Walker’s candidacy more interesting now

by LZ Granderson

You’ll have to get used to Black people being in charge.

That’s the closing remark from “A Soldier’s Play,” which won the 2020 Tony Award for best play revival . According to playwright Charles Fuller, who died last month, his refusal to drop the line is the reason it took 38 years for the Pulitzer Prize-winning play to make it Broadway.

Apparently producers were concerned white theatergoers in 1982 America wouldn’t like it very much. Judging from the surge in hate crimes following the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, the producers were probably right.

I’ve been thinking about “A Soldier’s Play” of late because of the candidacy of Herschel Walker, who is seeking Georgia’s Senate seat. He reminds me of the character C.J. Memphis, a stereotypical Southern Black man who white people know will never be in charge. Walker might be elected a senator, but he will never be in charge. Not of them anyway.

This was inadvertently made clear by Walker’s campaign manager, Scott Paradise, who on Monday had to ask members of his own party to stop “siphoning money away from Georgia” with “deceptive fundraising tactics.”

Apparently over the weekend, Save America, a political action committee connected to former President Donald Trump, sent an email asking donors to help Walker win next month’s runoff election. The problem was Save America was automatically keeping 90% of those contributions unless donors clicked a second link to allocate otherwise. Since being called out, Save America adjusted the split to 50-50. But it wasn’t just Trump’s organization that had that default. Similar fundraising emails connected to J.D. Vance and Ted Budd went out after those Republicans had already won their Senate seats in Ohio and North Carolina.

Did I mention Walker has trailed his opponent in fundraising since the launch of his campaign?

Now, considering Walker first made a name for himself playing college football, I’m sure the Heisman winner is accustomed to large organizations using his name and likeness to make money he’ll never touch. But come on. Even the North Carolina Republican Party sent an email with the same 9-to-1 ratio. It’s as if everyone in the party was in on the boondoggle.

Well … almost everyone. Walker doesn’t seem to be in on anything.

After the midterm elections, Geoff Duncan, the lieutenant governor of Georgia, said Walker needed to call Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and ask for assistance. Duncan also suggested Walker’s first call should be to Trump to ask him to “stay home” during the runoff. Strange advice given Trump is the reason Walker relocated to Georgia and got in the race in the first place. It would appear Duncan, who despises the former president, wants Walker to publicly declare he’s under new management.

If you find that offensive, please know, I do as well.

Walker’s own party is openly treating him like a prop, with no agency of his own.

Instead of dialing Trump, I suggest Walker ring up Michael Steele, the only Black chairman the Republican National Committee has had. Steele might have something to say about being used as a prop.

He served from 2009 to 2011, coinciding with the election of President Obama. Years later, Ian Walters, a spokesman for the Conservative Political Action Conference, looked back at the moment when the country had put a Black guy in charge and said Republicans “weren’t sure what to do.”

“We elected Mike Steele to be the RNC chair because he’s a Black guy,” Walters said in 2018. “That was the wrong thing to do.”

After Republicans rode the tea party wave back into power following the 2010 midterm elections, they got rid of Steele.

There is a short-sighted storyline in the national media that suggests the runoff in Georgia matters less now that control of the Senate has already been decided in Democrats’ favor. I think it got more interesting because the voters won’t simply be expressing their preference for which party should control the Senate. The runoff election is now about deciding what kind of Black leadership voters in Georgia are comfortable with.

Exit polls from the midterms showed that the only racial demographic that supported Walker was white people, so that’s a clue to the answer.

The clips of Walker fumbling over his words, talking in circles and just completely making stuff up are plentiful. Some are embarrassingly funny. Most are sad reminders that Walker isn’t an electrifying new voice in the conservative movement, just a pawn in a game he’s not aware is being played.

Much like C.J. Memphis from “A Soldier’s Play.” The only difference is Memphis didn’t carry around a fake police badge.

For every $10 sent to Trump’s Save America in support of Walker in the Georgia runoff, $9 was being kept away from the candidate unless donors said otherwise. He wasn’t in charge then, and if elected, he still won’t be in charge.

Just the kind of Black leadership a lot of white Georgians are obviously comfortable with.

LZ Granderson is an op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times.