Meet an anti-democracy Senate candidate: Herschel Walker

569

The Georgia Republican nominee opposes voting rights protections and amplified false conspiracies about the 2020 election.

Herschel Walker, the former pro football player and current Republican nominee for Senate in Georgia, says that because he is “not a politician,” voters “can count on him to stand up for our rights guaranteed by the Constitution.” But his comments over the past several years have made it clear that this promise does not include protecting voting rights for all Americans.

Walker is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who has prioritized combating voter suppression and has voluntarily refused to take any corporate political action committee contributions to his campaign.

While his campaign website includes little on how to protect democracy, Walker has promoted anti-democratic ideas, including the conspiracy theory that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. He has also dismissed the fact that overly restrictive voter identification laws have led to voter disenfranchisement, especially in communities of color.

A Walker campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

Opposed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

In a December 2021 interview, Walker attacked his Democratic opponent for co-sponsoring the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill named after the late civil rights leader and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Walker falsely claimed that Lewis would not have supported the legislation, despite the fact that it grew out of a bill he had co-sponsored when he was alive. Walker also mistakenly called Lewis a senator.

You know what’s sad about that, you know, to use the name of a great man to brand something that is so bad. I think it’s terrible to do. Sen. Lewis one of the greatest senators that’s ever been and for an African American it was absolutely incredible; I think then to throw his name on a bill for voting rights, I think is a shame. First of all, when you look at the bill, it just doesn’t fit what John Lewis stood for and I think they know that and I think that is sad for them to do this to him.

Rep. Nikema Williams, who represents Lewis’ former House district and is chair of the state’s Democratic Party, responded to Walker’s comments: “Herschel Walker’s comment confirms he does not support protecting the fundamental right to vote and disrespects the legacy of the late Congressman John Lewis.”

Thinks voter ID laws are fine because everyone has a birth certificate

Georgia and many other Republican-controlled states have adopted strict voter identification laws that voting rights advocates say lead to disenfranchisement. Conservative lawmakers have justified these laws by citing largely debunked and exaggerated claims about voter fraud. Experts say that in reality, the laws mainly act to suppress voter turnout, especially among voters of color.

In an April 2021 Fox News interview, Walker backed Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s support for a strict voter ID law and attacked Democrats for opposing it, saying:

Yeah I totally agree [with] Governor Kemp right there. Because, you know, having an ID is a basic thing you gotta have. You know right now, my grandfather today would be over 117 years old and he had a driver license. Everyone born in America got a birth certificate, so that is an ID. And I think for people to continue to talk about this ID is sort of appalling. At the same time, why are they not helping people to get an ID? Because those are the basic things you need in America to survive.

Contrary to Walker’s incorrect assumption, many Black Americans born in rural areas in the South prior to the 1960s were never issued the birth certificates they need to obtain official government documents. A 2017 report by the Brennan Center for Justice found that “millions of American citizens — between five and seven percent — don’t have the most common types of document used to prove citizenship: a passport or birth certificate.”

During a March podcast interview, Walker suggested that those pointing out that many Black voters do not have easy access to the forms of ID required to vote were the real racists.

“The thing is, you have our leaders saying that, you have our leaders saying, ‘You’re stupid because you don’t know how to get an ID.’ They’re talking about Black people,” he told “The Great America Show” host Lou Dobbs. “And it’s like, guys, I want to educate you and let you know that’s what our leaders are calling us. Well, I do know how to get an ID.”

He continued:

Two percent of people are African American don’t have an ID, let’s be honest. And those that don’t have an ID, instead of us being proactive — why don’t we be proactive rather than reactive? If you don’t have an ID right now and you want an ID to vote, come to — and I will help you to get an ID because I want to better your life. I don’t want to continue to put you down, like give you a crack pipe rather than putting you in a rehab facility to make your life better. I don’t want to do that. I want to make your life better by helping you to get an ID so you can vote legally. I want to help you to get an ID so you can have a bank account, so you can get on a airplane, you can get a job. That’s the reason I want to give you an ID. I don’t want to keep holding you down. I want to help you to stand up.

He made a similar argument the previous month during an appearance before the University of North Georgia College Republicans:

They told me — because I just found out I was Black — they told me I’m not even smart enough to get an ID. They don’t even realize that the majority of the African Americans in Georgia got an ID. And they said we’re being suppressed, not be able to vote. Well, I’ma tell you another statistic that they might not have put out. Do you know not one African American in the country were denied the right to vote if you wanted to vote? Not one. But they put these things out because they want to get you upset. They want to separate.

Walker’s claim ignores laws that make it harder to vote that have been passed in states with a history of racial segregation and voter suppression in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013 that removed preclearance requirements for changes to voting procedures.

2020 election denial

President Joe Biden won the 2020 election and all 16 of Georgia’s electors. Walker refused to accept that fact, choosing instead to back the claim that his friend and former employer, then-President Donald Trump, was the actual winner.

After the election, Walker complained on Twitter without evidence: “Dead People Voting, People that don’t live in the state, People voting multiple ballots.” He called for a do-over in Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, states that Biden had won.

“We can have it done within a week, and maintain our democracy,” he said.

On Dec. 27, 2020, Walker told Fox News: “Whether this president got 74 million or 80 million people, but I can guarantee you Joe Biden didn’t get 50 million people to vote for him. But yet people think that he’s won this election.”

Biden received 81,284,666 votes to Trump’s 74,224,319.

“Georgians were victims of voter fraud and the truth will be revealed!!’ Walker tweeted on Jan. 1, 2021. Three days later, he claimed that there had been “Country wide election fraud.”

Capitol insurrection defender

Thousands of Americans believed the lies about a stolen election repeated by Trump, Walker, and other Republicans.

On Jan. 6, 2021, a violent mob of Trump supporters illegally stormed the U.S. Capitol, delaying the joint session of Congress at which the Electoral College results were being certified, causing millions of dollars‘ worth of damage to public property, and leading to the deaths of several law enforcement officers.

Rather than condemn the lawlessness, Walker suggested it was really a ploy by Trump’s opponents to undermine him.

“Trojan Horses,” he falsely claimed as the violent attack was going on. “I call on ⁦@realDonaldTrump ⁩to find out who these people are as they do not look like MAGA! You have the power right now to see who they really are and to get to the bottom of who stole this election! Prosecute these bad players.”

“Have you noticed [we’re] not talking about election fraud and election integrity now?” he added. “Seems like this was well planned to shut everything down and run the clock out.”

In September, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Mandy Robinson-Hand, a pro-Trump activist arrested for participating in the insurrection, had been named a Walker campaign “county captain.”

The report noted that the list of captains included Gloria “Kay” Godwin, a GOP activist who was listed on a fraudulent slate of pro-Trump electors pushed by the losing campaign in an attempt to overturn Biden’s victory.

As of Tuesday, the press release with both names is still on Walker’s website.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.