Rush on NFL protests: It scares the hell out of me that the president can dictate private behavior

Well, this is surprising. I know there is good in you, father. The Emperor hasn’t driven it from you fully.

It’s surprising in two ways. One is the fact that he’d disagree with Trump about anything, however politely, never mind on a hot-button cultural issue that the White House has been flogging. He’s with POTUS in disapproving of the protests, of course, but he doesn’t like Trump using the bully pulpit to pressure a business. That puts him in line with general public opinion, disapproving of the protests *and* Trump’s reaction to them, but very much against Republican opinion on the latter point. How often can you say that about Rush?

New from Quinnipiac:

Fully two-thirds of GOPers find Trump’s comments about the protests appropriate. On the question of the protests themselves, the public splits 43/52 against with Republicans overwhelmingly opposed at 8/89. Most polls on kneeling during the anthem have had similar results. A majority of the public is unhappy with the players and with POTUS.

The most dramatic measure of the “Trump effect” on perceptions of the NFL that I’ve come across is this new graph from FiveThirtyEight. When Rush talks about “dictating” behavior, he’s exaggerating but only a little. Trump is, for all intents and purposes, dictating how much his fans disapprove of the protests, and that reaction in turn is driving the owners’ anxiety about them. This monologue would have been more interesting if he had addressed the cult of personality among the right that can make a line spike like this when the president says something critical:

Colin Kaepernick began his anthem protests more than a year ago; other players continued them through the preseason this year and through the first three weeks of the regular season. Not until Trump attacked the demonstrators in late September did disapproval of the league skyrocket. There’s now a 62-point spread in the NFL’s net favorability between Democrats and Republicans, wider than the gap for Breitbart. For the moment, a sport that’s always been stereotyped as especially beloved by red-state America is roughly as unpopular among Trump voters as … CNN and the New York Times.

The deeper way that this is surprising, though, is that Rush is worried about a slippery slope in which Trump putting presidential pressure on private businesses will cement a precedent for future Democratic presidents to exploit against the right. (Where was that worry after the Carrier deal in December?) That’s a very reasonable fear but it’s completely contrary to the ethos of Trumpism. The Trumpist argument is that it’s okay to be as bad as, if not worse than, the left. In a best-case scenario the left will be chastened by your bad example and will behave better once they’re back in power. In a worst-case scenario they’ll continue to behave badly, but hey, at least you’ll have notched some wins by playing hardball in the meantime. It’s the same logic Trump uses when he screams at McConnell to end the filibuster. The Democrats are the worst and will surely end the filibuster once they control the government again, so let’s do it ourselves right now and pass some stuff before they do. Those damned liberals are forever dragging us down the slippery slope so let’s skate down the slope and at least get something out of it. Why is Rush nervous about that now, in the context of the NFL protests? Trump got the league to force the players to stand, right? He won! Nothing else matters.

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022