Patrick Grieve
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NASCAR CEO Brian France Endorses Donald Trump Explicitly, Downfall of Western Civilization Implicitly

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NASCAR CEO Brian France endorses Donald Trump at a rally in Georgia

Last night, during a Super Tuesday Eve rally at Georgia’s Valdosta State University, NASCAR CEO Brian France publicly endorsed Donald Trump for president of the United States. France was joined onstage by Hall of Fame racer Bill Elliot, Chevy drivers Ryan Newman and Chase Elliot, and Toyota driver David Ragan (whom Trump referred to as “David Lee Regan,” perhaps confusing him with Van Halen’s original lead singer).

The revolution was televised:

So, a couple things… First off—wait, the CEO of NASCAR is named “France”? He didn’t change it to “Freedom Fries” or something like that during the invasion of Iraq?

And secondly—what the hell, France?

Brian France is the grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. and the current Chief Executive Officer of the automotive racing company. Or, as Trump so eloquently phrased it, “the owner of the whole deal, the big guy.”

Like Trump, France was born into his success, and would have good reason to fear for his job security if not for the fact that he inherited the family business (NASCAR has been hemorrhaging fans and corporate sponsorships since France took over for his father in the early 2000s, just like Trump has been embarrassed by multiple bankruptcy filings and fraud accusations throughout his career as a real estate mogul).

I would guess then that France, somewhat understandably, must view Trump as a kindred spirit. After all, both of them are currently on their third trophy wife, although Trump’s first two unions had a longer lifespan than France’s pair of brief three-year marriages. So when France says he admires the way Trump “wins with his family,” he presumably means the way that “The Donald” always wins custody of his children each time he divorces.

Though Trump thinks that “if the people that like and watch NASCAR vote for Donald Trump, they can cancel the election right now,” only about 7% of Americans list automotive racing as their favorite sport, so this endorsement probably won’t make or break him during today’s Super Tuesday primaries. But like every endorsement Trump nets from a prominent politician, celebrity, or businessman, it is undeniably troubling, if only for the way it creates the impression that Donald Trump is a viable candidate for president of the United States, let alone a man deserving of respect.

Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr.—yet another guy who owes his fame and success to his father—endorsed Trump in January of this year. In doing so, he shored up support for Trump among evangelicals, a voting bloc that should detest him for his transparently disingenuous statements of faith. (At a Christian conservative conference in Iowa, Trump admitted that he never prays to God for forgiveness, but noted that, “when I drink my little wine—which is about the only wine I drink—and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed.”) Jesus should have ended his famous quote about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God with the qualifier, “wouldn’t be shocked if he was able to win Nevada, though.”

New Jersey governor and indiscreet radio host briber Chris Christie, who ended his own struggling campaign in February and just recently threw his support behind Trump, makes for an even stranger Trump surrogate. At the height of his powers, Christie was touted as a popular Republican governor of a blue state who pundits thought could appeal to moderates in a presidential election, though at the risk of alienating the party’s fringe element. He also sometimes yelled at reporters and opponents and/or called them dumb, which was considered a refreshingly brash example of “tellin’ it like it is,” though seems relatively quaint in the Age of Trump.

When Christie appointed a Muslim superior court judge named Sohail Mohammed in 2011, he (correctly) identified criticisms of Mohammed as being purely xenophobic. “I’m tired of dealing with the crazies,” he said, referring to conspiracy theorists who though Mohammed was looking to implement Sharia law, and added that, “it’s just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background.”

Just five short years ago, Christie would never have peddled a false rumor about Muslim Americans in his own state celebrating the fall of the World Trade Center, nor would he have proposed an unconstitutional ban on all Muslims entering the United States. 2011 Christie would have known such statements to be 1. unambiguously bigoted, and 2. political suicide. And while 2016 Christie still knows the former to be true, he is now so uncertain of the latter that he’s willing to publicly endorse a man that has made such inflammatory remarks. Chris Christie is not just back to dealing with the crazies; he’s joined their ranks on the off chance that it will net him a cabinet position should the horrifying specter of a Trump presidency ever become reality. The cravenly cynical nature of Christie’s support for Trump was made abundantly clear during a recent, embarrassingly awkward interview on This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

How many other politicians share Christie’s cold, calculating desperation, and will eventually join him in supporting a man they recognize as certifiably insane? So far, at least one prominent US senator, Jeff Sessions, and two governors: Christie and Maine’s own Paul LePage, who endorsed Trump just six days after he reportedly gave a speech to a group of fellow Republican governors in which he urged them to… disavow Donald Trump.

I’m not saying that any of these people, from Bill Elliot to Chris Christie, have a lot of clout or influence, necessarily. But if someone is gullible enough to consider Trump a capable Commander in Chief because of his supposed business acumen, surely they are naive enough to think that the public support of successful politicians and titans of industry strengthens his case. So Trump’s coalition of high profile endorsements, which ranges from the brazenly opportunistic (Chris Christie and Paul LePage) to the legitimately stupid (Aaron Carter and, yeah, probably most of these NASCAR dudes), continues to grow, and Trump’s credibility in the eyes of certain voters grows right along with it. And as these supporters legitimize his political campaign, they also legitimize his war on civility.

What is upsetting about Brian France’s love of Trump is not that it exists, but that he feels comfortable talking about it in public. I am sure there are many powerful CEOs who hold unpalatable beliefs, but most of them at least have the good sense to employ a public relations department to ensure that their brand can never be associated with anything controversial. That’s why if Chase Elliott casually mentioned during a post-race interview that John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured by the Viet Cong, NAPA Auto Parts would rightfully pull their sponsorship of his racing team. There’d be a similar backlash if Ryan Newman referred to Mexicans as rapists, or if David Ragan said he thought Muslims should be barred from coming to America.

And there was a time, not so long ago, when NASCAR was acutely aware of this fact. In spite (or maybe because) of its redneck image, NASCAR took some modestly progressive stances in the last year, including asking fans to please stop bringing confederate flag imagery to races.

When I went to the Brickyard 400 last summer, I still saw someone wearing a rebel flag t-shirt that read “Heritage Not Hate” (which, hey guy, it can be two things!), but at least his misguided defense of the stars and bars acknowledged that race-hate is, you know, a bad thing. Plus, I could still remember going to the Brickyard 400 when I was a kid and seeing a guy at the urinal wearing a t-shirt that grossly parodied gay rights/breakfast cereals with the slogan “Silly F*****t, D***s Are For Chicks,” and I consider confederate flag apologism a marginal improvement over homophobic slurs. So at the time, I took it as a small sign that polite society was becoming politer, which seemed like a good thing.

One of NASCAR’s other attempts at damage control last year? Cancelling a postseason banquet that was supposed to take place at the Trump National Doral Miami back in July, due to the racist statements Trump made about Mexican immigrants in his campaign announcement speech. But now, the company’s CEO is publicly endorsing Trump, whose penchant for spouting racist/sexist/dumbass things has only become more pronounced in the past eight months. This strikes me as a sign that polite society is becoming less polite, which seems like a bad thing.

“You know, we are living in a society,” amateur philosopher George Costanza once ranted. “We’re supposed to act in a civilized way!”

In that particular episode, Costanza was referring to a woman who cut him in line while he was waiting to use a payphone. That scene has been rendered a bit dated by the advent of smartphones, but the overall sentiment still rings truer than ever, thanks to Trump and his obscenely anti-social behavior, and people like France who make that behavior seem socially acceptable.

If a woman criticizes Trump, he calls her a fat pig or a dog. If another woman astutely identifies that rhetoric as sexist, he suggests she is simply beholden to her menstrual cycle. If a rival female candidate upsets him, he questions how anyone could vote for a woman “with that face.” If a rival male candidate upsets him, he labels that man a “p***y” during a stump speech. If a New York Times reporter calls him out on one of his many lies, he mocks the journalist’s arthrogryposis. If he is praised by a world leader suspected of murdering journalists and other political opponents, he returns the compliment. If he is praised by the grand wizard of the KKK, he refuses to disavow the endorsement until he “knows more” about the group. If he retweets a white supremacist supporter or quotes a long-dead dictator, he remains defiantly unapologetic for his actions.

This is flagrant racism, sexism, ableism, fascism, and tackiness that should repulse the electorate, but instead endears Trump to a sizable portion of them, and that is profoundly upsetting.

So how is Marco Rubio now combating Trump? By stealing his not-so-secret weapon—shameless vulgarity.

At a recent event, Rubio dished about the behind-the-scenes drama of the last Republican debate, saying that Trump asked for a full-length mirror backstage, “maybe to make sure his pants weren’t wet.” He also poked fun at Trump’s stubby fingers, joking, “You know what they say about men with small hands,” which prompted big laughs from the Married With Children studio audience that apparently makes up his base of supporters.

Yes, Marco Rubio is intimating that Donald Trump has a small penis, and that in rare moments of stage fright, he soils himself with it. That is the joke here. And it is being told not by the opening act at a low-rent comedy club, but by the “most electable” Republican candidate left.

And it makes sense, in a sad way. After all, the only logical conclusion to this absurd primary race is a literal pissing contest.

I can envision it now: With their backs to the camera, Trump and Rubio will stand on stage and take turns relieving themselves onto one of those novelty Hillary Clinton urinal cakes, challenging one another to see who possesses the truest aim and the strongest stream.

Though it will be an undeniably distasteful affair, Wolf Blitzer will gladly act as the event’s moderator/bathroom attendant, because CNN is thirsty for ratings. Chris Christie will appear on Meet the Press the next morning to spin Trump’s performance as presidential, because Christie is thirsty for political connections. NASCAR CEO Brian France will agree with Christie’s analysis as he sips a cold and refreshing Coors Light, because France is thirsty for the official beer of NASCAR. American society will be riveted by the whole surreal spectacle, because we are thirsty for political theater that doubles as trashy entertainment, even though we’re already way past drunk on it by this point.

I suspect that by the time we eventually sober up, we’ll have one hell of a collective hangover, and an unshakeable sense of embarrassment over the way we acted. If we ever sober up, that is.