— Michael Kruse (@michaelkruse) August 5, 2022
If you haven’t yet read this whole article, it’s well worth doing so — even if is Politico:
… I’ve watched over the years countless candidates’ set-piece speeches — never, though, one that deliberately elevated a pedestrian piece of potential political pork into a nearly holy totem of American democracy. In a recent week of campaign events, official events and church events, it wasn’t the only time I saw him do this, and it always conjured something Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey told me earlier this summer when he called to talk about Warnock: “There’s never been anybody like him in the United States Senate.”
Neither has there ever been a race like the race he’s running right now. Warnock, of course, is facing Herschel Walker, the former football player and University of Georgia star — not only pitting two Black men for a seat in the Senate, itself a matchup that is vanishingly rare, but two Black men who present a contrast that’s almost impossibly stark…
In 2020 and (in the run-off that extended into the first week of) 2021, Warnock won with the mantra to “remain the reverend” — a campaign that combined a faith-based social-justice heart with a careful prebutting of Republicans’ race-laced attempts to cast Warnock as radical by calibrating a benign look and vibe. He wore a puffer vest. He was in ads showing him walking a dog (that wasn’t his) on the sidewalks of identifiably suburban streets. He presented the even keel that’s been a Warnock hallmark from the time he was a teen.
This time, though, according to more than 50 interviews with officials, insiders and operatives from both parties and campaigns, Warnock is doing all that and then some — running in a way that’s every bit as disciplined but in a year that’s considerably more difficult. After earning by two points the last two years of the late Republican Johnny Isakson’s term, Warnock is a low-ranking member of an often stalemated, 50-50 Senate from a mostly riven, more-or-less 50-50 state. While continuing to push for voting rights even as Democrats’ signature bills have been stopped and stalled — the franchise has been the most elementally important issue for Warnock forever — his legislative efforts and accomplishments have focused on lowering the cost of insulin and other prescription drugs, investing in infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing, and prioritizing seniors, farmers, servicemembers and veterans and the lower- and middle-class Georgians he most conspicuously aims to serve. He talks about Covid relief in terms of “tax cuts.” He talks about other spending bills in terms of “jobs, jobs and jobs.” And he seldom so much as says the name Joe Biden — frustrating foes trying to tie him in ads to the deeply unpopular president. “He is a very gifted politician,” Stephen Lawson, the head of a pro-Walker Super PAC, told me — a compliment not necessarily meant to be. “We fully understand,” Lawson said, “that he’s going to be very difficult to unseat.”
More broadly, though, the way Warnock has operated in the last year and a half in the Senate as well as the way he’s vying now for a full six-year term are natural extensions of the tensions that have animated his life and his work — the “double-consciousness” of the Black church, as he describes it in the 2014 book drawn from his doctoral dissertation, the “complementary yet competing sensibilities” of “revivalistic piety and radical protest,” the saving of souls and the salvation of society, what King called “long white robes over yonder” and “a suit and some shoes to wear down here.” In strictly political terms, this tension and connection might be expressed as purity versus pragmatism. And for Warnock, ever the reverend, the balancing act between the high and the low, the eternal and the utterly quotidian, sometimes means taking a run-of-the-mill legislative compromise — one that doesn’t even allocate any actual money for the asphalt — and attempting to frame it as the apotheosis of our ongoing experiment of representative self-government…
The eleventh of 12 children, he grew up in Kayton Homes public housing in an apartment with four bedrooms, a single bathroom and a set of World Book encyclopedias. His parents were Pentecostal pastors, his father straining to make ends meet by selling to a steelyard old, abandoned cars — but, “thanks to the assistance of the federal government,” Warnock recalls, “my family never lived outdoors, we never went hungry, and I never missed out on an opportunity to learn.”…
… [F]rom what is one of the country’s most important pulpits, Warnock has spoken out against voter suppression, the war in Iraq, the overincarceration of Americans but especially Black Americans, and the death penalty — “state-sanctioned murder,” in his words, and “the final fail-safe of white supremacy.” He wore a hoodie in the pulpit after the killing of Trayvon Martin. He was arrested at the state Capitol and again at the U.S. Capitol protesting for access to affordable health care. He hosted an interfaith meeting on climate change with former Vice President Al Gore. He was the spokesman and then the chair of Stacey Abrams’ New Georgia Project…
Warnock formally introduced himself to his new colleagues in his maiden speech in March of last year. The eleventh Black United States senator ever, he told them he has a seat that was held when he was born by a staunch segregationist. He told them his mother who “used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls in January and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator.”
The speech is worth reading or watching or listening to in full, but Warnock landed hardest on the right to vote. “The right to vote is preservative of all other rights. It is not just another issue alongside other issues,” he said. “This issue — access to voting and preempting politicians’ efforts to restrict voting — is so fundamental to our democracy that it is too important to be held hostage by a Senate rule, especially one historically used to restrict the expansion of voting rights” — the filibuster. He called democracy “the political enactment of a spiritual idea: the sacred worth of all human beings, the notion that we all have within us a spark of the divine and a right to participate in the shaping of our destiny,” he said. He conjured the image of John Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the Bloody Sunday beatings. “And we in this body would be stopped and stymied by partisan politics? Short-term political gain? Senate procedure?”…
What Warnock’s done, though, is what he can, and also what is pretty much politically necessary in a hard cycle in a purple state. He’s focused most on nuts-and-bolts problems like supply chain issues and shortages of semiconductor chips and other “kitchen-table” concerns. As a member of the Agriculture Committee, the Commerce Committee, the Banking Committee, the Joint Economic Committee, and the Special Committee on Aging, he’s zeroed in on gas prices and the cost of prescription drugs and has positioned himself as a champion of the recently passed CHIPS and jobs and competition bills. At times bucking the Biden administration, he’s pushed for more student debt relief and teamed with Republican congressman Buddy Carter of Georgia to prevent the closure of a military facility in Savannah, with Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama to try to help the peanut farmers of Georgia and with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to earn increased funding to try to reduce maternal mortality. He has been measurably one of the more bipartisan members of the Senate.
“He is clearly trying to play this moderate role,” said Lawson, the head of a pro-Walker Super PAC. “But he’s still sort of lockstep with Biden and is seen that way. I mean, I think his voting record with Biden is over 95 percent.” It’s 96.2…
And then, of course, there’s his opponent… a former football star / ‘troubled individual’ imported from Texas by the GOP in hopes of exceeding the Crazification Factor:
Herschel tonight: “It’s time that we had leaders in Washington that gonna make the right leader for you. Because we brought people to the table, but all they’ve done at the table is just sit there. They haven’t moved the stick at all.” pic.twitter.com/ndm3siNdq2
— Ron Filipkowski ???? (@RonFilipkowski) August 18, 2022
This is really disgusting. On so many levels. Herschel is a terrible candidate, appears to be a bad guy too, but this blatant exploitation reeks to high heaven, as well. Painful to watch.
— Don Lewis (@DonLew87) August 17, 2022
Nothing much to see here
Just two good buddies, Rudy Giuliani and Herschel Walker, hanging out in September 2020 chatting about insurrections a few months before an insurrection ?? pic.twitter.com/Ze9KyQLCsc
— Qondi (@QondiNtini) August 18, 2022
No one is better at raising money for Raphael Warnock than Herschel Walker.
— BluePartyGuy???? (@IsMyHandleOk) August 18, 2022