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Among the more curious and revealing remonstrations from the Cultural Left in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election is its deeming the victory of Donald Trump to be “not normal.” Curious because progressives project great concern over shielding individuals from the wrath of a paternalistic society that would impose on everyone its heteronormative (and many other) norms rather than “celebrating diversity”; revealing because it suggests that progressives are actually more concerned with replacing society’s norms with norms of their own.
The totalitarian streak on the Left is universal, as is the contempt with which it holds anyone who strays from its current orthodoxy. Consider the loathing expressed by Remainers for the majority of UK electorate who voted to exit the European Union in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. It is in the same vein as Hillary Clinton’s disparaging “deplorable” comment about Trump voters or Obama’s slicker-than-thou dismissiveness for voters who “cling to guns or religion.”
In all three instances the political establishment — left-of-center virtually by default — performs a switcheroo and then proceeds to lambast anyone who refuses to take their eyes off the pea. From the Democrats’ Russian meddling meme to Labour’s “soft Brexit” — whatever that means — progressive rhetoric suggests that in a sane world, un-woke voters should be subject to the kind of Three-Fifths Compromise applied to American slaves during the Constitutional Convention.
The case of Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Andrew Villanueva provides a typical example of the near hegemony of the political left in American culture and its remarkable ability to get everybody onboard. Last Sunday, Villenueva was the only member of the Steelers to walk out of the tunnel before Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears and hold his hand over his heart while the national anthem played. According to USA Today, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told CBS prior to kickoff that the team would not take the field for the anthem in order to remain unified despite disparate opinions on Trump and the practice of silent protest prior to NFL games. “Whatever we do we’re going to do 100 percent, we’re going to do together,” said Tomlin. “We’re not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda.”
So there we have it: yesterday’s norm — standing for the national anthem — is now deemed the purview of “divisive individuals.” (Notice also that in attempting to defend his actions, Coach Tomlin borrows from the prestige of the US Marine Corps and its motto semper fidelis: “always faithful.”) Such a non sequitur would be rightly viewed as risible when coming from a conservative — imagine for a moment a politician rallying around traditional marriage in the name of national unity — but consensus enforcers like Tomlin are prevalent wherever the Left dominates, from academia to the climate studies. It’s this so-called “divisiveness” — really the failure of everyone to get onboard with the progressive agenda — that inevitably brings around optics-oriented establishment Republicans like Jeb Bush and John McCain on issues as varied as political speech and immigration.
Villanueva, a former Army Ranger with multiple deployments to Afghanistan, is learning that fighting the Taliban is child’s play compared to standing up to the Cultural Left. In apologizing for standing for the national anthem, the offensive tackle explained that what was mistaken for standing on principal was, in fact, all a big misunderstanding or something.
Liberals instinctively attempt to make the kneeling issue about rights — a strawman argument if there ever was one, as denying anyone the right to kneel during the national anthem. It is not the normative conservative position but that’s where liberals feel most comfortable, hence the framing of the issue as one of rights. Ask a progressive about the rightness of kneeling during the national anthem, however, and see how quickly the conversation turns to Russian meddling.
The debate over same-sex marriage was another example of progressive normalization. Recall that before Biden out-embraced Obama on the issue that the latter explained his concerns over same-sex marriage, almost as if by apology, by explaining that “God is in the mix.” Obama, though, grew demonstratively grateful when Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy came into that mix, as he also did when Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts saved Obamacare by deeming the individual mandate a tax — in contradiction to Obama’s strident claims to the contrary.
Alejandro Villanueva may indeed be deemed, like John McCain, a useful maverick: immensely respected for his sacrifice to his country and thereby useful to the Cultural Left so long as he caves on issues important to progressives. The Left is in thrall to narrative more than truth, and the narrative of a former Army Ranger refusing to stand for the national anthem may prove irresistible. For that one, we’ll have to stay tuned. Many Americans won’t.