Right-wing media insisted that Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker’s decision to go all-in on anti-trans attacks in the December runoff would help get out the vote. Instead, Walker lost to Sen. Raphael Warnock by a larger margin than in the November election, helping to secure an outright Democratic majority in the United States Senate.
In the final weeks of the election, Walker focused heavily on issues of trans identity and inclusion, releasing an ad with swimmer Riley Gaines complaining about her loss to University of Pennsylvania athlete Lia Thomas, saying that an enemy is somebody who doesn’t “know the definition of a woman,” and claiming that “they’re bringing pronouns into our military.”
Right-wing media talking heads argued that this strategy would help get Walker into the end zone. Republican strategist Scott Jennings claimed that the approach would help Walker “keep Republicans engaged” and said that it was “a huge issue for the Republican base.” Former Trump adviser Stephen Miller said that anti-trans attacks were part of the way forward for Republicans.
Anti-trans zealotry has long been a losing political strategy. In 2016, after North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill into law barring trans people from using bathrooms that align with their identity, voters elected Democrat Roy Cooper, who repealed the law — though not before it cost the state an estimated $3.76 billion in lost economic opportunities.
Despite a recent increase in anti-trans laws, there’s little evidence that voter appetite has followed. A recent poll by Navigator showed that trans issues ranked dead last on a list of priorities for Republican voters this year. In a post-election poll by the Human Rights Campaign, less than 5 percent of voters said that trans issues motivated them to vote — with no guarantee that even those 5 percent voted Republican.