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Trump’s new culture war sounds a lot like his old one

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

President Donald Trump likes to call himself a fighter. That’s true, although he tends to show it by taking on easy targets, whether he needs to or not.

For example, on Monday after the Fourth of July weekend — as surging COVID-19 cases began to pack hospitals across the country, especially in Texas, California and Florida — the president tapped out a long tweet against … Bubba Wallace.

“Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him,” Trump tweeted, “only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”

As they like to say in Washington, there’s a lot to unpack there.

Yes, 26-year-old Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, a graduate of NASCAR’S Drive for Diversity program, also happens to be the only African American currently racing in the organization’s top level.

Known to display “Black Lives Matter” on his car, Wallace was instrumental in NASCAR’s banning the Confederate flag from its races. His crew found a noose in his garage June 21 at the Talladega Speedway in Alabama, but an FBI inquiry determined later that no federal crime had been committed.

 

Nevertheless, Trump called the rope story a “hoax” and suggested that Wallace should apologize. But for what? Wallace didn’t call the FBI. NASCAR did. Wallace didn’t even see the noose in question. But this president seldom has let facts get in the way of a catchy tweet.

And as far as Trump was concerned, Wallace makes a perfect symbol of the culture war he has been trying to wage to save his failing — if you believe the polls — reelection campaign.

With its mostly white, male and historically Southern-based demographics, NASCAR is perceived to be ideal Trump country. But, like most businesses, NASCAR wants to widen its appeal. That’s why Wallace suggested it would help NASCAR’s appeal if the organization banned flags from the side of the Civil War that fought for slavery.

Which brings us to Trump’s parting shot at NASCAR’s “lowest ratings ever.” Quite the opposite, every NASCAR race on Fox Sports since the flag ban on June 10 except for the Talladega race on June 22 has rated higher than the equivalent race a year before, according to Fox Sports executive vice president Michael Mulvihill.

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(c) 2020 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
 

 

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