Senator Kelly Loeffler (R) brought them up repeatedly during the Georgia Senate campaign The democratic opponent Rev. Raphael Warnock as “radically liberal Raphael Warnock”. She repeated the sentence 13 times in a debate before the January 5 runoff election.
“The Democrats want to fundamentally change America, and the agent of change is my opponent, the radical-liberal Raphael Warnock,” Loeffler said during the debate, claiming that Warnock attacked the police and the American military “from the pulpit”.
Warnock is the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta – the church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached in the 1960s. And the Republicans used extracts from Warnock’s own sermons to attack him.
This rhetoric has a specific connotation, black theological experts told Vox. It’s not just about Warnock being a Democrat running in a state that is historically more conservative than the nation as a whole. It also negatively underscores the long tradition of activism and social justice in the southern black churches.
In interviews with Vox, experts said this wasn’t a particularly new tactic. Republicans used a similar game book in 2008 when they tried to tie former President Barack Obama to his former church pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright (Georgia Republicans also ran an ad linking Warnock to Wright, which Politifact largely viewed as wrong) .
“Especially in Georgia, which is struggling between the old and the new South, the black religion has always been viewed as a potentially very dangerous political force,” Rev. Stephen Ray, president of Chicago Theological Seminary, told Vox. “I don’t think you can speak of the weapon of Rev. Warnock’s sermons beyond that.”
The runoff elections are about which party can get more out of its base. Republicans refer to Warnock as “radical” and “dangerous” with the clear aim of motivating the conservative base of the GOP to emerge on January 5th.
While the Republicans lost the presidency in the 2020 election, they succeeded in many races in the House and Senate, launching such an assault on Democratic candidates – even moderate candidates tied to socialism and activist-led appeals, the police to disappoint (something that Warnock and other Democrats were) Senate candidate Jon Ossoff has repeatedly said they are against.
With Senate control balanced in Georgia’s two runoff elections, Republicans plan to keep pounding These news At home.
“Fear will motivate a lot more than any other emotion in the runoff,” Republican adviser Brian Robinson recently told Vox. “Republican [voters] are saddened, many have heard the president’s news about the elections and are afraid of a Democratic Senate joining Pelosi and Biden. “
Republican attacks on Warnock in brief
As the last three weeks of the Senate race begin, Republicans launch a series of negative attacks, particularly on Warnock. Warnock has had a relatively simple campaign so far, with Loeffler fending off a challenge from Republican MP Doug Collins on November 3. Surveys showed that Warnock came into the runoff election with relatively high sympathy figures.
In particular, Republicans circulated a clip from a 2011 sermon in which Warnock said, “America, no one can serve God and the military,” when quoting the Bible to make a bigger point about faith and service to God to make that comes before everything else. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who regularly quotes the Bible on his Twitter page, blew up Warnock’s sermon in a tweet last month.
Not shocked The #Georgia Democrat Senate candidate Raphael Warnock said at the same time: “You cannot serve God and the military”. These and even crazier things are what the radicals who control the activist and small fundraiser of the Democratic Party believe, pic.twitter.com/bQyBuKLwjb
– Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 18, 2020
Warnock’s longer quote read, “America, no one can serve God and the military. You cannot serve God and money. You cannot serve God and Mammon at the same time. America, choose today who you will serve. “In biblical scripture, Mammon refers to the corrupting influence of money and wealth, and Warnock partially quoted Matthew 6:24 from the Bible.
“The part that I was most disappointed with was that they took sermons out of context to make that connection,” Justin Giboney, president of Christian civic engagement organization AND Campaign, told Vox. “This is supposed to be a group – when it comes to conservatives in Georgia – who have a certain amount of respect for religion, religious freedom and what the pulpit means.”
A Warnock campaign spokesman, in a statement to Vox, repressed the Republican attacks, saying, “Kelly Loeffler’s dishonest attacks say a lot about Kelly Loeffler.”
As he has done since that race, the Reverend Warnock will continue to speak to Georgians about how he will work for them in the Senate to fight for affordable health care, fair wages and the dignity of working people. That’s the kind of senator Georgia needs, “campaign spokesman Michael Brewer said in a statement to Vox.
When Vox reached out to the Loeffler campaign to comment on whether the attacks against Warnock lacked the necessary context, a campaign spokesman repeated: “Georgians know how radical he is when they hear him.”
“For decades, Raphael Warnock has used his pulpit to oppose the second amendment, attack the police, condemn Israel, demean the military and embrace communists and Marxists alike,” Stephen Lawson, spokesman for the Loeffler campaign, told Vox in a statement.
Some say Georgia Republicans are playing off heightened political polarization and “the politics of fear.”
“Fear that Antifa and the socialist left are taking control in certain areas,” said Giboney, who lives in Atlanta. “You are doing your best to bind Rev. Warnock to this fear.”
Georgia will decide who controls the Senate, and Republicans also played a clip from Senate Minority Chairman Chuck Schumer about changing seats in the Georgian Senate after Biden won the state. He said, “Now let’s take Georgia, then we’ll change America! ”
To add a dash of reality, even if the Democrats get it If they win both seats in the Georgia Senate, they will have the lowest majority in the Senate. The Senate would then be split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as a tie. If the Democrats don’t abolish the filibuster (something West Virginia Conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has clearly opposed), it will take 60 votes and a large Republican buy-in to pass most of the bills. In other words, Georgia’s win does not give the Democrats an unrestricted opportunity to change the country.
“Anyone would agree that Chuck Schumer is an accomplished political mind, but he played to his New York audience and gave the Georgia Republicans a great gift with this clip,” Robinson, the Republican strategist, recently told Vox. “Not only did he scare passionate Georgia Republicans; He frightened independents with such conversations. “
Still, some think that Republicans who label Warnock as “radical” could backfire by potentially bringing together the black electorate that Democrats need to win Georgia over.
“Loeffler’s performance has been so disturbing … that people are really being mobilized in ways I hadn’t noticed before,” said Robert Franklin, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta. “You are now offending our most beloved and cherished institution – you are offending our faith.”
The black church is rooted in social justice; White Protestant churches are about personal salvation
While the white Christian evangelical church is more concerned with personal salvation, the black Christian church has a long history of pastors who focus on social and racial justice.
“At best, it tries to hold the country accountable for morality,” Anthony Pinn, professor of religious studies at Rice University, told Vox. “Martin Luther King Jr. and others come from a long line of church leaders who understand that they play an important role beyond the salvation of souls. They understand that the Church has an obligation to seek justice. “
Several theological experts Vox spoke to agreed that the black church is an institution created entirely by and for black people. Words like “radical” have long been used to describe black ministers who go back much further than Martin Luther King Jr. Some also view the GOP’s laser-like focus on Warnock as a racist component; The experts interviewed by Vox said “radical” is an encrypted word.
“I would argue that what you are seeing here is a continuation of the understanding of black leadership and black churches as a threat, that these institutions and these people are threatening the system as it is,” said Pinn.
For example, under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI began overseeing King in the 1950s and 1960s and went to great lengths to connect him with the communist movement (King was not a communist). An FBI document from 1968 called him “a whole-hearted Marxist who has studied it (Marxism), believes in and agrees with it, but because he is minister of religion he does not dare publicly advocate it.”
Pinn and others added that the current dialogue in Georgia cannot be separated from the context of America’s long struggle for racial justice. The very existence of the black church itself cannot be separated from this struggle either, as, according to Ray, “is the only institution in America that has been completely controlled by blacks”.
If Warnock manages to win his race, he would strengthen black representation in the Senate (currently there are only three black senators, which will fall to two if Vice-President-elect Harris goes to the White House).
“He would be the living embodiment of, while it will be an uphill battle, it won’t be impossible,” said Ray.
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