Hot Air

Ben Carson: Were working on Trump to make him more supportive of athletes kneeling during the anthem

Just gonna repeat what I said last week when Piers Morgan laughably suggested that Trump should take a knee in the Oval Office: If he gives up on culture war, he’s done. He’ll have nothing left. It’s the one thing his base absolutely expects of him and which they might realistically abandon him over. There’s room for him to maneuver on tax policy, on military interventions abroad, on his Supreme Court appointees writing landmark gay-rights decisions. But the minute Trump loses his appetite for stickin’ it to the libs on cultural disputes, he’s finished.

Carson raises an interesting point, though, by implying that Trump simply doesn’t understand that athletes who kneel aren’t protesting the flag or the anthem or America writ large. They’re protesting police brutality and using the anthem as an opportunity to make a visible public statement about it.

I think Trump does understand and just doesn’t care, taking the position that you don’t coopt a moment designed to honor America for your pet cause, righteous or not. Carson’s giving him less credit than I do. From his interview this morning with Hugh Hewitt:

BC: I think the important thing is if they are going to kneel during the National Anthem that they make sure that people understand why they’re kneeling. A lot of people are under the impression that they’re kneeling because they don’t respect our National Anthem or they don’t respect the flag or what it stands for. And in fact, I don’t think that’s the reason that most of them are kneeling. I think most of them are kneeling because you know, they want to protest some brutality in the police forces. They need to make that very clear. And of course, now that that has been brought to national attention, I’m not sure if it needs to continue…

HH: So is there any chance you might persuade the President that he ought not to be upset with players kneeling during the National Anthem?

BC: Well, I don’t think he has manifested as much animosity in that region lately. And I think we just continue to work him. He’ll get there.

If Carson doubts that the kneeling protests need to continue now that the country is focused on police brutality, why does he hope Trump eventually grasps their meaning? Sounds like he’s setting POTUS up here with a new reason to feel aggrieved: “We passed police reform and they’re still kneeling. I told you it was about disrespecting America, not the police!”

Speaking of disrespecting America, here’s something new from Gallup that’s had me at a loss all day. Normally when I see a poll result that surprises me I can at least spitball a reason why the data looks the way it does. Not this time.

I understand why the average person’s pride in being American is down. The response of the government and more recently the general public to our COVID-19 pandemic is a national embarrassment. What I don’t understand is why it’s only Republicans whose pride has dimmed lately. Independents are flat since 2019 and Democrats are actually up a few points (although within the margin of error). I’d expect the opposite result given the calamities that have hit us in the past three months: Democrats’ pride would drop off a cliff, indies’ would droop, but Republicans’ would firm up and possibly even rise in solidarity with the president as he tries to feel his way through this crisis.

What explains the numbers? Even if you want to say that Democrats have already lost as much pride as they can reasonably be expected to lose, that’s probably not equally true of independents. And certainly we wouldn’t expect Republicans, who pride themselves on their patriotism, to sag at a moment when Trump’s supposed to be making America great again. Is “pride” here really just a reflection of electoral forecasting? I.e. Republican “pride” is down because they sense Trump’s chances of losing have increased? In that case, why isn’t Democrats’ “pride” up by the same magnitude?

In lieu of an exit question, here’s a surprising addition to the ranks of Republican senators who support renaming U.S. military bases that are named after Confederates. James Lankford represents the deep red state of Oklahoma and gains nothing politically from crossing Trump on it. This is just his own small gesture towards righting historical wrongs, which is exactly how Carson wants Trump to see the kneeling protests.

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