Betsy Ross Flag
Betsy Ross Flag

AL GOP Rep. Mo Brooks’ latest swim in the toxic swamp of petty politics occurred this last week when he said that former NFL quarterback and activist Colin Kaepernick ought to move to another country for speaking out against Nike for marketing a pair of shoes that featured the Betsy Ross Flag. In my opinion and in the interest of transparency, I personally believe Kaepernick was being ridiculous when he criticized Nike by claiming that displaying the Betsy Ross flag on a pair of sneakers celebrated an American history that was steeped in racism. Yet, Mo found a way to take petty and make it downright absurd and obnoxious.

There are so many things right now to speak out against! Is the Betsy Ross flag really that offensive? Maybe, I’m not on the right Twitter feeds but, I just haven’t seen that flag historically equated with racism like I’ve seen the Confederate flag or other obvious symbols of hate. Also, by Kaepernik’s logic, it would be virtually impossible to display almost any piece of Americana without offending a group that was oppressed or denied their civil rights. Not to mention, Trump’s doing it right now with every utterance, executive appointment, and policy!

Yet, Mo Brooks double-downed on stupid when he said to the hyper-partisan, conservative rag, Breitbart, “We’ve got some very radical people in the United States of America who don’t like America. They don’t like the foundational principles that have made us a great nation, and I would put Mr. Kaepernick in that category.”

No, Mo.

The greatest, and arguably, most intrinsic, foundational principal of the United States of America, is the guaranteed freedom to be able to voice political dissent, especially against the government and especially when it’s unpopular. Look, I’d never burn an American flag, but I believe in the right for people to do just that as part of the protections guaranteed in our First Amendment.

Of course, Mo Brooks and his red meat-slinging brother, Senate Leader Mitch McConnel, took a predictable shot at Kaepernik over his comments. It’s because the politics of petty is all they’ve really got. An egregious example of their partisan pettiness: after years of vehemently opposing deficits, they both voted for Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy, but now they find themselves suddenly and inexplicably mute as the nation’s deficit has exploded to a record-breaking increase of 72% in just two and a half years.

Regrettably, this type of comment or behavior is typical for Mo Brooks. Whether it is his delusional claim that rocks falling in the ocean increases sea levels, or threatening anything short of shooting immigrants, Alabama can count on Brooks to say something embarrassing or stupid that draws national scorn or derision about every six months. Brooks has learned that petty politics keeps his name in the news cycle. He knows it distracts from his abysmal record and the fact that he hasn’t done much of squat for his constituents. He keeps his base happy and blissfully ignorant by feeding them petty partisan potluck from a long-handled spoon.

If we truly want to improve our nation, we’ve got to get rid of petty politicians like Mo Brooks. From his record, it’s obvious that he’s simply a one trick pony that’s figured out nothing more than expertly regurgitating extremist right-wing talking points. What’s his legacy? What has he actually accomplished?

Whether it’s repeat offenders like Mo or hyper-partisans, new to politics on either side of the aisle, we’ve got to reject the petty politics du jour. Our nation is at an existential crossroads. Our politicians need to be figuring out what do about wealth disparity and healthcare; not grandstanding and jabbering about Betsy Ross and over-priced sneakers.

Clete Wetli
Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.