At a rally on Friday, President Trump said that the NFL should fire any players who copy Colin Kaepernick by going down on one knee when our national anthem is played. So this Sunday, dozens of NFL players dutifully responded by going down on one knee to show their “resistance” to Trump.
That’s where we are with the stupid politics of the “Resistance.” All that is necessary to decide what is the right thing to do is to check on what Donald Trump says and do the opposite.
One NFL player very conspicuously didn’t go down on one knee. While the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers stayed inside the locker room during the anthem—management’s attempt to dodge the controversial issue—Alejandro Villanueva insisted on going out and standing, hand over heart as we were all taught to do. Why? Villaneuva is a former Army Ranger who graduated from West Point and did three tours of duty in Afghanistan, fighting terrorists so the rest of us can be safe. Maybe that has something to do with it.
I would say that Trump outsmarted the Resistance, but that doesn’t seem to take much work. The Resistance has framed the issue so cleverly that they are on one side, and Trump is on the other—along with the national anthem, the flag, and military veterans.
The whole idea of “taking the knee” began, from what I can gather, as a way for a mid-grade quarterback to sulk about being benched. Then it turned, supposedly, into a symbolic protest against the injustice of police gunning down innocent black men. This was originally in response to the “hands up don’t shoot” narrative about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri—a narrative that was comprehensively debunked by the Department of Justice civil-rights task force sent to Ferguson by the Obama administration.
But we all know that the narrative takes on a life of its own, never mind the facts. So going down one knee during the anthem was taken up as a symbol of protest against supposed police racism. It was an ill-conceived form of protest, bound to backfire. The symbolism is all wrong. By its very nature, it does not come across to most Americans as a protest against excessive use of force by the police. It comes across as a protest against the national anthem. And since the national anthem is, well, our national anthem, it comes across as a protest against America.
The message is supposed to be “I’m protesting injustice,” but it turns into “I’m protesting injustice, which I equate with America itself.” It is the petulant demand that everyone else fall in line with the protesters’ exact political preferences and their vague political program—I haven’t found anybody who can tell me what concrete measures would convince the knee-takers to stand up again—or else they will refuse to love their own country.
For a fairly large core of left, this message is deliberate. They have long sought to use racism as their excuse to indict the entire American system as irredeemably evil, in order to justify tearing it down. When I started pushing people on Twitter to tell me what the protests are all about, I got a lot of this back: about how the national anthem is “nationalistic and bombastic,” about how America has not merely been indicted but “convicted beyond a reasonable doubt,” and about how we all need to be deprived of the pleasure of “guilt-free sports.”
This is how they have turned the protests into an attack on the game of football, the one area where we’re all supposed to be able to put aside our disagreements on politics and instead disagree about which team we should be rooting for. This protest is perfectly designed to take the fans of every football team and break them into warring camps. Even worse, it divides the fans (and the players) along racial lines. It takes a social institution that usually unites Americans of all races and creeds and turns it into an engine of racial conflict—in the name of progress!
If anybody thinks this is going to hurt Trump with the people who voted him into office, then this is going to be a long eight years.
If you want an idea of how this is going over, observe the fans booing the Patriots players who kneeled for the anthem. Or observe that NASCAR immediately announced that it would fire any driver or crew member who kneels for the anthem. They know that for their audience patriotism is non-negotiable, and it would be death for their sport to let faddish protests start up there.
Why does the left always auger in on this kind of self-destructive protest? It begins with how they defined themselves as the “Resistance,” which caused them to stop asking whether what something is right and only to ask whether Trump is for or against it. So if he comes out in favor of God and country and the anthem and the flag and football and mom and apple pie—then the Resistance has to be against all of those things.
What if you don’t go along with them? Well, if you’re not in the Resistance than you’re a Collaborator and you must be the racist enemy, too. That’s how we go from a disgruntled quarterback taking the knee, to dozens of players taking the knee, to an inquisition in which every player will be required to take the knee. That’s what’s coming next. People are already demanding that all other players join the kneelers. #TakeTheKnee ends up sounding a whole lot like #BendTheKnee, a demand for obedience to the left’s anti-American pageantry.
To give you an idea of how far the Resistance has disappeared up its own backside, several prominent left-leaning figures are now suggesting that “The kneel will now become a sign of opposition to Trump.” But kneeling, of course, is an ancient sign of submission, not resistance. So you get suggestions like this, and I honestly can’t tell whether it was meant ironically or not.
That’s what happens when blind, unthinking opposition become more important to you than actual principles and good sense. You end up resisting Trump so much that people kneel before him wherever he goes.
The tragedy is that these protests actually undermine the possibility of anything being done about the very issue they are supposedly drawing our attention to. The problem of police shootings and excessive use of force has been overhyped, but it is real. (Think Philando Castile, not Michael Brown.) But it’s a problem where people on both sides have been sold simplistic solutions. A real, detailed debate on how to maintain law and order and keep crime low while also reducing the risk of wrongful police shootings would be dull but profitable. Letting the issue be dominated by a partisan protest culture virtually ensures that nothing of value will be done.
So congratulations, Resistance fighters. You’re going to get Donald Trump re-elected, while simultaneously preventing progress on the big issue you claim to care about. But, hey, at least you got to show us how woke your 8-year-old is.