Washington head coach Mike Shanahan and rookie phenom Robert Griffin III. (Flickr/Keith Allison)
Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize–winning liberal political columnist, wrote that he knows who is to blame for Washington Redskins superstar quarterback Robert Griffin III’s horrific knee injury. He has seen the culprit and it is us. Reaching for a cliché with more age than the jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner, Robinson writes, “If you are a football fan and are appalled by what happened Sunday and want to find someone to blame, look in the mirror.”
At first I shrugged off this analysis as a top columnist venturing out of his comfort zone to discuss a topic that had all of Washington buzzing, and falling flat. But Robinson’s analysis actually reveals more than the liberal lion intended. It may say little about how RGIII was hurt, but it says so much about the Washington consensus liberalism that Robinson so ably represents.
There was a time when progressives, as a point of principle, made an effort to side with the people against the tyrannical and corrupt. The best of Bob Herbert, Jimmy Breslin or Molly Ivins always makes clear that the fish rots from the head and that the Beltway wisdom that “you get the government you deserve” served only to shield those in positions of power. But times have changed. Now, if you criticize President Barack Obama, if you say that armed drones and kill-lists shouldn’t be part of US foreign policy, or that a negotiated austerity is nothing to cheer, or criticize anyone but Republicans, twenty-first-century liberals like Robinson see their role as blaming you for hobbling the president, weakening his hand and making the situation worse.
This shift of liberalism’s focus is seen so clearly in Robinson’s analysis of what happened to RGIII last Sunday. Robinson writes that the transcendent rookie was injured because “it is the fans—in the stands and in front of their television sets—who have made football our national sport. Risk and injury are not just a part of the game, they are at its heart.” This analysis might seem to make sense to some on the face of it, but it’s really just hot air that actually obscures the role that powerful people played in making RGIII’s injury an inevitability.