Opinion: Trump finds the seam, drives the wedge

 

(AP)

One of the great inherent powers of the presidency is its power to set the national agenda — “the bully pulpit,” as Teddy Roosevelt called it. So when Donald Trump gazed across the political landscape, at difficult, complex issues such as North Korea, the devastation of Puerto Rico and the recovery of Florida and Houston, health care, tax reform — where did he choose to focus the national conversation?

To the surprise of no one, he took aim at the actions of a small group of African-American athletes who for months now have engaged in a quiet and peaceful protest of police brutality against minority groups. They believe, with cause, that this great country, our country, is not living up to its promises and its best values, and by taking a knee during the national anthem, they have found a way to communicate that belief.

Despite all that, Trump claims that “this has nothing to do with race.”

“I never said anything about race,” as he put it Sunday. “This has nothing to do with race or anything else.”

Yet it is all about race, and he knows it. He chose the target for his disproportionate response, he chose the Alabama venue from which to launch this campaign, he chose the angry, accusatory language that was guaranteed to raise the temperature. He did all that because he knows instinctively where the fault lines run in American society, and how to cleave us.

It has been his sole claim to political genius. He knew precisely what it meant to claim for years that Barack Obama, our first black president, was not a real American but instead a Kenyan who thus had no right to be president. He knew the power of that message to black Americans and white Americans alike; he reveled in it and rode it to the Republican nomination.

He likewise knew the power of promising a ban on Muslim immigration, of the hatefully false claim that thousands of American Muslims had danced in joy after the attacks of Sept. 11, that Mexican immigrants are largely rapists and criminals, that there are very fine people among the neo-Nazis and white supremacists chanting “Jews will not replace us.” He knew what all that would do.

So, in a speech Friday night in Alabama, he once again placed the wedge in the crack, drew back his sledgehammer, and drove it home.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘get that son of a bitch off the field right now? He is fired!’?”

In the three days since, Trump has continued to hammer away at it on Twitter and elsewhere, and he has done so using language that is guaranteed to ensure that the issue remains inflamed. He doesn’t ask or try to persuade or use reason. He demands complete submission to his orders, knowing that it is the one thing that his opponents will never give him. The NFL and its players “must respect” the flag and anthem, he says. The NFL “must tell them to stand.” Those who choose to kneel instead “must be fired immediately.” They cannot be “allowed” to keep doing this, and it is “not acceptable.” They “have to respect our flag and have to respect our country.”

Just to be clear, the players aren’t spitting on the flag, or stomping on it or burning it. They aren’t chanting or interrupting the singing of the anthem. By the simple, silent act of kneeling, they merely hope to force the rest of us to think about things that make us uncomfortable, that we would prefer to ignore because maybe, just maybe, they call into question whether this really is a country that delivers “liberty and justice for all?”

The NFL, to its credit, has decided that it will not submit to Trump, nor will it require its players to do so. In fact, some 150 players took a knee or raised their fists this weekend, and none will be fired. And if the target of the original protest has expanded to become Trump himself, well, he’s fine with that too. I’m sure it pleases him to no end, because in his eyes it means his strategy is working.

He is using the symbols and rhetoric of patriotism to pit us against each other. By making us smaller, he can, for a while, make himself seem larger. But the damage that he is doing daily to the fabric of this country is almost incomprehensible.

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

1927 comments
Corey
Corey

Could any conservative honestly tell me why conservatives go stark raving mad when any black person even suggests that America does not always live up to its ideals? Put another way: "Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don't pretend to understand." - Atticus Finch 

Corey
Corey

Fact or Fiction. People who believe in decency and character deplore city slickers who constantly brag about themselves and use vulgar language blasted into their living rooms throw their principles out the window and gladly vote for that which they abhor?

Corey
Corey

@bu22  A mentally deranged dude is driven by his derangement and has nothing to do with kneeling athletes.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

 USMC2841 5 minutes ago

@StraightNoChaser @USMC2841NewsFlash: If you voted in the General Election you voted for someone who received funds from an NFL owner.  Pot meet Kettle.


When you have to make up stuff to prove your point then you clearly have no point.  What Dem in the general received money from an NFL owner?  Link please

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@USMC2841 @StraightNoChaser I will give you your 5,400 dollar donation.  LOL  That's a drop in a bucket to what the sleeze bucket you voted for got. I did not and still do not like Hillary, can you say the same about Trump?  Hell no you can't.  I have many complaints about Hillary and voice them, do you do the same?  Hell no you don't.  Look dude, you are the one who came on this blog thinking that you have a shiny new object against Dems when in fact Republicans are the worst abusers of accepting donations from stadium owners so go complain to the republicans that you send to Washington, that's a better way to spend your time.

Peachs
Peachs

So we have decided that the impotence of Trump and a playboy big spender Price has caused us to lose the undo bill for healthcare and this flag thing it's just a distraction from these unkept and lazy effort promises..

Peachs
Peachs

Are they even going to have a vote on healthcare, or are all the Republican congressman out in front of the capital pledging allegiance to the flag missing the vote or in Handle's case eating biscuits with one hand and pledging with the other. Good excuse not to vote!

gotalife
gotalife

Polling on every issue shows a solid majority against trump.


All they have to do is show up to vote to get change back to normal with certainty and stability.


We need to get our country back on track moving forward to make progress again.


It is not complicated.

Peachs
Peachs

But Trump makes it complicated by not keeping his promises and somehow making my sex life part of the problem or not standing up for a flag which has zero to do with Jet Set Price not delivering!

USMC2841
USMC2841

@HDB0329 Was she kneeling before the flag she thinks we planted on Mars or praying for the victims of hurricane Sandy Hook?

straker
straker

Straight - "take his complaint to the source"   As should all those BLM people.  Hint, you won't find the source on the street or while kneeling in sports stadiums.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@straker 

Ultimately, the American people are the source of government policy.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@straker Can and are doing both, stadium is a big bully pulpit to get the message to the source outside of taking to the streets with free lights, camera and action. Thanks for your concern though... LOL  

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

"Our country is an embarrassment to the world."

- Gregg Popovich on Donald Trump

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

 DownInAlbany 12 minutes ago

@StraightNoChaser @USMC2841  So, you're in favor of taxpayer subsidies for the stadiums?


Why do you keep asking stupid questions?  I asked @USMC2841 why is he on Bookman's blog complaining about it when he voted for Trump who receives donations from those tax exempt stadium owners?  Where in that question am I saying I am in favor?  He needs to take his complaint to the source and stop voting for politicians who benefit from tax payer subsidized stadiums if he's that upset about it.

Peachs
Peachs

And vote to undo Obamacare like you promised before adding stuff to your to do list..

USMC2841
USMC2841

@StraightNoChaser @USMC2841 I didn't vote for Trump in the primary but I did in the General Election.

To insinuate Trump is the only politician benefiting from NFL owners seems disingenuous.

"stop voting for politicians who benefit from tax payer subsidized stadiums"  Got it Mayor Kasim and those Democrat puppets have to go. Atlanta bonds cost taxpayers $36 million

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@USMC2841 @StraightNoChaser You still voted for one of the benefactors so that's who you need to take your belly aching to, not us on Jay's blog.  We didn't do it to you.  I DID NOT VOTE FOR KASIM REED.  When Kasim's campaign called my house I slammed the phone down after telling them do not call me again. You know why?  Because I knew what was going on behind closed doors and that its's wrong.  See I did not wallow in the mud with a pig, you did, and now for you to come around here complaining about it is the text book definition of disingenuous.  You chose to ignore who was donating to Trump and voted for a benefactor.  You are  preaching to the choir

USMC2841
USMC2841

@StraightNoChaser @USMC2841 NewsFlash: If you voted in the General Election you voted for someone who received funds from an NFL owner.  Pot meet Kettle.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@USMC2841 @StraightNoChaser What dem received donations from a stadium owner outside of Kaseem whom I did not vote for?  Will be waiting for your response.  I Googled and found none, for Trump I found three.  Your turn.

NativeAtlantan57
NativeAtlantan57

We just need Scott Baio to weigh in to solve all of these ills.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

This week is supposed to be "Tax Week".  It's probably going to be as successful as "Infrastructure Week" (both of them) or "Healthcare Week". 

We already have this doozy from Senator Corker.  I just wonder which segment of the population owns companies?  https://twitter.com/ylanmui/status/912658592922251264

TBS
TBS

They will most likely get a tax reform ( more tax cut than reform) bill to Trump's desk. Probably not as robust as they wanted, especially with R&R act 5 or 6 on the ropes, but they will get something done on this.

TBS
TBS

Desperate and flailing around.

HDB0329
HDB0329

@Visual_Cortex ...interesting that many in Alaska go TO Canadian hospitals when they need treatment......


.....wonder did he know that...or like Orange Foolius, just pull  things out of his @$$.......... 

Peachs
Peachs

He needs to stick with gay marriage that went so well for him, now he is invading Alaska because Trump used up all his political currency threatening them on phone calls. No wonder the healthcare cannot pass and these big talkers cannot keep their promises..

Peachs
Peachs

Trump doesn't care enough to be that emotional about anything look at his lack of effect on healthcare and his energy on who stands for a kid's game. He needs to keep his promises and fire the jet setters who play when the work is left undone. Where does a jet fit in this unkept promise?

gotalife
gotalife

Racist scumbags should be banned or deported to solve problems.


They do not behave like Americans anyway.

What good are they?.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@gotalife  Well, then...since it means so much to you, why don't you get to banning and deporting, sport?

Peachs
Peachs

Or get a hospital built in Albany. Downs Memorial hospital has a ring to it!

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@Peachs  Actually, there ARE plans to build one, however, the 900 lb gorilla (Phoebe Putney) is fighting it tooth-and-nail.

Peachs
Peachs

Plant a flag there invite Trump and cut the hospital ribbon the Mexicans will pay for it!