On the evening of Dec. 6, I watched the debate between Sen. Kelly Loeffler and the Reverend Raphael Warnock, who are running against each other for a U.S. Senate seat from Georgia with the runoff election scheduled for Jan. 5. As a non-leftist I am anxious to see the Georgia Senate seats now up for grabs stay with the incumbent Republicans, and I regard the prospect of a Democratic-controlled Senate with horror.
But until Sunday night I knew little about either of these two candidates, except for a few widely available facts. Whereas Loeffler generally voted with President Donald Trump and is considered a reliable Republican vote, Warnock is a far leftist black minister, who is in full agreement with the left wing of the Democratic Party. Despite these (for me) negatives, I liked Warnock’s demeanor the few times I had heard him interviewed. Though his politics are probably the same as those of the Squad, he seemed soft-spoken and almost self-deprecating. In short, he sounded nothing like Jim Clyburn, Maxine Waters, and other black politicians who wear their racial grievances on their sleeves.
When I heard Warnock speak about representing the “little people,” I knew he was taking a dig at his opponent. According to Forbes, Loeffler may be the richest person in the Senate. While Warnock was serving as minister at the black Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Sr. once served, the very affluent Loeffler was moving up politically. In 2019 she was appointed to the Senate by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp following Senator Johnny Isakson’s retirement due to health reasons. Loeffler was formerly the CEO of Bakkt, an offshoot of a financial services company owned by Loeffler’s husband, Jeff Sprecher. Like her husband, Kelly also kept her hand in Republican politics. Both donated heavily to Republican candidates and causes, and it is hard to think that this did not play a part in Loeffler’s appointment to the Senate.
Listening to the candidates, I tried to separate two things about the way in which they responded to questions. Firstly, I noted the positions they took, and this was something about which I was hardly neutral. Everything that Warnock said as a political figure turned me off. This soft-spoken minister is for defunding the police, paying reparations to blacks, late-term abortion, accommodating all kinds of LGBT demands, and adopting the Green New Deal. His opponent by contrast has usually voted with Trump, is strong in her support of the police, and even justifiably complained about the questionable mail-in ballots that were inexcusably accepted in counting votes for the presidential race in Georgia. From this perspective, Loeffler would win my vote hands-down.
Then I observed how the two candidates came across as people. The description of Loeffler on The View(hardly my favorite TV show) as “robotic” may have been overly complimentary. During the debate she acted like a talking toy that had been carefully wound up for the night. She denounced Warnock as a “socialist” at least five times in word clusters that I mercifully forgot. Warnock impressed me as very pastoral. He spoke glowingly about his parents and was grateful to his teachers for having educated him. He seemed almost embarrassed by the silly positions he was expected to defend and tried to dodge them when he could. Although he dutifully attacked Loeffler for granting an interview to a “white supremacist,” who turned out to be the journalist Jack Posobiec—who had been inexcusably smeared by the far leftist SPLC and ADL—most of Warnock’s spiel was dull but inoffensive. He claimed to have never thought about the Democratic plan to pack the Supreme Court. This may have been a blatant lie, but it was certainly less abrasive than Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s eager embrace of this scheme.
Loeffler went into a predictable PC shuffle as soon as Warnock, with an assist from an obviously leftist journalist, mentioned the terms “white supremacist” and “racist.” This not very sympathetic plutocrat protested almost sobbingly that she “doesn’t have a racist bone” in her body and went on to affirm her belief in racial equality (which in this age of BLM may be totally irrelevant to the Left).
What Loeffler should have done, although it runs counter to the Southern Republican mentality, is engaged in a counterattack, indicating that it is not she but Warnock who surrounds himself with racists, such as BLM and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. It is not Loeffler, but her opponents who are playing the race card and who can’t bring themselves to say that white lives matter as much as black ones. Those who accept the leftist definition of racism are not going to vote for Loeffler or her fellow-Republican running for Georgia’s other U.S. Senate seat in any case. Why must Loeffler crawl on her belly trying to appease fans of Stacey Abrams and Raphael Warnock? That was the inescapable question that I found in the debate.
I doubt these abject gestures won Loeffler new fans in Georgia. Had she shown indignation when a baseless accusation was made, however, she would have shored up her base, while putting race hustlers on notice that she won’t dance to their tune.
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Paul Gottfried is editor in chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is also the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years, a Guggenheim recipient, and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.