Kelly Loeffler's Campaign Is a Test for the Intellectual Bankruptcy of Republicanism

Jack Holmes
·5-min read
Photo credit: SANDY HUFFAKER - Getty Images
Photo credit: SANDY HUFFAKER - Getty Images

From Esquire

One of the two Republican candidates in the Georgia Senate runoffs coming to a head this fine Tuesday has emerged as a neat avatar for the entire Republican project in the Year of Our Lord 2021. Kelly Loeffler is a former financial-services executive married to the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange who was appointed to her seat in the United States Senate by the governor of Georgia, so naturally she is running as a Political Outsider. This is a strategy that seems to be modeled on Donald Trump's successful presidential run, down to Loeffler's self-casting as a farm girl-turned-Businesswoman who pulled herself up by her bootstraps. "Ms. Loeffler," says the New York Times, "is the daughter of a wealthy farming family from central Illinois, who inherited large tracts of rich agricultural land when she was in her early 20s."

But if a guy who inherited close to half a billion dollars and nearly blew it all running casinos—but still hatched enough scams to keep his golden penthouse in the sky above Manhattan's Fifth Avenue—can run as the Voice of the Heartland, anything is truly possible in America. The main issue, though, is that Loeffler is completely devoid of charisma. Say what you want about Donald J. Trump, but he can connect with his particular crowd. (As someone who's spent a lifetime marinating in resentment and rage, he speaks the language.) This perhaps culminated in the Robot Rubio impression she performed at a debate. In her desperation to get a foothold with the Republican base—and see off a primary challenge from Trumpist auctioneer Doug Collins—Loeffler began to cosplay as a creature of the lunatic far-right fringe, even recruiting Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-QAnon) to headline some campaign events, including one where they rolled up in a camo humvee to warn of The Radical Left's assault on The America You Know and Love. And then there's The Socialist Scourge represented by her opponent, Democrat Raphael Warnock.

Photo credit: Megan Varner - Getty Images
Photo credit: Megan Varner - Getty Images

But it was never enough to suggest Warnock had hugged Fidel Castro, or whatever. It was near-inevitable that Loeffler would dabble in some racism, even if we exclude her posing for a photo with a former KKK bigwig on the basis she might not have known who he was. Loeffler has essentially sought to paint Warnock's preaching in the Black church tradition as fundamentally un-American, taking bits of his sermons out of context while sticking to the larger idea that offering criticism of America amounts to unconditional hatred of America. (This is not exactly a new narrative in conservative politics. See: Bush, George, war in Iraq.) But in the last week, her campaign seems to have stepped things up a level. They are running a Facebook ad in which Warnock's skin tone appears to have been darkened. Loeffler is calling Warnock, "the Most Radical and Dangerous Candidate in America," based on the false Castro crap, the false charge Warnock wants to Defund the Police, and the (sadly) false claim Warnock has stated support for a Green New Deal.

The lies, racism, and phony aesthetic populism are all necessary for Loeffler not just because she is so obviously a random plutocrat with little to say, including about some extremely fortuitous stock trades she made at the beginning of the pandemic. It's also necessary because, like the president and the Republican Party in general, Loeffler is offering no actual governing vision for the country. There is no plan for combating wealth inequality or monopoly power, or restoring social mobility, or confronting the climate crisis, or expanding access to healthcare, or ending the misery of life in low-wage America. There's nothing new here. There's certainly no plan to create a positive state of racial justice in this country, considering that Loeffler has basically cast Black Lives Matter as a force for "violence and destruction across the country." (This led members of the WNBA team Loeffler co-owns—you know, Populist Stuff—to publicly denounce her and back Warnock.) Loeffler and the rest of the Republican caucus simply are not running for anything. They are only running against The Radical Left, or The Socialist Agenda, or whatever scare words are hitting well today with The Base.

Warnock's agenda may lack some ambition, but he and Jon Ossoff—the other Democrat who's running in the Senate runoff against another Republican, David Perdue, who seems to view his Senate seat primarily as a vehicle for stock tips—are promising to do things for people if elected. This is now the bar, apparently. They've even embraced the idea they'll deliver $2,000 stimulus checks to people who are getting battered by the pandemic downturn. Loeffler has an issues section on her site in which we are treated to a paragraph each, full of buzzwords and vague allusions, on some things that range from "real and important" to "actually delusional."

Not that any of the details may matter in the end. In Alabama this past November, they turfed out Doug Jones—an abiding man of principle and a former federal prosecutor who put away the Birmingham church bombers—for Tommy Tuberville, a football coach who talks like a malfunctioning Rush Limbaugh. Warnock is a preacher at Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Ebenezer Baptist Church, who has examined the issues America faces with no little moral clarity. His opponent is yelling about Marxism. In this country, it's impossible to say which of the two will be a United States Senator-elect by morning.

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