By Terry Manning
When Herschel Walker gave his concession speech after losing the race to occupy one of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, I listened and found myself saying something totally unexpected:
“I could have voted for this guy.”
Unlike the clown the final weeks of his campaign had put on display, the man who stood at the microphones the night of December. 6 came across as thoughtful, sober-minded, and dare I say it, statesmanlike.
A couple of excerpts:
“The best thing I have ever done in my whole entire life is run for this Senate seat right here. The reason I am going to say that is because I got a chance to meet all of you and hear what you guys feel about this country.”
“You can’t blame no one because I want you to continue to believe in this country, believe in our elected officials. Most of all, stay together, don’t let anyone separate you. Don’t let anyone tell you that we can’t because I am here to tell you, we can.”
It reminded me of Arizona Sen. John McCain’s concession the night he lost the presidential election to Barack Obama. It was not as eloquent, and certainly not as long, but every bit as sincere and necessary. It left me with positive feelings about this man I had once looked up to based on his athletic prowess and public image.
I had given up a lot of those feelings after Walker announced he accepted Donald Trump’s endorsement to run for Senate in an ill-conceived effort to siphon Black support from incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock. I lost even more as Walker’s son Christian took to social media to call out his father’s apparent hypocrisy over allegations of family discord.
By the time news broke Walker had been credibly accused of funding abortions for a series of girlfriends, I was long past looking at Walker with anything but disdain. How could this guy immolate his public image for political again? Why would he subject himself and his family to this indignity?
Social media was flooded with clips of inarticulate malapropisms (“this erection is about the people”) and buffoonish behavior (like pop-locking as he entered a rally stage to the sounds of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s elegiac hip-hop classic “Tha Crossroads”). After the latter incident, I posted on social media, “It’s bad enough the Republicans don’t take him seriously, but now he doesn’t even take himself seriously.”
But maybe that’s where I was wrong.
See, not long before this happened I read a report Walker had become upset after seeing how his campaign was being used by some of his Republican Party colleagues and affiliated committees. Fundraising solicitations were distributed under the auspices of helping Walker, but only a fraction of the money was actually going to his campaign.
NBC News reported, “President Donald Trump’s Save America sent out an email that asked prospective donors to ‘contribute ANY AMOUNT IMMEDIATELY to the Official Georgia Runoff Fundraising Goal and increase your impact by 1,200 percent.’ But if donors didn’t see a link that said ‘click here for details or to edit allocation,’ they wouldn’t have noticed that 90 percent of their contributions automatically went to Trump, with the remaining 10 percent going to Walker.”
After being called out, Trump’s group changed the default allocation to 50-50, but similar efforts had been conducted in North Carolina and Ohio using Walker’s name. Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz did similar call outs, giving Walker half of the money they had requested in the name of helping his campaign.
The NBC report was dated Nov. 14. Walker broke out the electric bugaloo at a campaign appearance Nov. 19.
Maybe I’m trying too hard to regain my former good feelings about Walker in thinking he decided to blow up his campaign to spite the people who dispatched and exploited him. What else could he do, knowing that if he won, he’d be in their thrall for at least the next six years of his life?
Maybe Herschel Walker saw an opening, made a final breakaway run to save what was left of his own self-esteem and danced his way to freedom.Terry E. Manning is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at email@example.com