Sep 9, 2022 - Podcasts

The heated final weeks of Georgia's Senate race

The Senate race going on in Georgia right now is neck and neck, between Republican Herschel Walker and incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock. It’s one of the rare competitions between two Black candidates on the national stage – and each has a very different message for voters about racism.

  • Plus, the world mourns Queen Elizabeth.
  • And, reframing the evangelical view of climate change.
  • Guests: Axios' Emma Hurt and Dave Lawler; Walter Kim, President of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Fonda Mwangi, Alex Sugiura, and Ben O'Brien. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday, September 9th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re covering today: the world mourns Queen Elizabeth. Plus, reframing the evangelical view of climate change.

But first, how race is driving the final weeks of Georgia’s Senate race: that’s today’s One Big Thing.

NIALA: There's a neck and neck Senate race going on in Georgia right now between Republican Herschel Walker and incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock. It's one of the rare competitions between two black candidates on a national stage, and each has a very different message for voters about racism. Here's a moment from a new campaign ad for Walker that's been causing a star this week.

WALKER CAMPAIGN AD: Senator Warnock believes America is a bad country full of racist people. I believe we are a great country full of generous people. Warnock wants to divide us. I want to bring us together.

NIALA: Axios political reporter based in Atlanta, Emma Hurt has been covering this. Hi Emma.

EMMA HURT: Hey Niala.

NIALA: Emma, what's the strategy behind Walker's ad? I think that language may have surprised some people.

EMMA: It has struck a chord with some people, though it is consistent with the way Walker has spoken about race on the campaign trail, this is the first time we're seeing it out here in this way in an ad. I spoke to a political scientist here who studies political mobilization and race, Andra Gillespie at Emory and she said this ad doesn't seem to be for Black people, because Black people acknowledge that there is systematic racism. This ad she argues is more for white people for independence, for undecided. People who, who might resonate with this message. But it is such a big contrast when you look at the other side of the ticket, where you have Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther king Jr's home church, who has spent decades talking about systematic racism in a much more nuanced way that Walker’s ad portrays but still definitely not shying away from addressing it.

NIALA: Emma, what do we know about the electorate in Georgia? How are they responding to each of these candidates at this point, regardless of what their racial background is?

EMMA: You know, we know about the electorate here is that it has been changing a lot. And that, that demographic change has been the harbinger of the political change that we've seen, that Georgia's now such a tight battleground state. We've seen, you know, the reverse great migration take effect here with African Americans moving back to the south. We've seen a lot of immigration from other countries. What used to be assumed that it was impossible for a Black candidate to win statewide in the south is just no longer the case. If you look at Raphael Warnock, if you look at Tim Scott in South Carolina, and you look at Herschel Walker as a Republican nominee here. So, important not to miss that moment as well when we talk about this race.

NIALA: What do you expect in these final weeks of the campaign between these two candidates?

EMMA: You know, this is the moment when the ads really hit the airwaves. Already we know that the Georgia Senate race has been the most expensive federal contest this election cycle. But that is just going to ramp up. And as this race has stayed in a statistical tie this whole time, we will see whether those ads have an effect.

NIALA: Axios’ Emma Hurt. Thanks, Emma.

EMMA: Thank you for having me, Niala.

The world mourns Queen Elizabeth

NIALA: This is the first time in more than 70 years, the British Royal Anthem will no longer say God save the queen.

That's because as you've no doubt heard, Queen Elizabeth II has died at the age of 96, Queen was England's longest reigning Monarch taking the throne at 25. Axios world editor Dave Lawler shared his thoughts with us.

DAVE LAWLER: Her time on the throne spanned 15 prime ministers, starting with Winston Churchill and 14 US presidents starting with Harry Truman. She oversaw the end of the British empire, the cold war entry and exit from the European Union and enormous societal shift. She really has represented stability and continuity in tumultuous times.

And these are indeed tumultuous times in the UK. Her last official act was to accept the resignation of one prime minister, Boris Johnson, and ask another Liz Truss to take power at a time in the UK when there is a severe energy crisis and considerable political turmoil, which will be put aside for the time being. As Britain marks the transition after 70 years, the only Monarch most Brits have ever known, to a new king, King Charles the third.

NIALA: That’s Axios World Editor Dave Lawler.

After the break, how one prominent evangelical organization wants to change the conversation around climate change.

Reframing the evangelical view of climate change

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. In the US, white evangelical Christians were the religious group least likely to believe that humans have contributed to climate change. That's according to a Pew survey from January. But a new report from the National Association of Evangelicals is trying to change that by arguing that protecting the environment is a biblical mandate. Joining me now to explain as Reverend Dr. Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. Hi Walter, Welcome to Axios Today.

WALTER: Niala it's great to be on. Thank you for having me.

NIALA: I wanna start by asking you why you all feel like the biblical mandate is the important thing to emphasize here when we're talking about climate change.

WALTER: I think for evangelicals, one of the hallmarks and foundations of this movement is its very high view of scripture. There's some basic principles that the Bible begins with. In the narrative, of the story of the garden of Eden Adam and Eve they were given a task to work and take care of the ground. So literally humanity’s first task, from within this biblical narrative, is the narrative of stewardship of care taking of creation. And you look throughout the Bible and the Old Testament in particular, as the laws were given in the ordering of society, they actually included laws to give land rest and opportunity to rejuvenate, care of animals. And so, this deep sense in the Bible that God gave to humanity, a responsibility, a privilege in taking care of the creation that he made.

NIALA: So, what do you say to those who believe climate change is a political issue not a religious one?

WALTER: So there's a convergence here, that includes not merely general stewardship of creation, but particular responsibilities that we have toward loving our neighbors, especially those who are most vulnerable and most susceptible to the impacts of climate change. And these conversations long predate any political conversation. And they span the globe regardless of what governments we live under. The disproportionate impact of the changing climate on those who are in poverty is extraordinary. The millions of people throughout the world who are in situations that are made dire and even life threatening because of the change of the climate.

NIALA: It sounds like what you're saying is the way that you all are trying to, sort of bypass the political division is, is simply by offering an alternative of saying to people, this is what we are called to do, regardless of what you think about the science, is that right?

WALTER: To a point. The science does matter. Because we would also believe that science is a gift given from God. And the science is a way for us to prioritize and recognize the urgency that we have right now because of the disproportionate impact on those who are most vulnerable. And in that regard, it becomes a very important part of Christian discipleship.

NIALA: Reverend Dr. Walter Kim is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

WALTER: Niala, thank you for having me on.

NIALA: One final note before we go today.

[The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated….we are seeing bright flashes going off all over the sky]

NIALA: That was CNN’s Bernard Shaw - on CNN - in 1991, at the very beginning of Desert Storm.

I remember that night vividly, because it’s one of a few events from my childhood that made me want to be a journalist. Watching the coverage was the first time I - and countless others - watched a war unfold live on TV. Shaw served in the Marines and got his start in Chicago radio. He was one of the first Black prime-time anchors. He died yesterday at a Washington-area hospital from pneumonia. Bernard Shaw was 82.

That’s all for this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief. And special thanks as always to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.

I’m Niala Boodhoo. Stay safe, enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here on Monday.

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