As I’ve written before, dunking on Herschel Walker’s candidacy for a seat in the U.S. Senate representing Georgia has become something of a pastime around here. That’s not because of his party or his political beliefs so much as his repeated inability to articulate what he believes in, if anything, in terms that are coherent.
There’s this interview. And this one. And his remarks from campaign rallies, which signaled that his refusal to debate his former opponents in the GOP primary was less about not needing to be bothered than about the likelihood he’d be exposed next to experienced politicians in the habit of stringing together words into cogent thoughts.
But as I asked last week, what if we’re wrong and Walker’s been playing us all with his Caite Upton act? What if he’s a way smarter candidate whose political strategy hinges on convincing the rest of us to underestimate him?
The idea seems slightly less ridiculous after watching this interview that Walker did with the journalist Michael Render, aka the rapper Killer Mike, on his weekly “Love & Respect” interview show Atlanta’s public broadcaster WABE.
Walker still won’t win any awards for his oratorical skills. He won’t match Barack Obama’s Grammy for narrating his own memoir anytime soon. But over 27 minutes, he manages something that hasn’t evident from him for the duration of his Senate campaign, no matter how friendly the setting: coherent answers.
On why he opposes name, image and likeness deals recently permitted by the NCAA: “Why don’t we take the money that athletes are gonna make, put it in an endowment program and what we do with the interest from it is to help underprivileged people go to college. And once you come back to that school with a degree, I don’t care what, from any university, you receive every cent you ever made ‘cuz I want the emphasis to be on education.”
Does Walker support Critical Race Theory, the graduate-level framework that examines systemic racism in the U.S. which Republicans have turned into a derisive talking point? He didn’t say so explicitly, but Walker sure seemed enthusiastic about the concept as explained by Killer Mike.
“What you’re saying is 100% that I will support things like that...I want all kids to be educated on the history of America.”
On former president Donald Trump asking Black voters, “What do you have to lose,” during his 2016 campaign, and on Walker’s own feeling that neither party serves Black folks well: “When he said that statement, I said, ‘I don’t really like how you said that statement.’ There’s no doubt, give him an opportunity and see what he can do...We use Black and brown people as people just to get votes but we don’t do anything for them.”
Nothing Walker said was groundbreaking. It wasn’t even particularly revealing: by the end, he’d said nothing to calm the fears of most Black voters about his party’s determination to curtail voting rights, refusal to legislatively impose accountability on violent cops or its wet dreams of a total ban on abortion.
But at this point, with the bar for his campaign stumping already somewhere between New Orleans’ elevation from sea level and the sunken place, making it through an interview without having his literacy questioned is a win.