Nazis and the NFL
Over the weekend, we had news regarding both Nazis and football. We had a walkout of a football game by the Vice President, and we had more Nazis in Charlottesville. Immediately as we usually do, factions formed. One group was happy that the Vice President took a stand and supported the administration’s view that protesting the flag and disrespecting veterans was unpatriotic. Another group was incensed at not only that action, but the lack of recognition of the white supremacists in Charlottesville the night before. All over Twitter and social media I saw people saying how can the President be talking about football protests when there are Nazis marching in the streets?
Hopefully I can answer that question. First lets understand a few things. I understand that the protests are about perceived inequality, oppression, and police violence. That’s the root of the reason the protests are happening. It did metastasize into an anti-Trump protest after he said something about it, but the root of it is the oppression argument. Then we have the “Nazis”. The people in Charlottesville were Richard Spencer and about 20 of his Alt-Right goons. So, obviously one side is clearly worse in this scenario, that being the white supremacists. So, when we have two situations, where one is clearly worse than the other, why would the President ignore the worst of the two, and spend a bunch of time slamming the other?
The answer: He’s trying to “trump” both at the same time, with one argument.
The argument that he’s using is what Scott Adams calls “The High Ground Maneuver.” The high ground maneuver is a technique in persuasion where you skip right past the details of an argument and elevate it to a higher place that is harder to argue with. His “High Ground Maneuver” is the brand of America. He’s skipping right over all the race-related arguments and calling us all to a greater ideal: Uniting in the name of the country to stand for the anthem. You see, Trump is a nationalistic president in uncharted territory. No world leader, save his predecessor, maybe ever, has to lead a nation that is more multicultural than the current United States. So how do you engender nationalism, in a nation with so many disparate races, religions, and ideology? Obama, by any measure, was not nationalistic at all, and race and ideology divisions fractured even more under his leadership. When it came to uniting America, President Obama was an abject failure.
The closest I can think of to nationalism that we’ve ever tried was under Reagan. The problem with any comparison to Reagan is that a significant amount of African Americans would likely disagree with you that Reagan presided over a golden age. In addition, Reagan didn’t preside over anywhere near the levels of multiculturalism Trump has in the country, due to the massive amounts of immigration we’ve had. Think of this, Trump has a population that is 61% or so white, 13% black, 19% or so Hispanic, and the rest Asian, Arabic, and Mixed. Then on top of that, he has multiple disparate religions and beliefs. You have Christians, Muslims, atheists, and every other type of religion. What he has before him is likely the most difficult leadership job in all of human history, in terms of pure demographics and beliefs. The only thing that is common to all of them other than just basic humanity, is the country. In addition, a multicultural nationalist has basically never happened. Trump is not in great company here since every single other nationalist ruler has presided over essentially an ethnostate, such as Hitler or Kim Il-Sung. He can’t unite via religion or race because there too many different ones. The only tool he has is the country’s ideals.
So I know what you are thinking, how can it be unifying to trash players who don’t stand for the anthem? Wouldn’t it be easier to condemn Nazis and get everyone to unite around that? The answer is no because that’s too small of an idea. We already agree to that, at least all the non-Nazis do, which is the 99% of people. Uniting around disliking or hating something isn’t enough to solve our problems. It has to be bigger. Right now we are too broken to unify. There is nothing he could say that would even start to unify the country. Half of the country literally believes we are in the beginnings of a fascist and racist dictatorship. The only thing that can make that belief fade, is time and gradual action. This is a long-term rebuilding and reimagining process of the brand of America, and what it means to be a citizen of this country. I think he’s aware, as I certainly am, this process will literally take years. If I’m being perfectly honest, I’m not sure it’s even possible. We are retreating into tribalism more than ever before, and social media is only exasperating the problem.
He said in a video over 20 years ago, that he wanted to see a leader who is “a cheerleader for America”. No one ever came along to do it, so he decided to do it himself. He is positioning himself as the most patriotic person alive and even built his campaign around improving the “brand” of America. Think of this, every single thing he utters that’s even vaguely pro-America gets him accused of racism. Apparently, we’ve gotten to a point where liking your country is actually controversial. Why? Because the left has a vested interest in devaluing the brand of the country. If people are nationalistic, there’s no way they will allow the sort of unchecked immigration and economic policy they want. This is why they’ve been so desperate to tie Trump to another nationalist: Adolf Hitler. Despite no policy being even remotely close to Hitler, they were both nationalists, so Make America Great Again must be a Nazi ethnocentric dog whistle.
The reality is that there’s no amount of disavowals he can do that would be enough. So, we are in a rebuilding phase of America’s brand, and he’s going to champion that brand at all costs. In his pursuit of rebuilding the brand, the NFL protests were a golden opportunity to pump up the brand. This is a scenario he really can’t lose, and it gives him a chance to show how ultra pro-America he is. Since he is the President, that sort of gesture matters. If the President isn’t the most patriotic person, why would anyone else be? Obama’s failure to unite the country is rooted not in the fact that he is black, but that he actively, and regularly demonized a significant chunk of the country. So if were the President, I’d immediately rule out any tactic Obama used, because nothing he did worked on the unification front. Isn’t Trump doing the same thing with his anti-NFL player stance? I would argue no, just simply because all he’s asked for is people to stand for the anthem. I would hardly call that a monumental ask. When the Cowboys kneeled before the anthem and stood for it, he praised them. Essentially, as I mentioned earlier, the left has tainted the brand of America so badly that even suggesting something patriotic is now a racist hate crime.
So again, why not denounce Nazis? Setting aside the fact that he has, multiple times, the only reason Richard Spencer and his crew even exist is the media exposure. The first time I heard of Richard Spencer and his crew was in a left wing Atlantic article. The reality is the left needs Spencer, so they promote him with relentless coverage every chance they get. They need someone to point at and stoke their base, despite him being a marginal fringe player at best. No one would even know who these guys are without the incessant media coverage. The truth is that the media loves Nazis, because it gives them an opportunity to play to the base, and demonize Trump. The left-wing media and Richard Spencer’s Alt-Right are symbiotic. They absolutely need each other, and they use one another to achieve their ends. Richard Spencer would absolutely love for Trump to denounce his group because it would lead to even more media coverage, which is exactly his goal. Spencer understands one thing: There is no such thing as bad press.
Trump is playing the only card he has that’s strong enough, theoretically, to unite the country, over time. That card is America itself, and the rebuilding of the brand.
Will it work? Only time will tell.