Raphael Warnock Called Senate Republicans Exactly What They Are

Political attacks featuring leaked videos are designed to make an opposing candidate look bad. The idea is simple and core to modern politics—you blindside the candidate by using their words, videotaped or recorded, directly against them. It’s an easy way to get a leg up on the competition because it leaves them looking worse and forces them to answer questions. It’s pretty rare to find leaked video that winds up making the subject look more appealing than before.

On Monday, the Washington Free Beacon published “uncovered” video of a sermon Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock gave in 2017, during which he calls Senate Republicans “gangsters and thugs” for cutting taxes for the richest Americans. But what was designed to be an attack on Warnock’s character wound up backfiring—virtually everyone on the left agreed with what he was saying. Within the hour, a full transcript of Warnock’s words were available online that provided even greater context and just made his sermon sound even more effective. It’s a solid lambasting of Republican politicians who everyone knows care more about placating their rich benefactors than meeting the needs of everyday Americans—something that’s arguably truer today than it was when Warnock actually said it.

The Republican objective is to make Warnock look like the radical ghoul they’ve made him out to be. That task is a little difficult when virtually everyone agrees with what he’s saying. GOP politicians and pundits don’t have any moral high ground here, either—they’ve all said equally damning or worse things about Democrats throughout this year’s election cycle alone, let alone the last several years.

It’s not hard to argue that Warnock’s sermon could serve as a template for how Democrats should talk about Republicans going forward. Directly addressing your opponent’s evil intentions clearly works—just look at how it served Republicans this year portraying their Democratic opponents as radical enemies trying to destroy America. But where GOP attacks lean on bad faith and propaganda, Warnock’s words—which were not an attack ad but an address—rely on basic truth. Everyone knows why Republicans cut taxes for the rich, and everyone knows who those tax cuts pull resources away from. If more Democrats spoke directly to that level of greed and corruption instead of, say, trying to find common ground with Republicans, it might actually resonate with people and mobilize voters who agree with them.

Senator Kelly Loeffler, Warnock’s direct opponent, is spreading some of the most disingenuous garbage imaginable. But this uncovered video hits the sweet spot—it manages to portray her opponent as an effective politician unafraid of mincing words when speaking truth to power. Political attacks don’t quite hit the same when everyone can see through your veneer of bullshit.