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The Will to Power
The responses to the latest allegations involving Senate candidate Herschel Walker vividly reveal that morality and principle are no longer seen to be necessary to win
Once upon a time, there was a Grand Old Party that asserted itself as the flag bearer of family values. In that fabled past, from what seems like a long ago era, there was the first divorced president, Ronald Reagan; the thrice-married House Speaker, Newt Gingrich; and the convicted and jailed child molester, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (just to name a few).
Once upon a time, a villainous pretender appeared who yearned to become king and when he was revealed to care nothing for women, driven to abuse their bodies and usurp their most basic freedoms, fellow combatants and other party leaders called him out.
“As the grandfather of two precious girls, I find that no apology can excuse away Donald Trump's reprehensible comments degrading women,” said Jeb Bush after hearing the Access Hollywood tape. “Donald's comments were vulgar, egregious and impossible to justify,” said Marco Rubio.
But once he succeeded in taking power, the many opponents and power brokers who spoke up for principle went silent. They would no longer risk their own position by speaking on behalf of honor and decency, the rights of women or the rule of law.
You could say that this dark figure vanquished his enemies. That would be true. But you would miss the deeper point. He had succeeded at tearing down the last fragments of the facade, revealing the phony assertion that what mattered were family values, not just the raw accumulation of power.
The fairy tale of a party motivated by principle became more obvious when a troubled, unfit man like Herschel Walker was cynically propped up as a US Senate nominee to exploit his popularity playing Georgia football. This was a man, a Black man, who would profess his Christian convictions and dilute the appeal of a Democratic incumbent, also a Black man, who leads the Ebenezer Baptist Church and served from the pulpit once occupied by Martin Luther King Jr.
Never mind that Walker can barely speak a coherent sentence, let alone carry forth a rational argument. Never mind evidence he had fathered four children with four different women. Never mind the multiple sources asserting his history of domestic violence and physical abuse.
This all came crashing into relief when The Daily Beast published several stories this week providing receipts that Walker—who insists he opposes abortion without exception—had paid for a girlfriend’s abortion in 2009. On cue, Walker denied the allegations and promised to file suit for defamation.
But his apparent hypocrisy was not the most significant story. The latest exposure of Walker’s past was not treated with shock or horror or cries of outrage by the GOP. Oh, no. The outrage was for the messenger and all those daring to harm this fine man.
Never mind the abortion, made public by the one who experienced it. They have a Senate to take and nothing—no utter abandonment of anything that even looked like family values—was going to get in their way.
The will to power: This—this is all that really matters.
“We’ve seen this movie before,” said Ralph Reed, the conservative Christian leader, referencing the Access Hollywood story. “They’re trying to take down a good man.’”
“They are trying to destroy a man who has true greatness in his future, just as he had athletic greatness in his past,” wrote Donald Trump on his Truth Social platform.
"He had a lot of concussions coming out of football, he suffered PTSD,” said Newt Gingrich on Fox News, adding that Walker is “the most important Senate candidate in the country" because of his "deep commitment to Christ."
But it was former NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch who summed it all up, making clear what they all were really saying: “I am concerned about one thing, and one thing only at this point. I don't care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.”
In the will to power, in the determination to win at any cost, principles and the lives of others be damned, there’s always plenty of collateral damage. That was on vivid display by Walker’s son, Christian, who took to Twitter to confront his father in no uncertain terms: “I know my mom and I would really appreciate if my father Herschel Walker stopped lying and making a mockery of us. You’re not a ‘family man’ when you left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence.”
It’s a sordid tale, putting an end to the fairy tale. It was just what Trump had hoped for. “The world is changing,” he told The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman when asked about the possible consequence of Walker’s sordid personal life.
And what of the Republican Party, Trump’s party no longer grand by any stretch of the imagination, untethered from the traditional duty to conjure visions of morality to justify their actions? In one month, when the midterms come, we will learn whether their voters—including a portion of independents—will once again go along with the naked pursuit of power, no matter who gets hurt, no matter how much they’ve abandoned any sign of principle.
If the response by evangelicals and activists at the First Baptist Church in Atlanta the day after the volatile abortion allegations surfaced is any indication, we have an answer: They gave Walker a standing ovation.
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