Caitlin Johnstone

Trump’s Response to the NFL Taking a Knee Is a Sleight of Hand

The current discussion swirls around Donald Trump’s volcanic criticism of athletes disrespecting the flag. However, I contend that there’s something deeper at play. 


It baffles me how some people can continue to say that Donald Trump is politically inept and doesn’t understand how Washington works. He crushed both the Bush and Clinton dynasties on his path to election, he’s got a significant and heavily-armed support base willing to literally fight and die for him if he’s ever impeached, and his ability to use wedge issues to manipulate support puts even David Brock to shame. His political bullshitting IQ is off the charts.

He was born for this.

wedge issue is a heavily politicized topic emphasized with the goal of splitting a sector of the population and rendering them politically impotent. While wedge politics can sometimes be used by political parties to try and sow division within a rival party, in America, it’s far more common to see them used to neuter anti-establishment sentiment within both parties simultaneously.

Donald Trump does not give a shit about whether or not anyone stands, kneels, sits, or urinates on the American flag, and neither do any of his plutocratic allies. What they care about is and always has been power, and by rallying the masses into a debate along establishment-dictated partisan lines, they help ensure that they keep that going. As a result of Trump’s deliberately inflammatory tweets, anti-establishment conservatives who’ve been critical of his healthcare failures and perpetuation of Obama’s corporatist and interventionist policies are standing on his side, angrily shaking their fists at their unpatriotic enemies.

And, as always, the GOP’s pretend opponents are doing the exact same thing, rallying anti-establishment leftists against Trump’s incendiary remarks and hopefully shepherding them into the partisan box they’re meant to remain in. The Democratic party, who was completely worthless throughout eight years of Obama in fighting the militarized police brutality that Colin Kaepernick and his supporters have been protesting, is now fanatically rallying behind viral hashtags and quotable talking points against the president’s remarks.


My goal here is only to point out that manipulation is happening, not to discourage people from protesting the draconian abuses of America’s increasingly militarized police force. Please do protest these things loudly and aggressively — but don’t do it because of Trump. Making it about Trump means entering into the same establishment partisan bullshit that saw this epidemic go completely unaddressed throughout Obama’s two terms. You might be saying some of the same things as the Democratic establishment loyalists, but please be acutely aware at all times that these people are not your friends and they will not help you.

The lesson? Don’t be a partisan hack. None of the people controlling either of America’s two major parties has ever really cared about the populace. They use wedge politics to keep you fighting one another about nonsense like how much respect should be accorded to a piece of cloth while expanding the police state, expanding the military budget of their neoconservative war campaigns, bolstering the oppressive neoliberal Walmart economy that is choking America to death, and expanding their Orwellian surveillance system. The more they can rally you along partisan lines against a fake enemy they’ve manufactured themselves, the longer they can keep you from turning and facing the real enemy.


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