That conservative evangelicals appear to be turning a blind eye to Herschel Walker’s documented moral failures illustrates the flip-flop on valuing moral behavior found within the Republican Party over the past 20 years, according to research by journalist Aaron Blake writing in the Washington Post.
He concludes: “It’s not so much that the world has changed as that the Republican Party has.”
Blake begins by quoting Donald Trump, often seen as the bellwether for shifting concern about morality in the GOP, on Walker’s various problems. As reported in New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman’s book, Confidence Man, Trump explains that Walker carries “a personal history that, 10 years ago, maybe it would have been a problem. Twenty years ago would’ve been a bigger problem. I don’t think it’s a problem today.”
The latest revelation last week came via The Daily Beast’s report that the U.S. Senate candidate from Georgia had paid for an abortion in 2009, although Walker denies doing so and declared he doesn’t know the woman, who it turns out is the mother of one of his multiple children born out of wedlock.
As a Republican candidate for the Senate, Walker has taken a harsh stand against abortion — a requirement for any Republican candidate today.
But Walker is not alone in his hypocrisy, Blake notes. Since being known as the party of “values voters” in the early 2000s, the GOP has flipped the script, and its conservative evangelical base has gone along.
“What’s clear is that the party has evolved considerably since then, toward a version of itself that can accept the likes of Trump and Walker — and overwhelmingly,” Blake wrote.
He backed up this statement with data from Public Religion Research Institute. In 2011, PRRI asked Americans whether they thought an elected official who committed an immoral act “can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.”
Then, half of Democrats said candidates could, but only 36% of Republicans said the same.
Fast forward just five years — into the 2016 launch of Trump’s nomination as the Republican Party presidential candidate — and “things had changed substantially,” Blake said. “With a vulgar, thrice-married alleged adulterer at the top of the party’s ticket, the number of Republicans who said such an official could fulfill their duties nearly doubled to 70%. And by the end of Trump’s term as president, that number stood at 71%.”
This happened not in spite of but because of evangelical voters, Blake said.
“The shift was driven by the evangelical Christians who had once pushed the party to embrace morality. While in 2011, just 30% of white evangelicals said such a candidate could fulfill their duties, that number in 2020 was 72%. Among the major religious groups, this one went from the least tolerant of such a candidate to the most tolerant.”
Further, this trend affected only the Republican Party.
“Democrats, by contrast, are about where they were in 2011. While back then 49% said such a candidate could fulfill their duties, in 2020 that number stood at 47%,” Blake reported.
The news on Walker allegedly paying for a girlfriend’s abortion is only the latest in a string of morality issues that previously would have sunk a GOP candidate but have not dampened his support among the Republican faithful this year.
His son alleged that Walker “threatened to kill us” and that the family had to move repeatedly to flee violence from Walker.
His ex-wife has reported incidents in which Walker allegedly held a gun to her head.
He is known to have fathered three previously undisclosed children with three different women — all without benefit of marriage.
He has lied about his business dealings.
He has lied about his academic record at the University of Georgia.
He has lied about working in law enforcement.
“The devil went down to Georgia this week, and he was surprised to find that white evangelicals had already beat him to soul stealing.”
In a scathing column for MSNBC, University of Pennsylvania professor and author Anthea Butler wrote: “The devil went down to Georgia this week, and he was surprised to find that white evangelicals had already beat him to soul stealing. This time, though, no amount of good fiddle playing is going to make the state’s evangelical voters let go of Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker, an anti-abortion rights candidate accused of paying for a former sexual partner’s abortion in 2009.”
Butler explained: “A few decades ago, the allegation that he paid for an abortion would have disqualified Walker from consideration by white evangelicals. He definitely would not have been their preferred candidate. Not anymore. Today’s MAGA evangelicals are willing to forgive anything and everything for their candidates — as long as they keep running as hardline MAGA Republicans.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that conservative radio host and former NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch is among those Republican leaders making light of Walker’s deficiencies as a candidate.
“I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles,” Loesch said. “I want control of the Senate.”