Ever since President Joe Biden announced life-changing federal student loan forgiveness for millions of people last week, the GOP has worked overtime to portray beneficiaries of the plan — many of whom are lower-income earners and nonwhite — as undeserving grifters.
Some Republicans even denounced the news as a “bribe” given to voters. But they ought to tread carefully with those accusations. One of the party’s Senate nominees is benefiting from some pretty gaudy giveaways: Georgia's Herschel Walker.
Walker's campaign website lists a rather interesting claim: “As a small-town kid who has achieved the American Dream, Herschel knows the best way to help people succeed is not to give them a handout but to teach them how to fish."
Ironically, Walker's Senate bid is being helped along by an organization that is literally handing out money to voters in the form of gas and grocery vouchers.
Republicans don’t mind handouts, you see, as long as they think they’re the ones who can capitalize on them politically.
34N22 (the name is a reference to Walker’s longtime football jersey number) is a super PAC that’s technically a separate entity from the Walker campaign, as required by law. But you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re in cahoots.
After all, a few news reports about the giveaways have seemingly erred in saying the handouts came from “Walker’s Senate campaign” or the “Herschel Walker for Senate campaign.” And right-wing commentator Angela Stanton-King, a 34N22 volunteer, suggested in June that Walker personally approved the gas vouchers. (The Walker campaign has denied being involved in the giveaways.)
The cash-dangling seems to be even more cynical than you might imagine. Stephen Lawson, a spokesman for 34N22, has suggested the group was targeting African Americans with the giveaways.
“Some of these counties where there’s a heavy African American population are struggling,” Lawson said of the group’s strategy this month.
NBC affiliate WXIA of Atlanta published a poll last month that showed just 5% of Black voters in Georgia supported Walker, compared to 85% who backed Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock.
It’s a cute gimmick, really. Walker's trying to benefit from little cash giveaways that make Republicans seem generous while the party fights to impose crushing austerity on vulnerable groups.
It’s now clear these efforts contributed to Walker’s meager support among Black people, who clearly can’t be bought for a tank of gas and a basket of groceries.
That having been said, the point remains: Republicans are hypocrites. They aren’t against handouts. They just want to control the purse strings and make sure the money — however small or large the amount — goes to their supporters.