Democrat Raphael Warnock (left) and Republican Herschel Walker are fighting for a seat in the US Senate in Georgia.
Samuel Schumacher, Georgia
The bus is exactly the wrong way round. A helper in the parking lot in the small town of Clarkston is still trying to get the driver to turn around. But he waves it away. Raphael Warnock (53), his powerful passenger, has to get out through the back door.
Not exactly a good start for the show that the US senator has planned for one of his very last campaign appearances in Georgia. Show is all that matters to the black pastor in the embattled state. Warnock has invested more than 100 million dollars in his Senate election campaign, almost ten dollars for every single resident of the huge southern state. It’s about a lot, “a lot,” as Warnock says. If he loses the razor-thin race against his Republican challenger Herschel Walker (60), the Democratic majority in the Senate, the US Council of States, will almost certainly be over.
Around 100 fans came. They cheer, wave flags, and are already shouting “Amen” as Warnock has just begun his speech. The senator blows his nose and continues his speech, which he has delivered hundreds of times in the past few weeks. He speaks of the struggle between good (i.e. himself) and evil (his opponent). He says: “It’s not a fight between right and left, it’s a decision between right and wrong.”
Jambalaya, Jesus and Joey’s Prophecy
Warnock, full-time pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King (1929-1968) once preached, sounds exactly the same as a politician: like a pastor. Lots of pauses, often looking up, long fingers in the air as a warning. Now he stares at the crowd in the small parking lot for a long time and then says: “Clarkston, you look like God’s kingdom!”
There are many reminders of God’s kingdom here in Georgia, the “Peach State” in the south-east of the USA. In the far south, where alligators swim through the vast swamps and jambalaya dishes sizzle in the pans of historic coastal towns, there is a poster on every second house that reads: “Jesus is the Savior!”. In every hamlet, no matter how small, that you pass on the way through the wooded expanses to the north, there is at least one church, often no more than a residential container with a mini tower on top. And in the heart of Atlanta, the capital, home of CNN, Coca-Cola and the world’s busiest airport in terms of passengers (75 million passengers a year), sits the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the most famous black house of worship in the country.
Joey Henderson (66) stands by in the park and leans on his old bike. He smiles almost toothlessly in the warm November sun. His breath smells of strong coffee, his accent sounds deep south, his opinion on the upcoming midterm elections is clear: “God anticipated everything. The right candidate will win. God’s master plan is in place.”
For many, the opponent of abortion is untouchable
Herschel Walker (60), ex-football star, former Olympic bobsledder, father of at least four children by at least four women, sees it very similarly, Republican candidate for what is probably the most important Senate race in the midterm elections next Tuesday. “God has been preparing me for this fight all my life,” Walker calls into the microphone in the driveway of a huge shopping mall in the town of Richmond Hill. A high school class stands around him, frenetically waving “Herschel Walker” posters, with his campaign bus right behind him. He parked correctly. Show: Herschel Walker can do that. That’s why the latest polls report an imminent sensation: Raphael Warnock, the Democrat, has to fear for his Senate seat in Washington.
In Georgia, Walker is something of an earthly saint. In the 1980s, he, who was then the best young footballer in the country, played for the “Bulldogs”, the team from the University of Georgia. Their stadium has 92,000 seats, almost three times more than the Basler Joggeli. The footballers are the pride of the southern state. The “Dawgs” are cheered by neon signs at every gas station, and their games are broadcast live everywhere. Their fierce logo is ubiquitous in Georgian everyday life. And their most famous player, Herschel Walker, is still untouchable for many, infallible.
But now Walker wants more than just sporting success. He wants the political touchdown. “Run, Walker, Run!” Donald Trump called out to him in 2021. And Walker did as he was told. His political program: a radical potpourri of abortion bans, military build-up and anti-drug measures. His political problem: the two women who accuse him of forcing them to terminate their pregnancy against their will.
Walker warns about the elevator to hell
“I washed myself clean in the blood of Jesus,” the beaming Walker calls out to the crowd in front of the shopping mall. Everyone has a story, “but there is forgiveness for that. God has forgiven me. And this pastor from Atlanta, he doesn’t believe in forgiveness, he’s a Marxist!” Anyone who listens to Warnock’s words is faced with a lift ride straight to hell. Then Walker talks in Richmond Hill about his “Chevrolet, built in 1969”, about his seventh place as a bobsledder at the 1992 Winter Olympics, about how he will “take Jesus Christ to Washington” and about the “holy fight” he is leading wool. Political content? none. The show also does without such details.
One thing is clear: Both enlightened ones know that God is on their side in what will probably be the decisive battle in these «midterms» elections. However, the voters’ favor could tilt in both directions. According to the statisticians, the race was “too close to call”, too close to make reliable predictions. But one thing is clear: at least half of those who vote in this wonderful state will have to ask themselves on Tuesday evening whether they might have worshiped the wrong idol.