What’s in a Name?

The sports pages of the news used to be a temporary refuge from politics, but since early spring there have been not heroic feats to marvel at and no box scores to pore over, and the only sports news has been drearily political. After a big fuss about the NASCAR stock racing league banning the Confederate battle flag, the big story on Monday was about the National Football League’s Washington Redskins agreeing to change the team name.
The team has been called the Redskins since it first entered the then-fledgling NFL back in 1932, and for the first few decades nobody thought much about it. Starting around the late ’60s, though, there some grumbling from the emerging cultural left about a team using a term coined as a racial slur against Indians as its name, and over time the grumbling few louder. For the past couple of decades the controversy has festered, with occasional protests outside the stadium and the federal patent office denying the team trademark protections for all the products they put their name and logo and some newspapers refusing to refer to the Washington, D.C., franchise by its given name.
Team owner Daniel Snyder long resisted the protestors, saying the name and the Indian head logo on the fifty yard line and on all those licensed products were meant to honor America’s original inhabitants. there’s something to be said for time-honored traditions. There’s something to it, as most people have long thought that “Redskins” was just a colloquial term for Indians like “Yankees” is a term for northeastern Americans and “Cannucks” is slang for Canadians, and the University of Oklahoma Sooners and the University of Kansas Jayhawks and Indiana University Hoosiers have all embraced names that were coined as slurs. America’s varied Indians mostly didn’t give it much thought, having more pressing problems to deal with, and Snyder didn’t see any reason to spend millions of dollars on changing the team’s uniforms and signage and stationery and mailing address.
Halfway into a long, hot summer of demonstrations and debates about racial justice, however, Snyder finally relented. The giant FedEx company and other huge corporations threatened to withdraw from deals to help him finance a fancy new stadium, and the District of Columbia’s municipal government threatened to withhold the necessary permits, and Snyder apparently concluded that would be worse for his bottom line than the few measly million dollars he’d spend to make a change of name and logo. Call it a victory for capitalism or for social justice, or just another capitulation to “political correctness,” but when football eventually resumes the Redskins will no longer be the Redskins.
Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves are being similarly pressured to change names, as are our beloved Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL, along with the few remaining collegiate sports programs with Indian-themed monikers. We’d let the Cleveland ball club pass, as Indians is a neutrally descriptive term, much like the Bethany College Swedes in the charming Swedish-Kansas town of Lindsborg, but they might want to reconsider their grinning mascot “Chief Knock-a-Homa.” The Braves arguably honor the bravery of America’s Indians, but it would be a gesture of respect if the stopped the “Tomahawk Chop” gestures and war cries in the stands. The Chiefs were actually named after machine boss mayor who lured the Dallas Texans to Kansas City, as everyone in town called him “Chief,” but then they added an arrowhead logo to the helmets and fifty-yard line to what is called Arrowhead Stadium, so given the current cultural climate they probably should have gone with the Kansas City Mayors.
A few blocks away from us, just across the Minisa Bridge over the Little Arkansas River, is Wichita North High School, a gorgeous work of architecture adorned with terra cotta decorations depicting Indians. which has been known since its long ago opening as the “Home of the Redskins.” The local board of education has scheduled a public hearing about that, and it should prove interesting. There’s no clamor to change the Indian motifs of either the school or the bridge, which everyone agrees are beautiful and quite respectful, so people are already-talking about something Indian-themed but not at all offensive. One possible name that’s already gaining favor is the North High Keepers, an allusion to the locally beloved “Keeper of the Plains” statue by locally revered artist Blackbear Bosin, which is just downstream at the confluence of the Little Arkansas and Arkansas rivers, where the plains tribes used to meet for pow-wows and political dealing and commerce.
Whatever they decide, we hope everyone will be agreeable about it. North High hasn’t had a good football team since future Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders was in the backfield, and the basketball teams have been lousy since all-time City League scoring champ Conor Frankamp graduated, but it’s a beautiful school with dedicated teachers and mostly Latino and a mostly well-behaved student body, and it’s in the neighborhood, so we root for them when they’re not playing Wichita Heights.
We’d like to think that the rest of country will sort all this agreeably, but we’re not betting on it. There are still hold-outs for the Lost Cause out there, even as the Marines and NASCAR are banishing its most cherished symbol, and many Americans still resist anything that smacks of “political correctness.” We understand the impulse, as “political correctness” does indeed sometimes stifle free and open debate about the complexities of America’s history and its current events, but too many Americans resent any polite public opprobrium against using racial slurs and espousing explicitly racist beliefs.
By no means are all of President Donald Trump’s supporters those sorts of racists, but all of those sorts of racists are Trump supporters, and he did vow to liberate the country from the chains of political correctness. When he somehow got elected while flouting not only “political correctness” but also the most reasonable rules of politeness, it emboldened the worst of his supporters, but they’ve probably been disappointed by the results.
Trump is opposed to the Redskins changing their name, of course. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president believes most Indians will be “very angry” about it, Trump also “tweeted” that “They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names order to be politically correct. Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry now.” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has nothing to do with this, of course, but he can never resist insulting her.
No matter how boldly he flouts both “political correctness” and basic politeness, though, Trump is clearly losing the culture wars. The Confederacy is still polling badly after all these years, with both NASCAR and the state of Missssiippi retiring the Stars and Bars, and most people don’t think that “black lives matter” is hate speech. If the NFL ever gets to play football again league policy will allow players to take a knee in protest against police brutality during the national anthem. Many of America’s top athletes and best teams have declined invitations to the White House, and they’re unafraid to express their opinions.
Deep in his wheeling-and-dealing real estate developer’s black ink heart Trump knows the bottom line reason that Snyder at last agreed to change the name of ‘Skins, and can’t hold it against him. Corporate America is currently aligned with social justice and racial equality and sensitivity to minority groups and all the the rest of that “political correctness,” and we’re sure it’s because their marketing departments have their fingers on the pulse of public opinion and are looking to their bottom lines. Trump would do well to keep that in mind, but he also needs to call of his base intact and enthused come Election Day.

— Bud Norman

How Bad Could It Get?

All of the published opinion polls show President Donald Trump trailing in his race for reelection, and although he claims that his own polling show him with a comfortable lead we believe that’s another o the boastful lies he routinely tells. Down-ballot polling and anecdotal evidence and the way things are going lately suggest that every major news organization including Fox News and every pollster including Rasmussen are not conspiring to mislead the public.
Trump and his die-hard supporters will note that last time around the polls failed to predict his Electoral College victory, but they tend to forget that the polls almost precisely predicted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s 2 percent win of popular vote and the polls in the four states states where Trump eked out victories were all within their margins of error. This time around the national polls have Trump losing by 9 to 14 points, and faring as badly in those battleground states he won in 2016. Worse yet, the state polls also show that some states Republicans have long taken for granted are now battleground states.
According to a poll by commissioned by the Dallas Morning News, Biden even has a five point lead in Texas, which is very bad news for Trump. Texas is by the most populous state the Republican party counts on, and losing it would make Trump’s reelection impossible. The good news is that Biden has only 46 percent of the vote, compared to Trump’s 41 percent, with 14 percent of the electorate in the undecided column, bu that’s not great news. Trump needs to win well over have half of the undecideds just to catch up, and that will require time and money that can’t be spent in other states will need to prevent an electoral landslide.
If current trends continue Trump might be forced to write off the four Rust Belt states that got him elected in 2016, and try to hold on to such once reliably Republican states as Arizona and North Carolina and even Georgia and Kansas, as well as populous and always-competitive Florida and Ohio, where the polls show him in a fight for his life.
Current trends might not continue, of course, but at this point it’s hard to imagine what might reverse them. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations and deaths are climbing steadily nationwide and spiking to new records in Texas and Arizona and Florida, while d public health experts are saying the worst of it might come fwhen lu season arrives in the fall. Economic experts are predicting that unemployment will remain in double digits through the end of the year. Perhaps Trump’s steadfast stand for the Confederacy and crackdowns on peaceful protests against racism might turn things around, and his pardons of convicted felons won’t undermine his “law and order” positions, but so far they’ve only been driving his approval ratings down.
Trump is a master at marketing, if nothing else, and maybe he’l pull something out of his Make America Great Again ball cap. It will need to be something pretty damned good, though.

— Bud Norman

Three Cheers for the GOP’s “Human Scum”

Lately we’ve been binge-watching videos from both the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump, as they make us feel lonely and give us hope that the Republican Party might eventually recover from President Donald Trump.
If you’re not familiar with either organization, you probably will be by Election Day. The Lincoln Project is a political action committee formed by some prominent Never Trump Republicans, including conservative lawyer George Conway, now best known as the husband of senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, former managers of Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaigns Steve Schmidt and John Weaver, former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party Jennifer Horn, and former California Republican Party political director Mike Madrid. Republicans Voting Against Trump is a more grass roots organization posting videos of dozens of disillusioned rank-and-file Republicans explaining the conservative and Republican reasons they’ll be voting against Trump.
Both groups make a more persuasive case against Trump than anything the damn Democrats have come up with so far, and both are a problem for the president.
The well-funded Lincoln Project’s videos are very professionally produced by political professionals who know a thing or two about how to make an effective attack ad and can speak to Republicans in Republican language. Last time around Trump had the advantage of running against spineless Republicans who didn’t want to alienate his supporters during the primary, and then against an inept Democratic nominee whose long history prevented her from exploiting Trump’s moral weakness. This time around he’ll presumably be running against presumptive Democrat nominee “Sleepy” Joe Biden, whose blandness will contrast favorably with Trump’s overly energetic persona, and he’s also got to contend with some bare-knuckle political pugilists who won’t be intimidated by a “tweet.”
All the YouTube views being racked up the Republican Voters Against Trump should be more worrisome. They’re not at all slick, just ordinary-looking Republicans looking into a video camera and stating their reasons for voting against Trump. Most of them have stories about how they’ve been Republicans since Trump was a Democrat, several talk about their military service and careers in law enforcement and their time in public office as Republicans, others talk about their Christian faith and belief that character counts, and none of them come across as “human scum,” as Trump has called any Republicans who don’t support everything says and does. They talk about how Trump has abandoned traditional Republican positions on free trade and maintaining the alliances that have largely kept the world peaceful and prosperous since World War II and lowering federal deficits and telling the truth, and as they rack up thousands of “views” on the internet they’re bound to win over more Republicans.
With coronavirus cases spiking and unemployment at levels not seen since the Great Depression and peaceful protests and the occasional riot popping up around the country because of racial injustice, Trump is betting that his defense of the the lost cause of the Confederacy is the best thing he’s got going for him. That will appeal to a certain segment of supporters, but we can’t see how it will win him any new voters nor appease any of the disillusioned Republican voters who continue to believe in the Grand Old Party’s traditional-since-its-founding pro-Union stance.
Most Republicans still like Trump, which we attribute to the fact he’s the Republican nominee, like it or not, but all the polls show that party support slowly eroding. The Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump likely accelerate that trend, and Trump will be hard-pressed to recruit replacements.

— Bud Norman

Holding Steady in Changing Winds

The state of Mississippi has removed a confederate symbol from its flag, the state of Oklahoma has voted to expand Medicaid coverage, Kansans are mostly willing to go along with mandatory face masks, and the latest polling also shows that such reliably Republican states as Georgia and North Carolina and Texas are up for grabs in the next presidential election. This should be frightening to President Donald Trump, but he’s still stubbornly defending the confederacy, trying to undo “Obamacare” and leave millions uninsured during a pandemic, and refusing to be seen in a face mask.
Trump has an undying faith in his gut instincts about public opinion, which made him a reality television star and somehow got him elected to the presidency despite losing the popular vote by some three million ballots, but his reelection strategy strikes us as counter-intuitive.
If the great state of Mississippi — or “Mississippi Goddamn,” as the great jazz singer Nina Simone called it — is abandoning the confederal cause, and so is the NASCAR stock car racing circuit and the Navy and Marines, we think that at long last the confederacy truly is a lost cause. There seems to be an emerging social consensus that black lives matter, and despite the sporadic violence that’s come of it Trump’s 1968-era “law and order” message isn’t playing well in 2020..
We had our clearly stated ideological objections to “Obamacare” when it barely won congressional approval and was signed into law, and to such big government programs in general, but at the moment even Oklahomans are wanting to expand health insurance to their fellow citizens. Trump promised to not only repeal “Obamacare” but replace it with something that would cover everybody at a greatly reduced cost, but he hasn’t announced it after three and a half years in office, and once again he seems out of step with these crazy times.
We hate wearing face masks as much as the next guy, and will miss the erotic frisson of full facial nudity, but the know-it-all experts say it will help us from getting infected and infecting others, so we’re willing to put up with it for a while. Even here in Kansas most of our fellow live-free-or-die citizens seem to agree, and we think there’s a chance the Democrats might pick up their firste Senate seat since the Great Depression. Trump moved the Republican convention from North Carolina to Florida because of face mask and social distancing rules, but Florida’s seen a very scary spike in coronavirus cases and now has similar rules, and Trump once again seems behind the news cycle.
Trump is still promising that the coronavirus will magically disappear, the economy will once again roar, and that America’s race problems can be “very quickly and easily solved,” but he only has four months to pull that off. Trump’s gut instincts not withstanding, it seems a risky strategy for reelection

— Bud Norman

Trump and the Changing Times

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Donald Trump’s attempts to dismantle President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects an estimated 650,000 “dreamers” who were illegally brought in the country as children from deportation, is itself illegal. If it had happened a few months earlier, we suspect, it would have been a bigger story.
Trump’s promise to rid the country of illegal immigrants by any means necessary helped him win his upset victory in the 2016 election, and had hoped it would help him win reelection, but the issue has lately faded from the news cycle. What with the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic catastrophe and all the protests and occasional riots about racism and police brutality, some 650,000 people who can’t be blamed for being here and have proved that they’re going to school or working at jobs and in many cases helping hospitals cope with the coronavirus don’t seem so scary.
Public opinion polling shows that most Americans — and even most Republicans — are sympathetic to the “dreamers” and not eager to deport them to countries they can’t remember and where they don’t speak the language, so Trump should be glad that the Supreme Court spared him all the heartbreaking stories that would have run in the media about mass deportations of well-scrubbed college kids and military veterans and emergency room workers. The big, beautiful border wall that Trump promised Mexico will pay for has a few hundred miles than American taxpayers have payed for, and drug gangs are sawing holes in it, and when was the last time you saw a story about that?
Instead, after losing a decision a day earlier that ruled it is illegal for employers to fire homosexual and transexual workers because of their homosexuality or transgenderism, Trump “tweeted” out “Do you get the impression the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?” and warned that if he doesn’t get another four years to appoint more justices the Second Amendment would also be threatened by a court of liberals and squishy moderates. That should rile up some of the faithful, but he’d be well advised not to press the “dreamers” issue, as it won’t win him any of the votes he lost time around.
In the wake of the biggest public health crisis since 1918 and the worst economy since the Great Depression and the most unrest in the streets since 1968, several of Trump’s favorite issues seem to have lost their salience. A couple of years ago Trump did well cussing about National Football League players who kneeled during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality, but after a couple of months of endlessly replayed videos showing blatantly racist police brutality the NFL has apologized for banning the protest and the protesters are polling better than Trump. For now, he’s losing the culture wars.
The president continues to defend honorifics to the Confederacy, even as the Marines and the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and even the good ol’ boys at the NASCAR stock racing circuit are banning displays of the Confederate battle flag. His tough-guy “law and order” rhetoric seems to be backfiring as well, with even some skittish Republican politicians criticizing him for using flash grenades and pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse a mostly peaceful protest in Lafayette Square to post for a photo with a Bible in his hand at a nearby church. Most people have become accustomed to having gay and lesbian co-workers, and only a very few know anybody transgendered, too, and most people currently have more pressing problems to worry about, so advocating for mass firings won’t win Trump many new votes.
Although he lost the popular vote by some three million ballots Trump was able to eke out an electoral college victory with an undeniably ingenious ability to discern the cultural climate, but it seems to be failing him this time around. He can order some rather half-hearted police reforms while praising most police officers, and decry racism while promising he can “quickly and easily” end it, but after so many years he’s ill-suited to the role of racial healer. It’s also a bit late for the boastfully pussy-grabbing politician to win back many of the suburban white women who have been abandoning the Republican party in droves, or convince any homosexuals that he’s a “friend of the family,” or win any non-white voters.
At this point Trump needs to make the coronavirus “magically disappear” as long promised, followed quickly by a V-shaped economy recovery like no one’s ever seen before, and hope that everyone’s so happy about it on Election Day they forget his past enthusiasm for Confederate-style racism and police “not being too nice” when arresting suspects. That’s going to be difficult to achieve in the next five months, though, and at the moment Trump is not even trying to pull it off. Instead he’s defying the wishes of local politicians and health officials by holding a crowded indoor rally in Oklahoma despite the past week’s doubling of coronavirus cases in the state, boasting that by moving the date one later he made the “Juneteenth” celebration of black slaves being belatedly emancipated more famous, and doing little about the economy other than signing off on unprecedented deficit spending.
There are a couple of well-regarded polls that correctly predicted the popular vote in the last which now show Trump losing to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 14 points, and the Fox News poll is similarly bleak, and even the Trump-friendly Rasmussen poll has him losing by 11 points. Trump’s instinct is to play to his diminishing base, but in these strange times he’ll likely need a lot more than that.

— Bud Norman

A Truly Lost Cause

One hundred and fifty-five years at Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses Grant at the courthouse in Appomattox, Virginia, the Confederacy is continuing to suffer defeats. Monuments to Confederate soldiers are being removed from public spaces, sometimes at the order of local officials and sometimes because of angry mobs tearing them down, and the Marines and the Navy and even the NASCAR racing circuit have recently banned the display of the Confederate battle flag.
The top military brass also want to change the names off 11 military installations that are for some reason named after Confederate soldiers, but President Donald Trump has declared he won’t even consider it. Trump has also oppose the removal of Confederate statues and monuments, and for a guy who grew up in New York City seems to have a certain affection for the Confederacy.
Perhaps it’s for political reasons, but if so we think it’s a miscalculation. The Confederacy sympathizers among Trump”s voters wouldn’t mind if he declared all the monument controversy a state and local issue he needn’t take sides in, and his stands on behalf of the “Lost Cause” are unlikely to win him any new voters. Most Americans have a very negative opinion of the Confederacy, are glad that it lost the Civil War, and don’t see why men who fought a war against the United States to preserve slavery are being honored.
Perhaps Trump’s defense of the Confederacy is for personal reasons, but we’d hate to think that.

— Bud Norman

The Center Asserts Itself

President Donald Trump specifically denounced the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis and other white supremacists on Monday, with none of the talk about the bigotry and violence of “many sides” that characterized his earlier statement about the deadly events the white supremacists had provoked over the weekend in Virginia, and we suppose it was better late than never. Still, widespread suspicions will likely linger about his sincerity.
No one should suspect that Trump has any affinity for the violent sort of white supremacists who provoked the events in Virginia, but by now no one can trust his commitment to racial equality. Trump’s real estate business has been fined for discrimination against black tenants, he continued calling for the execution of five black teenagers convicted of rape even after scientific evidence had definitively proved their innocence, suggested that judges of hispanic descent were unfit to hear any case he was involved in, “re-tweeted” bogus statistics and racist “memes” from white supremacists web sites, and this weekend wasn’t the first time he was slow to denounce the violent sort of white supremacists who had openly expressed their support of him. The White House chief strategist is Steve Bannon, former editor of a web site he described as a “platform the ‘alt-right,'” other key aides have offered apologetics for the “alt-right,” and if you’re not hep to latest political lingo the “alt-right” is basically white supremacism with pretensions of intellectual respectability.
Our liberal friends would cite Trump’s border enforcement policies, restrictions on travel from some several Muslim-majority countries, and willingness to investigate the affirmative action policies at publicly-funded universities as further evidence of his racism, but except for that stupid wall idea we think there’s a sound conservative case to be made that each of these benefit the country as a whole. Those arguments have to be precisely stated, though, and with due respect to the complicated array of perspectives in such a polyglot country as this, and without any lingering doubts on the part of the listener about the speaker’s sincere commitment to racial equality. Trump, alas, seems the wrong guy for a job with those particular requirements.
Which is not good for the country at large, and as straight white conservative male Republicans out here in the heartland we’re bearing some small part of the burden. We’re “Bleeding Kansas” Republicans, whose political forebears signed up in record numbers to fight the Confederacy and the Nazis, whose flags those white supremacist idiots in Virginia were waving, and for years we’ve struggled to convince others on that complicated array of perspectives that our commonsensical views on taxation and regulation and defense spending all the rest of it are not tainted by association with those noxious causes. Trump’s delayed denunciation of the KKK and neo-Nazis, and continuing silence about the re-branded white supremacism of the “alt-right” elements that are still next door to the Oval Office, do not make our task any easier.
Nor do Trump’s apologists further the conservative Republican cause. Some of the first punches that were thrown when those white supremacists gather in Virginia came from counter-protestors, to be sure, but others just as surely thrown were thrown by the armored-and-armed protestors who started the whole mess, and it did turn out to a white supremacist who is charged with ramming his car into a crowd of protestors and killing an especially non-violent counter-protestor, and it was not a time to be equally condemning of “many sides.” There have indeed been far too many case of similarly unprovoked violence by the worst elements of the left, including assaults on people leaving Trump rallies, which the left is indeed not similarly condemned for, but the aftermath of a deadly melee that started with a bunch of armored-and-armed white supremacists invading a picturesque college town is not the right time to be making that argument.
Most of the Republican party, at least, moved quicker and convincingly to disassociate themselves from the KKK and neo-Nazism. Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz is widely vilified by the left as an extremist conservative, but he went to “Twitter” shortly after the deaths to denounce the racism that clearly the cause of the tragedy, and it vindicated our vote for him the Kansas Republican caucus. The party’s congressional leaders and the Vice President and the president’s favorite daughter were also well ahead of him in singling out the KKK and neo-Nazis for condemnation, as were the more respectable quarters of the conservative print media. The comments sections were full of people still fuming about the past violence by the sleazier segments of the left, along with all the usual conspiracy theories about George Soros and Jewish cabals paying for it all, but the mainstream Republican reaction was enough to prompt Trump’s more specific remarks on Monday.
So for now the center holds, and the news will likely soon return to North Korea and that Russia thing, with a difficult debt ceiling fight in Congress quickly coming up, but those stories probably won’t be helpful, and Trump and such Trump-wary Republicans as ourselves will be diminished. The KKK and neo-Nazi story grew another day’s new pair of legs when the chairman of the giant Merck pharmacy corporation, one of the very few black Fortune 500 chief executive officers, resigned his post on a White House advisory council in protest of Trump’s initial statement, and Trump “tweeted” back a petty insult about the company’s “ripoff” drug prices, so that also doesn’t help the free market conservative cause.
Trump’s specific denunciation of white supremacism is better late than never, though, and a hopeful sign that the center will somehow hold. Nudging the country’s path slightly to the rightward direction we’d prefer, though, won’t be any easier.

— Bud Norman