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The Devil's Gone Down to Georgia
A bargain from Hell
I do not live in Georgia. In that sense, I write this post as someone who doesn’t have a stake in the fight for its Senate seats. Still, like all pro-life Christians who take some interest in politics (though I increasingly take less than others), I’ve been following its increasingly bleak developments.
At this point, even Republican colleagues of Herschel Walker are urging him to “come clean” about the allegation that he paid for an old girlfriend’s abortion. The woman, whom Walker initially denied even knowing at all, literally has receipts. Even worse, it has been confirmed that they had another child together in 2012, a child Walker allegedly also wanted to abort.
Walker’s grown son by his first wife, Christian, is a Republican social media star in his own right who frequently boosts politicians like Ron DeSantis. Whatever else could be said about his bitter viral condemnation of his own father, you can’t accuse him of political bias. Christian’s anger and pain are palpable as he tells the world that Walker’s campaign has been built on “lies,” after the candidate privately promised he would “get ahead of the past and hold himself accountable.” Christian also alludes to the violent behavior that forced him and his mother to separate from Walker for their own safety.
Walker admitted to his violent past in a 2008 memoir, where he blamed it on mental illness. He points back to this in a new ad, subtly shifting the campaign into “redemption” mode, but without owning any new allegations. According to the woman now coming forward, Walker paid for her abortion in 2009, the year after the publication of the memoir.
The second child she chose to have, against his advice, is now ten years old. The Daily Beast provides a heartbreaking paper trail of text messages involving the woman, the boy, Herschel’s current wife, and Herschel himself. On the one hand, it’s unfathomably tragic that this stuff is even out there for people to read. On the other hand, it was the inevitable consequence of Walker’s attempt to deny that he even knew the woman. In one message chain, his wife assures her that Herschel “prays for her” and is saddened to get “no response” when he tries to reach out and connect with their boy. In fact, the mother claims Walker has only ever seen his young son in person three times, two times around child support hearings. Screenshots from her son’s iPad show that Walker barely texts him anything more contentful than strings of “Love you”s. This year, when the son asked whether he has any other half-brothers or sisters, Walker effectively lied, “You have the brother and sister I told you about,” even though he had confirmed a third one to the press several weeks prior. Later, he sends a picture of that child, followed by four “Love you” texts in a row.
Older text chains are even more brutal to read about. We’re told that the boy would briefly reply to these repetitive minimal texts by wishing Walker a happy holiday, sending pictures of himself with gifts, or asking whether Walker could make it to a baseball game. Perhaps the most devastating bit of the paper trail comes from 2021, when the boy leaves the texts unanswered all summer long, then mid-October asks, “What’s my favorite color? What grade am I in? And how old am I?”
Did the Beast really need to publish all this stuff to make their point? I’m not so sure, frankly. I don’t wish to puff up the press as paragons of pure virtue. I just hope this child’s permission was sought first before his texts were displayed to the world—though, given the attitude he expresses here, it’s likely that he was all too happy to contribute his side of the evidence. In the end, there’s really one man to blame here, and that man is Herschel Walker.
As always, it’s the lies that have really done it. This may be controversial, but I don’t actually think Walker would have owed it to the public to tell them that he once paid for an abortion in 2009…if he was privately, genuinely reconciled and repentant. Then, if it came back to haunt him, he could have owned it at once, publicly affirmed his repentance, and humbly asked his constituents to trust that he is now committed to the cause of life despite this terrible past choice. Instead, he lied. Which reasonably leads people to wonder if he was ever repentant, or if his whole career has been one cynical long game. At least, some people are wondering this. For other people, none of this matters.
In case you couldn’t tell, I think it should matter. At the same time, I detest the moral preening we’re now seeing from the Raphael Warnock campaign. We don’t know if Reverend Warnock himself has ever personally facilitated an abortion, but we do know he will do everything in his power to keep facilitating them for countless women he will never know. And this is supposed to give him the moral high ground? An old Norm Macdonald line comes to mind, from the scene in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee where he’s discussing Bill Cosby with Jerry Seinfeld. “The worst part is the hypocrisy,” a friend of Norm’s had said earnestly. Norm reflected, poker-faced: “I kinda thought it was the rape.”
So, in the end, neither candidate can hide behind a veneer of moral respectability here. This is a choice between two evils. And yet, many voters who share my convictions remain convinced that they must choose. And given the choice between a man who promises to pull politically pro-life levers and a man who promises to pull politically pro-abortion levers, they feel compelled to choose the first man.
I understand these voters. I don’t want to conflate them here with the likes of Dana Loesch, whose response is at once repulsive and incoherent. “I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort baby eagles,” she declares. “I want control of the Senate.” It’s unclear if this means Dana thinks it would be more scandalous to abort a baby eagle than to abort a baby. We’re not sure. Point is, Dana really, really wants the Senate. Okay, Dana.
But Dana is not my concern. My concern is those earnest voters who have still constructed such a consequentialist frame around their vote that there truly seems to be nothing that would cause them to withhold it from a Republican, provided the Democrat was always worse.
I hate to bring him up, but Trump obviously hovers behind all this. Cards on the table, I didn’t vote for him in 2016 or 2020. Many people didn’t vote for him in 2016 but decided to do so in 2020. Now, in the wake of Dobbs, they feel vindicated. Trump did follow through with his various campaign promises, at least in the sense that he listened to the right people and signed the right things when they were put on his desk. With Clinton in the White House, Roe would still be standing today.
I have seen this presented as a “conundrum” for the conservative voter, something that has to be reckoned and wrestled with. This might have an effect on some people, but I’ve always been singularly immune to this sort of challenge once my mind is firmly made up. I cheered the fall of Roe as loudly as any Trump voter. Yet, in my own mind, I remain quite happy not to have cast a vote for Trump in either year. Because a vote, to me, is more than a utilitarian ticking of a box. It’s more than getting the right warm body in the right seat so that he can vote the right way. To me, a vote is a statement: This candidate is worthy.
And while yes, the abortion is the worst part for Walker, just as the rape was the worst part for Cosby, conservative voters shouldn’t ignore the hypocrisy, even from a strategic standpoint. They should consider carefully what it would mean for Walker to win his seat while still cynically whistling past his own child’s graveyard. Winning hearts and minds is not a substitute for strong pro-life legislation. But neither is legislation a substitute for winning hearts and minds. Do conservatives want to be known as the people who believe in something, or not? Do we want to be known as the people who hold our leaders accountable, or not? And even for Walker’s own sake, if we believe in such things as souls, then how is this not enabling the further corruption of his soul, by rewarding lies with a Senate seat? Which is a greater evil: That an already hopelessly corrupt man gain power, or that a man who might yet be saved from full corruption gain power?
Many good people will cast their vote for Herschel Walker in Georgia this November. Good people who have devoted their own time and treasure to the cause of life. Good people who will truly believe they had no choice, if they wanted to save babies. I do not stand here to tell them they will have damned themselves to Hell by so doing. I simply want to plead with them, and with their apologists, earnestly, to reconsider. When the game is this cynical, we are under no obligation to keep playing. What happens next, whatever happens, is not on us. It is on the people who forgot what it means to be worthy.