American conservatives love the '80s—the relegation of the sideburn to the Oakland A’s bullpen, the elevation of Ronald Reagan to popular consensus god-king, the height of the aggressively mediocre white male rockstar. A man could have several secret families back then, and nobody would find out, not even his own political campaign. Not like today.
This week, new reporting revealed that Georgia’s Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker’s Southern Layer Cake of lies has some frosting on it we didn’t know about—not only did the conservative ex-football star have three secret children from three different women, but Walker also lied about their existence to his own campaign. It wasn’t until he was directly confronted with evidence that he finally told the truth, which is that he’d been lying.
Walker, observers might recall, had for some reason made this hypocrisy even more acute and Cosby-esque with a series of public statements over the years in which he pontificated self-righteously about the importance of paternal involvement in the lives of their offspring while himself avoided paying child support for his own offspring.
“The fatherless home [in the Black community] is a major, major problem,” he once told a conservative pundit. “The father leaves in the Black family. He leaves the boys alone so they’ll be raised by their mom. If you have a child with a woman, even if you have to leave that woman… you don’t leave that child,” he said in another interview.
For political operatives working to get a lying hypocrite elected, lying to the public is one thing, but being lied to by the liar for whom they are crafting lies? That’s a bridge too far. The same reporting indicating that Walker had lied to his very own team of liars found that the liars no longer trust that their lying boss isn’t lying to them, which, as the kids might say, is some Leopards Ate My Face shit.
Walker’s campaign staffers have reportedly lost faith in their boss during the same week that a web of lies brought down another famously fecund philanderer with a casual relationship with the truth, this one across the pond.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Thursday that he’ll be resigning from his post after members of his own party got tired of defending him only to discover that they hadn’t been given the whole truth themselves. They turned on him en masse, his position became untenable, and before you know it, “them’s the breaks.” Johnson learned on the ground that you’ve got to tell the truth to the people whose job it is to lie for you. That’s just how trust works.
Johnson’s resignation shows a glimmer of hope that in the U.K., the truth still matters, maybe a little. Does it matter here?
Under normal circumstances, the fact that his own campaign no longer trusts Walker should be enough to tackle his Senate candidacy at the knees. A secret child sank the political career of fellow preening southerner John Edwards. But the realist in me says it’s 2022. We’re deep into the post-hypocrisy, post-fact era; and Republican voters could not care less that the guy on their team doesn’t believe he has to play by the rules.
I can see the campaign messaging now: Rules are for suckers. Cheating is for winners. The only thing that matters in the election is giving Mitch McConnell his Senate back so that he and his fellow Republicans can gum up the gears of democracy under the auspices of saving the economy or reducing inflation or whatever thing they’ll say they’re doing that the Senate definitely doesn’t and cannot do. Besides, American politicians have a long history of secret families. Ever heard of somebody named Thomas Jefferson? How about beloved movie star-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger?
I should stop before I find myself on the Herschel Walker for Senate campaign payroll.
Cynicism aside, maybe just enough Georgia voters care just enough to reject the candidacy of the established scumbag who wants to represent them on the national stage. As of this week, polling has shown the tide turning in the direction of Walker’s opponent, current senator and avowed non-scumbag Raphael Warnock, with whom Walker is now virtually tied. But I’m not holding my breath.