easily the least qualified candidate nominated for a US senate seat by a major party during my lifetime, even in the field of unqualified candidates nominated by the GOP for the upcoming midterms, and even given such historical lowlifes as Judge Roy Moore.

    Hell, by comparison, Herschel Walker makes the obtuse characters currently serving in the US senate like Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), and Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) seem like the 19th century’s “Great Triumvirate” of Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John Calhoun.

    1. I’m pretty sure that, if set out in a Venn diagram schematic, there would be great overlap between MAGA Republicans and evolution denialists.

      Acceptance of evolution is a litmus tests for scientific literacy, just as the disavowal of Donald Trump’s Big Lie that he won the 2020 presidential election in a landslide that was stolen from him by massive voter fraud is a litmus test for political literacy. And both are litmus tests for one’s ability to evaluate evidence and to reason logically.

  13. It’s a little late for the Walker expose. He is the Republican candidate and it makes sense for Republicans to vote him in rather than have Warnock be reelected. The time for complaints was during the primary – how did he win? His habitual long-term lying about his life, etc should have long ago disqualified him. Blame the voters.

    1. > “Blame the voters.”

      But in a democracy, how does that even make sense, unless you argue that the wrong sort of people are voting? This is such a trite observation (mine, not yours) that I can see why it isn’t made more often. But it should be. Who should disqualify a plainly unsuitable candidate if not the voters? Actually in Parliamentary systems the Party leader, who will become Prime Minister if his party wins enough seats to form a government, has the prerogative to disqualify any candidate that the local riding association puts forward. (No primaries here. It’s all back-room dealing by Party members, not voters at large.). He often does this if the candidate is off-brand and will hurt the party’s chances nationally. It is of course undemocratic for one man to tell the voters in that constituency that, sorry, they can’t elect this guy under the party banner. But we’re not about pure democracy. We’re about winning a majority so we can rule the roost in Parliament for four solid years.

      In your situation, all the GOP can do is fret that Walker, if he wins, will similarly damage them in other states and nationally in 2024 but they can’t do anything about it. In Canada, the party leader could kick him out of caucus and make him sit as an independent MP. But he would never do this if the MP’s vote was needed to preserve a majority. No system is perfect.

      The only other way to look at this is to not blame “the voters” and say that Walker’s victory, if it occurs, is due to underhanded skullduggery and that the voters aren’t to blame after all. But such arguments are usually advanced to explain why Black candidates lose to whites, which is not the case here.

    2. “Blame the voters.”

      Although Georgia does not require Party registration, to vote in Georgia’s primary elections, voters must choose a Party affiliation and can vote only in the chosen Party’s primary.

      So only one Party’s voters can be blamed for Hershel Walker’s name appearing on the general-election ballot as a US senate candidate.

      1. Agreed. The offending voters in Georgia, those ones who chose GOP affiliation, should be disenfranchised forthwith, before they can elect Mr. Walker or nominate any other unsuitable candidates. What’s your plan? After all, calling the other side’s voters too stupid to pee won’t convince them to vote for your guy. Stronger measures are clearly needed.

        1. Ga seems to be about 41%R, 41%D, and 41%I. I blame the Republicans who couldn’t have a more reasonable candidate win the primary and the Independents who vote for him in the general election. I don’t think the Republican Party cares – he is an electable candidate who will probably vote as he is told and not do too much damage. Going with a (more) qualified candidate who has a lower chance of winning the general election is not in the interests of the Party as a whole.
          There isn’t much to be done about it if we are committed to a democracy. Education maybe. But i have been depressed by how unethical etc politicians have been recently. Maybe it is just more open now.

        2. Heck, Leslie, I don’t think Georgia Republicans are too stupid to pee. In nominating Hershel Walker, however, I do think that (to lift a line from LBJ) they’re too stupid to pour piss from a boot, even if the instructions were written on the heel. 🙂

          And if that boot fits, let them wear it.

  14. “. . .an ex football star now running as a Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia.”

    I don’t know why we call any of these people “candidates.” Not one of them is candid.

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