Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., center, who chairs Republicans’ Senate campaign arm, and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., join Georgia Republican Senate Candidate Herschel Walker during a campaign stop on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in Carrollton, Ga. Credit: Megan Varner / AP

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Herschel Walker could bolster U.S. chances of topping Belgium.

It’s not about football. The odd mix of Walker and a world record held by the European country echoes the   story of a student in Poland, who was told to write about the elephant and amazingly came up with an essay entitled “The Elephant and the Polish Question.”

Last week in the Financial Times, perhaps Britain’s most serious newspaper, a commentator wrote that, until now, Belgium had been the world’s richest “failing state” – a country that is simply ungovernable. It was now losing the title, because “America is history’s most successful failing state.”

The Belgian “question” is about a deep split between two language groups – Flemish, which is a form of Dutch, and French. Belgian history now includes the   record for going the longest without a national government, because the two sides could not agree. Still, the country prospers and is the seat of both the EU and NATO.

The U.S. is similarly deeply divided between Democrats and Republicans. As in Belgium, the two sides are so far apart that the federal government may end up incapable of deciding anything. Also like Belgium, the American economy produces great wealth, though lower taxes and easier regulation create a bigger gap between rich and poor in the U.S.

What does Herschel Walker, a former football star and current GOP Senate candidate in Georgia, have to do with the potential inability of the U.S. government to function?    

The Republican Party’s prime political goal seems to be defeating the Democrats. In 2000, its national convention   failed even to adopt a party platform, preferring to fall in line behind Donald Trump’s presidential re-election campaign. While the GOP has positions on issues from abortion to deregulation, they mainly serve to create an anti-Democratic majority.

Candidate Walker was picked because he is famous for his Georgia Bulldog football career and is Black. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is also Black and the minister at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Atlanta church.

Walker has little else going for him, having no political or government experience. He does have a carload of scandals, including fathering four children with four different women. One of these women says he paid for her abortion and offered her another abortion, though she had the child. He denies the claim.  

But one of   Walker’s supporters responds, “I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.”

Those are the words of an ardent Republican who would accept an abortion that he might otherwise oppose to win GOP political control in November. Anything goes. Remember that married candidate Trump bragged about   groping women in the “Access Hollywood” tape, but still was elected president.

The assumption is that as a senator, Walker would do as he was told by his party. All he has to do is show up. If he flips the Georgia seat, the GOP could attain a Senate majority, giving it veto power over any proposals by President Joe Biden. That kind of gridlock makes for a failed state.

So do repeated challenges to election results. If Walker loses, it is reasonable to expect that the GOP will challenge his election defeat. Many   Republican candidates around the country either claim past elections were tampered with or say they believe next month’s will be. Maine’s former governor Paul LePage and former congressman Bruce Poliquin are in this group.

Wanting to win so badly leads to candidates who are willing, even before a single vote is counted, to assume that being defeated means being cheated. Winning is more important than avoiding serious harm to the political system.

How you get to that point is simple. Some of the Jan. 6   rioters believed Trump’s statement that the election was stolen and thought they were trying to stop Democratic tyranny. If you can defeat the Democrats, they believe you can prevent them from destroying the country.    

It has become clear that   Trump knew that he had lost the election and that claiming fraud was a political strategy to change the results outside of the bounds of the traditional political system. He was president and could lead his loyal followers to carry out his strategy.

The question this year may be whether questionable candidates like Walker can be elected based on a false fear of two more years of Democratic government. If the partisan voter access and vote counting maneuvers of Republican state election administrators help GOP losers, governments across the country will be greatly stressed and the courts will be busy.

Much also depends on this year’s state legislative elections. State legislators elected in November will make the rules for the 2024 presidential vote.  

This year could be about the GOP’s elephant and the American question.

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Gordon Weil, Opinion contributor

Gordon L. Weil formerly wrote for the Washington Post and other newspapers, served on the U.S. Senate and EU staffs, headed Maine state agencies and was a Harpswell selectman.