The Democrats appear to have given up on their long-anticipated “blue wave.” This was the wave of sound and fury that was to sweep out everything before it. The wave, alas, is still on the far horizon, if that’s not merely a mirage of whine and wail, and the Democrats are left with only manufactured hysteria.
They’ve done well in their primaries, with Democrats bashing Democrats with gay abandon. They’ve forgotten there’s a difference between intramural and varsity sports. Varsity politics is neither Mr. Dooley’s bean-bag nor a frightened mother’s soccer.
The rest of Mr. Dooley’s famous observation bears repeating to show how the rules of politics have changed: “Sure, politics ain’t bean-bag,” he wrote a century ago. “‘Tis a man’s game, an’ women, childern, cripples an’ prohybitionists’d do well to keep out of it.”
The intramural Democrats have given up their old base and America as we have all known it since the creation, and linked their fortunes this year to those who think the America of Washington, Lincoln, FDR and Reagan is past the sell-by date, that only an infusion of ideals and values of a European welfare state can make the nation worthy of Maxine Waters and Colin Kaepernick. And of course of Pocahontas, too. We must not forget Pocahontas and her dream of a Pocahontas-Maxine ticket in 2020 to harness the power of undiluted estrogen to restore the party’s fortunes.
Kaepernickia, the flame that will not die, was thought to have gone out over spring and summer, when the National Football League in a burst of manly certainty told the players with a weakness for falling on their knees that the owners and not the players were running the show. The NFL said it would assess fines against clubs that enabled players to kneel on the sidelines during the playing of the national anthem.
Now the league says hey, just kidding, and in the interests of healing the players will get another year to assuage their pain and rub strong medicine on their wounded feelings. The owners had earlier even been willing to allow troubled players to wait in the locker rooms with Midol and smelling salts close at hand while everyone else in the stadium was standing and trying to remember the words set to the tune of that great Welsh drinking song.
The price of the stock shares of Nike, the athletic shoe manufacturer that now runs not only the NFL but the NCAA, too, took a dive after Nike hired Colin Kaepernick to be the face of its marketing. The price of Nike shares fell an astonishing 34 points in a single day. Nike is not only one of the top-selling shoes but the most-often stolen athletic shoe as well. The Nike shoe you see on the feet of the gentleman ahead of you in the supermarket check-out line may not belong to him. Nike stands by them all.
But the Democrats snuggling up to Nike and Colin Kaepernick, who actually hadn’t enjoyed a wet knee in two seasons, might be a risky gamble for Nike. A lot of Americans who vote may not share Nike’s enthusiasm for associating with someone eager to display contempt for the flag, the national anthem and the symbols of America. The NFL owners recognize the risk, but decided they had rather switch than fight, and threw in with the players instead of their fans and ticket-holders.
Columnist David Leonhardt of The New York Times calls lining up with the owners and players against the anthem “a trap for Democrats.” If so, both owners and players can be sure that Donald Trump will exploit that trap in behalf of campaigning Republicans. The president has demonstrated that he knows a thing or two about exploiting grievances.
Mr. Kaepernick’s original protest was something new and different. He was offended by the cruelty of a handful of cops, and decided it could be sold as the behavior of hundreds of thousands of policemen everywhere. This was quickly transformed by Kaepernick followers as proof that America was dirty and undeserving of anyone’s love and loyalty.
Martin Luther King, recognized now as everybody’s hero, called his great crusade “deeply rooted in the American dream,” and called on Americans to live up to their ideals. If that was ever Colin Kaepernick’s aim it was lost in a crusade for the interests of a washed-up quarterback who merely wants to squeeze out a few more minutes on somebody’s sidelines.
A single owner could put an end to this spectacle by giving the washed-up quarterback one last shot, and see if he’s still as good as he says he is. No owner is that brave or that foolish. Football is a business first.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.