NASCAR Nation launched itself into a downright tizzy today, after NASCAR Chairman Brian France and four of the sport’s most popular drivers endorsed Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally in Valdosta, Ga., Monday.
Accompanied by Sprint Cup Series drivers Ryan Newman, David Ragan and Chase Elliott, along with NASCAR Hall Of Famer Bill Elliott, France expressed support for the Republican frontrunner, saying Trump “wins with his family. Any of his children, you’d be proud of have them as part of your family. That’s how I judge a winner, how somebody manages their family and raises their family.”
Bill Elliott told the capacity crowd, “what (Trump) can do for our country, I’m all for it. We need a change, guys. That’s all there is to it. And I think this is the man for the job.”
Chase Elliott called Trump “a great man,” adding, “I think he’s a guy who can do some great things for us.”
Trump welcomed those endorsements, saying, “If the people that like and watch NASCAR vote for Donald Trump, they can cancel the election right now. Nobody else can win. Nobody.”
The Trump campaign quickly – and incorrectly -- characterized France’s words as an endorsement of their candidate by NASCAR itself. It’s not the first time a politician has spun the truth to suit his or her needs, and it almost certainly won’t be the last.
|Brian France is a Trump Man.|
Politics have always been shaky ground for public discourse. Emotions run high during any political campaign, particularly one conducted in pursuit of the highest office in the land. A 2015 campaign season riddled with name-calling, invective, character assassination and half-truths has done little to raise the bar.
Personally, I could care less who Brian France – or anyone else – supports in the upcoming presidential election. I am far more likely to vote for a candidate based on his/her actual record than a public endorsement; whether it be from a newspaper publisher, television pundit, Hollywood actor or sports figure.
My sainted mother will testify to my lifelong aversion to being told what to do. I am perfectly capable of making my own decisions, without any input at all from Arnold Schwarzenegger or Michael Moore. With that said, however, there are a few undeniable facts that should be stated, as concerns Monday’s endorsements.
First, Monday's endorsement was not the first time a member of the France family has come out -- loud and proud -- in favor of a conservative Republican candidate. Ronald Reagan didn't show up at Daytona International Speedway for Richard Petty's 200th win on a whim, you know. He was invited by Brian France's father, Bill Jr.
With decades of past history as a guide, it should be no surprise to see Brian France endorse Donald Trump.
Second, and more importantly, France, Newman, Ragan and the Elliotts have every right to endorse any political candidate they choose. They can do so privately – with an anonymous vote on Election Day – or
publically, as France and company chose to do on Monday. They are guaranteed
that right as American citizens, as are we all.
|Bill Elliott is also on board.|
Used to be, people were admired for their political activism, and for caring enough to take a stand. These days, however, politics have been overrun by hate mongers, Negative Nellies and mudslingers, to the point where taking a stand – for any candidate, regardless of party – no longer seems like the civilized thing to do.
Most of us don’t even bother to vote anymore, preferring instead to wait for things to go wrong in Washington, as they always do, then complain.
Brian France did not speak for NASCAR Nation Monday, he spoke only for himself. As CEO of the sanctioning body, he understands that NASCAR is a diverse community, comprised of all sorts of individuals. We are Republicans and Democrats, conservative and liberal, male and female, rich and poor. We are white, black, yellow and brown; gay and straight with a wide array of strong opinions on virtually every topic. We speak with a million voices and no one – most certainly Brian France – is arrogant enough to believe they can speak on all our behalves.
NASCAR is millions, Brian France is one. And I think he knows that.
NASCAR drivers spend half their lives festooned with sponsor logos. And yet, at last night’s rally, you saw not a single corporate or NASCAR logo; other than Trump’s omnipresent campaign signage. That’s a pretty clear indicator that France and company knew who they were representing. Not their sanctioning body, not their sponsors, their teams or their fans.
They represented only themselves, which is exactly as it should be.
Like any candidate, I’m sure Donald Trump would love to have every NASCAR fan’s vote. That’s unlikely, of course, due to the sport's aforementioned political diversity. Some fans may be influenced in Trump’s direction by the recent words of NASCAR’s CEO, or its 16-time Most Popular Driver. Others may be pushed in exactly the opposite direction, which is also fine.
No matter how you feel about Brian France's personal politics, you should support his right to speak.
I have no idea who I will vote for on Election Day. Count me among the vast "Undecided Party," still searching for a candidate who doesn't make my skin crawl at least 50% of the time. When the time comes to cast my vote, it likely will not be for Donald Trump. But I support the right of Brian France -- and anyone else for that matter -- to vote their conscience, just as I will eventually vote mine.
You should, too.