House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer are threatening to impeach President Trump if Vice President Pence and the cabinet don’t force him out of office with the 25th Amendment.
They are looking for “unity” or peace.
They are tossing gasoline on a fire that will go out if they and the rest of the radical left will shut up and stop treating the 73 million people who voted for Trump as enemies.
A since-deleted tweet indicated that some of those emboldened by Joe Biden’s “victory” are now eager to redouble the effort to suppress the public celebration of Christmas. “Philanthropy professional” Jen Bokoff, awarded a blue checkmark by Twitter, tweeted shortly before Christmas: “This is your annual reminder that not everyone celebrates Christmas. The default to ‘Merry Christmas’ as a normal greeting is also white supremacy culture at work. If someone celebrates, by all means. But so many don’t.”
Shortly after Christmas the person the Washington Post once promoted as, I kid you not, its conservative representative, Jennifer Rubin used her Blue Checkmark to write something very similar:
As The Post’s Dan Balz writes, “For Trump supporters, cultural preservation of an America long dominated by a White, Christian majority remains a cornerstone of their beliefs.” That is the definition of white supremacy.
Linking Christmas or voting for Trump or anything else to “White Supremacy” in America 2021 cannot be seen as anything other than an attempt to suppress whatever is being linked.
Branding Christmas as a manifestation of “white supremacy culture” is a hard sell, since Christmas is celebrated by people of all races in America, not just whites.
Nor is “cultural preservation of an America long dominated by a White, Christian majority” the “definition of White supremacy.” “White supremacy” is in fact defined by things like de jure segregation, eugenic laws, and limiting the franchise to whites, none of which have been present in America for a very long time. What Rubin means by “White Supremacy” is, obviously, whites.
A nation’s desire to preserve its culture is simply normal and natural and part of what countries everywhere seek to do. Presumably there is no real objection, even at the Washington Post, to India seeking to preserve Indian culture, China seeking to preserve Chinese culture, Japan seeking to preserve Japanese culture, and Israel seeking to preserve Jewish culture—just as there is no real objection to public celebrations of Chinese New Year, Diwali, Bodhi Day, Hanukkah, or any other holiday that can be discovered, promoted, or invented to water down the public celebration of Christmas.
As I have argued since 2001, multiculturalism is at the heart of the contemporary assault on Christmas. And as I have also argued since 2001, the best way to defend Christmas is to insist on the excellence of the culture of which it is a part, an excellence that is appreciated by all the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans who have embraced Western classical music, all the people from all manner of cultures who flock to see the great Western cathedrals and basilicas and were shocked by the fire at Notre Dame (still unexplained), and even all the people who choose to live in countries dominated by “a White, Christian majority” when so many other options are available to them.
Angry tweets from Blue Checks are not the only way to undermine Christmas and the broader culture that created a multifaceted celebration to mark the birth of Christ. We can also do that to ourselves when we fail to pass on what we have received.
And, unfortunately, in too many instances American radio stations playing what they call “holiday music” or even “Christmas music” foster such cultural amnesia.
But even the best of these pop songs stringently avoid telling us what Linus so memorably told Charlie Brown—what Christmas is all about.
It’s vital to realize that it didn’t used to be this way. And there is no reason for it to be this way now.
Back in 2003, I reported that Paula Simons got to the heart of the matter when she wrote—
Traditional Christmas carols are beautiful songs. They combine rich, lyric poetry with melodies of timeless power. A child who grows up hearing and singing the likes of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen or Silent Night . . . or the other great world classics gets a profound musical education. The intricate harmonies and modalities of real carols don’t just move our hearts. They train our ears to appreciate more sophisticated musical forms and our voices to sing in concert with others.
These songs were popular when they were written and remain so, for good reason: they are comparable in quality to the standards Crosby and Sinatra sang outside of December and can serve today as an introduction to what has become known as the Great American Songbook. But no one listening to those albums could fail to understand what Christmas was all about, since each also featured several traditional Christmas carols sung with feeling and artistry. Bing Crosby’s “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and Frank Sinatra’s “The First Noel” have long been favorites of mine.
Singers of less prominence than Crosby and Sinatra followed the same formula in their own Christmas albums, singing both secular Christmas songs and traditional carols. And they also crossed over into classical music appropriate for Christmas.
Indeed, Andy Williams’ second Christmas album included both of the most popular versions of the “Ave Maria,” the one derived from Franz Schubert’s music for “Lady of the Lake” and the other fitted to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach by Charles Gounod. I was particularly fond of Robert Goulet’s Christmas album, which ended with four powerful performances of religious music. I am quite certain that the first time I ever heard Cesar Franck’s “Panis Angelicus” was on that album.
And among American popular singers, Goulet’s stirring rendition of the operatic “O Holy Night” is matched only by Nat King Cole’s exquisite version. (It is unclear if Cole’s race would be sufficient to erase the taint of his Christianity in the eyes of Bokoff and Rubin, but Crosby, Sinatra, Williams, and Goulet were all white Christians and therefore part of the culture that Bokoff and Rubin think impermissible to preserve.)
My parents also had Christmas recordings made by popular choral groups. One, by the Harry Simeone Chorale, featured the initial recording of the song made famous by the group, “The Little Drummer Boy.” The Harry Simeone record also brought home to my young ears the sheer variety of Christmas music, featuring carols originating in Spain, France, and Germany in addition to England and America, including the utterly charming tale of how the animals helped the Holy Family, “The Friendly Beasts.”
Even more impressive to me was Robert Shaw’s “The Many Moods of Christmas,” which featured four carol medleys arranged by Robert Russell Bennett. As with the Harry Simeone record, these carols came from all over Christendom, including the French “Pat a Pan” and “The March of the Three Kings” (the music for which was used by Georges Bizet in his L’Arlésienne Suite No. 2), the Spanish “Fum, Fum, Fum,” and “Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light,” a Bach chorale used in his “Christmas Oratorio.” (The record also impressed my junior high choir director, since we song both “Pat a Pan” and “Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light” in our Christmas concert, back when public schools still had Christmas concerts denominated as such and featuring religious Christmas music).
I loved it all, but my favorite was and remains the third medley, which begins well enough in England with “What Child Is This” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and ends even stronger in France, with “Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabelle” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” blended together so beautifully that, if I were ever forced to choose just one carol as my favorite, it would likely be the one about two French village girls hurrying to see the baby Jesus and His Mother.
Songs by such choral groups used to fill American airwaves and Americans’ home record collections.
Later in life, I acquired a fondness for another Christmas record of that type that I did not grow up with but a friend did. One evening I came home to find that my very thoughtful friend had, unbeknownst to me, set up and decorated my Christmas tree while I was working. He had also set up a CD to play in a continuous loop on my stereo, Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians’ “Now is the Caroling Season.” It was a very welcome and memorable Christmas present to someone who was feeling particularly harried at work.
Given the way I first heard it, it is unsurprising that I love this Fred Waring recording, but the whole album is excellent, particularly “In Sweetest Jubilee,” an adaptation of “In Dulci Jubilo;” “Masters in this Hall,” a carol I have heard nowhere else; and the concluding “March of the Kings,” an adaptation of the same music used by Bizet. The lesson taught by these popular records was that, although there were many facets to the Christmas celebration, and room for the type of secular Christmas songs made popular by singers such as Crosby, Sinatra, Williams, and Goulet, the focus of the celebration was the birth of Christ.
The television specials featuring such singers drove that lesson home even further. Those shows would often feature a good deal of lighthearted fun, but they all eventually turned into reverent performances of religious Christmas music. That was the highpoint of the show.
Examples include “Silent Night” sung by Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and their families, “Ave Maria” sung by Perry Como and by Karen Carpenter in 1977, the same year that saw Johnny Cash getting Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Roy Clark, and the Statler Brothers to join him in singing “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” after Cash had described his visit to Bethlehem and talked unabashedly about his Christian faith.
Such was American TV before the War on Christmas.
My love for all of these products of American culture undoubtedly helped to inoculate me against the attempts to suppress the public celebration of Christmas that were to grow stronger and more insistent as I got older. But that inoculation was reinforced by a less typical experience in America.
As a child, my Grandma Piatak used to sing Polish Christmas carols for her mother. When I was a child, my Grandma no longer sang those Polish carols, but she did delight in playing a record of a playing a dozen or so of the most popular Polish carols. I liked them, even though I had no idea what they meant, so my Grandma told me about them.
The bottom line is this: even though I still know only what a few of the words mean, I know that none of these carols are about snow, or shopping, or Santa. They are all about Christmas, and often beautiful (such as “Lulajze Jezuniu,” quoted in a scherzo by Chopin and sung in translation by the Three Tenors; or “W Zlobie Lezy,” sung in English as “Infant Holy, Infant, Lowly”) or exuberant (such as “Dzisiaj w Betlejem,” used as the music for a charming cartoon of the Nativity that racked up hundreds of thousands of additional hits this Christmas), or both, depending on the emphasis of the performers (such as these contrastingperformances of perhaps the most popular Polish carol, “Wsrod nocnej ciszy.”)
Exposure to this tradition also helped prepare me to see through two of the arguments offered ad nauseam by the Christmas deconstructionists.
I remember one law school classmate pompously dismissing Christmas as a thinly disguised continuation of the pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice. I kept quiet, but thought: how would you explain all the Polish Christmas traditions so obviously rooted in Christianity?
The principal meal is not an elaborate feast, but a simpler dinner on Christmas Eve, meatless because of the fasting requirements formerly imposed by the Catholic Church. That meal does not begin until the first star of the evening is sighted, a reminder of the Star of Bethlehem. The meal starts with the sharing of oplatki, wafers of unleavened bread reminiscent of the host used for Holy Communion and featuring pictures of the Nativity. The table is often covered (generally under the tablecloth) with straw, to remind the diners of the manger where Christ was born.
The other intellectual benefit I received from my familiarity with this tradition: a skepticism toward the multiculturalist rationale offered to diminish Christmas.
I am fairly certain my pompous classmate had never heard of Polish Christmas carols, much less ever heard one, and knew nothing of all the traditions I recalled as he lectured us, even though those traditions are observed, to some extent, by millions of Americans. If learning about how other people do things were the goal, schools would teach children about the many different Christmas traditions brought to America from all over the world.
But that’s not what schools do, because that’s not what multiculturalism is all about. It’s about indoctrinating children to believe there is something inherently wrong with Western, Christian culture.
Hence, the War on Christmas and also this past summer’s wave of iconoclasm, among other things.
Of course, Poland is far from unique in having rich Christmas traditions all its own. One memorable Christmas gift my Dad’s brother brought back to Cleveland in 1974 from the exotic climes of Manhattan was a record called “Christmas at St. John’s” featuring the choir of St. John’s College in Cambridge and the organist Stephen Cleobury. That was my introduction to the unsurpassed excellence of the great English choirs, and also my introduction to some beautiful Christmas music I had never heard before, including the haunting Welsh lullaby, “Suo Gan.” Every carol on that album is a treasure, including the song that my Uncle told me was his favorite, “The Holly and the Ivy.”
As for Stephen Cleobury, he became the choir director at King’s College, Cambridge. In that role, he spent decades leading the choir in performing the carols that were part of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast every Christmas Eve around the world by the BBC.
Eight years later saw an introduction to another facet of the beauty that has developed over centuries to accompany Christmas. That was the year PBS broadcast Luciano Pavarotti’s amazing Christmas concert in Montreal from four years before. That concert was held in a perfect venue, Montreal’s stunning Notre Dame basilica, below:
Pavarotti’s voice was at its peak, and he needed no microphone to thrill the spectators jammed into every corner of the church.
The “Adeste Fideles” with which Pavarotti ended the concert remains the most memorable performance I have ever heard of the great carol that begins the Christmas service in thousands of churches around the world every year. (I also remain particularly fond of Pavarotti’s rendition of “Gesu Bambino,” which I heard, for the first time, at my junior high Christmas concert a few years before).
Bollinger claimed to the singers that he actually liked the piece, and that he might have allowed it if the song mentioned Christmas quickly and inconspicuously. But he felt that men and women who would soon be working in the nation’s top law firms should not be expected to tolerate the robust “Merry Christmas” with which the song ends.
Bollinger, who is now president of Columbia University, certainly knew how strongly the winds of Political Correctness would soon be blowing.
This was the depressing backdrop to attending, for the first time, a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” at Michigan’s Hill Auditorium with two law school friends.
It was a night I will never forget: there is a reason Handel regarded Messiah as his crowning achievement, and why Haydn exclaimed “Handel is the master of us all” after hearing it performed in London. Given the Grinch-like way Lee Bollinger had just canceled Mel Torme, I’ll admit I felt like one of the Whos standing around the Christmas tree when I followed tradition and stood for the Hallelujah chorus. (Although “Messiah” premiered in Dublin at Easter, it is also perfectly suited to Christmas, and its first American performance, in Boston, was at Christmas).
Since law school, I have continued to attend Christmas concerts and buy Christmas music. (A particular favorite is Deutsche Grammophon’s “An Old World Christmas,” which focuses on German Christmas music, including a recording of “Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen” so beautiful that I used it to illustrate why public school students should be allowed to perform religious Christmas music at a meeting of the local chapter of the Federalist Society).
Such is the cultural depth and breadth of Christmas that each year I discover something previously unknown to me that so captures the spirt of Christmas that I come back to it again and again and share it widely with friends. This year’s discovery was a carol medley performed at Carnegie Hall not long after I graduated from law school, featuring the black soprano Kathleen Battle and German-American Frederica von Stade, several choirs, and an orchestra conducted by André Previn. One look at the composition of the performers, beginning with Kathleen Battle, explodes the lie that the celebration of Christmas has anything at all to do with “white supremacy.”
And one listen drives home the point that no matter how assiduously the Main Stream Media promote them as alternatives to Christmas, no other winter holiday can match Christmas. It is possible to imagine an equally magnificent medley featuring dozens of other Christmas carols. It is impossible to imagine even one comparable medley put together by music inspired by any other winter holiday.
But thanks to ordinary Americans’ great attachment to Christmas, that has not happened. We have yet not returned to the days when great cities observed Christmas by lighting up skyscraper windows to form crosses at night, or major newspapers ran unabashedly religious editorials each Christmas, or students in public schools learned about the major holiday of their civilization by singing religious Christmas carols and by putting on religious Christmas plays, or in which major American corporations produced a new Christmas record each year to give to customers and vendors, the way Goodyear and Firestone used to do. But there still are public figures and public spaces celebrating Christmas, and attempts to replace Christmas with “holiday” now often meet determined opposition.
Above, Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, 1938, displaying lights in the shape of a cross for Christmastime, below, the same tower in1957.
Considering what has happened to the conservative side in many other fronts in the Culture War, that is no mean achievement.
The next task should be comparatively easy. I am not suggesting that radio stations stop playing “White Christmas” or “Silver Bells” or even “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” But they should greatly expand their Christmas playlists.
If enough Americans begin asking broadcasters to make a little more room for the real meaning of Christmas and all the beautiful music that it has inspired, you may be pleasantly surprised one future December by turning on the radio and hearing Frank Sinatra singing about Jesus, Karen Carpenter singing about Mary, Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians singing about the Three Wise Men—and maybe, just maybe, Kathleen Battle singing “O Holy Night.”
The short answer is that it is still not clear what actually happened. It’s quite plausible that provocateurs may have been present who encouraged a group of Trump supporters to enter the capital. See items concerning that scenario here, here, and here.
If that was the case, then, yes, the Trump people fell into a trap. Either way, the incident—as far as the level of violence displayed by the Trump supporters, a minor one after nearly a year of leftist riots across the country—is already being used to potentially target anyone deemed a threat to “our democracy.” The usual suspects are predictably calling for more censorship, especially of social media. I think we all know who will, and who won’t, be censored.
“In and of itself this won’t sound terribly concerning to the average citizen. Nothing wrong with taking steps to prevent people from plotting violence and terrorism on social media, right?
But how do you predict what protests are going to be ‘violent’? How do you decide which protests and what political dissent need to be censored and which ones should be permitted to communicate freely? Do you just leave it up to Silicon Valley oligarchs to make the call? Or do you have them consult with the government like they’ve been doing? Are either of these institutions you’d trust to regulate what protests are worthy of being permitted to organize online?
Because the actual power structures in the United States seem to be interested in simply censoring the internet to eliminate political dissent altogether.”
What happened in Washington yesterday was worse than a crime, it was a blunder. Despite the decibel level of the denunciations, no one was in fact more pleased by yesterday’s events than the members of the bipartisan establishment who view it as their opportunity to discredit the only force in American politics they genuinely fear–populist nationalism–for good.
Whether that in fact happens remains to be seen. But consider how committed is that establishment to such unpopular (and ruinous) policies as unending wars and open borders that among the items contained in the defense appropriations bill vetoed by Trump were provisions prohibiting defense dollars from being spent on a border wall– securing America’s borders has nothing to do with “defense” as that term is used in DC–and provisions prohibiting the withdrawal of American troops from various foreign locations.
Whether Trump as a person is permanently discredited is not a matter of great concern to me. Whether the program of protecting American jobs, securing America’s borders, keeping Americans from harm in wars that have nothing to do with defending America, and generally favoring the interests of ordinary Americans over foreigners and special interests, is.
A return to the days when the only opposition to the globalism of Clinton and Obama was the globalism of Bush, McCain, and Romney would be a disaster for my country.
Whatever else happened in DC today, the Stop the Steal rally resulted in the fatal shooting of a female Trump supporter, who was part of a group that forced its way into the capital building.
Here are some things we need to keep in mind:
First, as Steve Sailer reminded us, the left has staged similar actions before, with little reaction from law enforcement.
Second, the events in DC will likely be used as a pretext to impose further censorship on the patriotic right and tighten the grip of what I call “the globalist Blob” on all of us. The MSM cast the BLM/Antifa riots as “mostly peaceful protests”—the people who showed up in DC today to angrily protest the rigged election will be condemned as a violent mob.
And fourth, there is an as yet unorganized and undirected Middle American resistance out there. Mass participation in the Stop the Steal rallies has shown that our people can be mobilized, but they need organizers and coordinators at the state and local level—that’s where battles that we can win could be fought. Disparate patriotic groups could form a resistance network. We need to face the reality that national elections will not save us. The aim now is to defend ourselves and salvage something for our posterity, hopefully carving out enclaves where we can live our lives as we see fit.
Do not be taken in by the political show being staged by some GOP luminaries, such as Ted Cruz: Remember that in 2016, Cruz portrayed the violent attacks on Trump supporters at campaign rallies as Trump’s fault.
This will be a long battle. Hopefully, our people will have the determination, will, and wisdom to fight it.
Now that it appears Donald Trump will not have a second term, many in the GOP ruling class yearn to return to the “socially-moderate fiscal conservatism” of yore, while others call on the party to embrace an ongoing realignment and build a coalition with the working class at its center.
The shift of working-class voters to the GOP has been decades long in the making. The deindustrialization of America, combined with the departure of voters with college degrees for the Democrats, accelerated that flight. The left can no longer caricature the Republican base as bankers, corporate tycoons, and Wall Street fat cats. The protests at the U.S. Capitol today should prove that.
Remember the pointless argument this realignment spurred in 2016? Did economic or cultural concerns propel Trump’s support with the working class? That debate continues, and for no good reason. It is a false dichotomy. Economics and culture are inextricably linked, a fact that must inform good political analysis.
One affects the other, as the evidence shows.
Dislocation and the Culture
Economic dislocation adversely affects social and community institutions. Watching the American Ruling Class open the doors to the American market in the post-WWII period, Herbert Hoover foresaw the effect of imports on smalltown America. “Thousands of villages and towns would be deprived of their employment,” he wrote. “Their schools, churches and skills would be greatly decimated.”
Imports, of course, can end in closed factories. When a factory leaves town, many things go with it, but the damage to people and community life does not. The fictional Economic Man who inhabits the world of bloodless econometricians and haunts the journalism of Kevin Williamson and David French would simply leave home and hearth behind. Many have. But what of those who remain?
Two years ago, Economist David Autor explained that the explosion in Chinese trade killed millions of manufacturing jobs, and the consequences were often localized. Shocks to labor markets reduced earnings among men, marriage rates and fertility, while increasing illegitimate births, childhood poverty, and the number of men in jail.
Marriage is a particular victim. “Manufacturing jobs are a fulcrum on which traditional work and family arrangements rest,” wrote Autor. The loss of work and decline of family also harms the mediating institutions of civil society that give meaning and structure to life, although the impact may also work in the other direction.
Consider Youngstown, Ohio. Traditionally a center of steel production, the city fell into decline in the 1970s. As steel production plummeted, Youngstown has experienced a 60 percent population decline since 1959. In 2019, General Motors also closed the nearby Lordstown plant that once employed 8,000 people.
Factory closures also wrecked family formation in Youngstown. Consider the news from the last couple years. Just 26 percent of households are married and 78 percent of births are to unwed mothers. Youngstown also has one of the highest crime rates in America. It’s 78 percent higher than the national average and 135 percent higher than the average in Ohio.
The lesson of Youngstown: Economic destruction and deprivation caused social, familial and cultural turmoil.
The Middle American Radical The insidious decay of Youngstown began in the 1950s, yet the terrible toll from economic dislocation continued into the second decade of the 21st century. In 1998, Samuel Francis described this coming upheaval, identifying the fundamental polarity in American politics as a brewing confrontation between “a deracinated and self-serving Ruling Class” and culturally, politically and economically dispossessed “Middle American groups.” Borrowing from the work of sociologist Donald Warren, Francis described “Middle American Radicals” (MARS) this way:
[E]ssentially middle-income, white, often ethnic voters who see themselves as an exploited and dispossessed group, excluded from meaningful political participation; threatened by the tax and trade policies of the government; victimized by its tolerance of crime, immigration, and social deviance; and ignored, ridiculed, or demonized by the major cultural institutions of the media and education. MARS possess objective statistical characteristics, but these are not their defining features. Warren identified as their defining feature an attitudinal characteristic: they view themselves as sandwiched between — and victimized by—an elite (in government and politics, the economy, and the dominant culture) that is either indifferent to them or hostile to them, and an underclass with which the elites are in alliance and whose interests and values the elites support at the expense of the interests and values of Middle Americans.
The divide Francis described in 1996 is still the pivot of American politics. Under the guise of neoliberalism, an overclass elite and their underclass foot soldiers have waged an ongoing war on Middle America. MARS have seen their communities depopulate and die as factories have fled to Asia and Mexico. They have watched elites mock their mores and transform their towns by immigration.
The primary political question for the GOP is how to cement the loyalty of disaffected and unrepresented Middle Americans. Do conservatives have a clue how to mobilize a disorganized and demoralized constituency into action? Unfortunately, the GOP, rightly called the Stupid Party, is caught in the economics vs. culture dichotomy described above.
Leery of the “culture war” or considerations of identity, race, and nationhood, elected Republicans focus on economics. They would build a “multicultural” coalition centered around the mythology of Homo Economicus, operating under the illusion that man can live by bread alone.
Florida Sen. Maro Rubio urges Republicans to adopt populist stances on trade and industrial policy lest they lose Trump’s voters. Yet Rubio also recently attended a summit hosted by the pro-amnesty “American Business Immigration Coalition,” and bragged about shoveling $3 trillion to Israel. Rubio says the future is “a party built on a multi-ethnic multi-racial coalition of working AMERICANS.”
As well, a coterie of conservative eggheads labor to create an infrastructure to support an agenda focused on “populist” economics. Julius Krein founded the American Affairs, which has published illuminating articles on trade, industrial policy, and labor issues but ignored the culture war. Oren Cass, who worked for Rubio, started American Compass to challenge free market “fundamentalism.” Tucker Carlson, who ought to know better, also often endorses this thinly-masked economic determinism by saying that, “America’s core problems are in fact economic.”
“The data show that most voters who supported Trump were overwhelmingly driven by cultural rather than economic concerns,” they wrote. “This implies that the national populist vision [focusing on economics] is unlikely to provide major electoral gains for the Republican Party.”
Their research also finds that voters motivated by economics are concerned about growth, unemployment, and inflation. Thus the “technocratic, byzantine policies promoted by the smartest national populists” are “not likely to garner much interest from the electorate.”
If true, then racial, ethnic and religious cleavages in the electorate are likely to remain far more significant than economic divisions. Populists who ignore these issues in favor of tariffs or industrial policy are likely to fail.
Problem is, that view justifies fusing Paul Ryan’s economics with Tweeting about Colin Kaeprnick or shouting “LAW AND ORDER.” How’d that work out? It also overlooks that Trump moved the GOP considerably to the left culturally. Recall the $500 billion Platinum Plan for blacks, “Juneteenth” proposed a national holiday, and the pro-homosexual Rainbow Flag at American embassies.
Rather than parsing distinctions between “economic” and “cultural” issues, a better solution is reaching to the past to revise our definition of economics and reshape “economic nationalism” to incorporate cultural variables.
“Economics” is Greek for “household management.” For our ancestors, the purpose of economic life was not merely the production and consumption of material goods, but the support of families as the fundamental units of social life and human action, from which broader social institutions and identities evolve.
The Economy Is Not Sovereign
Economic nationalism is broader than questions about tariffs and trade protection. It is an economic approach that seeks to benefit the nation and sustain the culture and people that define it. It takes account of different regions and seeks to balance the needs of rural and urban, capital and labor, farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses. It is a facet of national identity and not a mere expression of material interests.
The economy is not sovereign. Nor is it superimposed onto social life independent from culture. It exists to protect and perpetuate the culture of a people. “Finally, a nation should not regard the progress of industries from a purely economic point of view,” wrote Friedrich List. “Manufactures become a very important part of the nation‘s political and cultural heritage.”
Economic nationalism must not be reduced to pragmatic and circumstantial definitions of “national interest” or “security” that lack a defining principle of American nationality. Economic life is an extension of national and religious identity.
“America First” immigration and economic policies should recognize that social life is arranged around our duties to family and fellow citizens. Our neighbors matter more than cheap jeans or new phones and electronics that belch filth into homes. Restrictions on immigration or curbs on trade and technology transfers must be framed in terms of national identity and interests rather than defended with abstract appeals to human or natural rights, “freedom” or the “global community.”
Economic nationalism must buttress social traditionalism and is as much about piety and identity as wealth creation.
I can understand voting against a $2000 check for most Americans on the grounds of fiscal prudence, though I would have voted the other way. What I cannot understand is voting against money for ordinary Americans while also voting for the bloated defense budget, with billions for special interests, including favored foreign causes that do nothing for Americans. That is the very opposite of putting America and Americans first, and that is where far too many congressional Republicans have put themselves.
With our people so scattered and atomized by family dissolution, technology, and the personal isolation that comes with obsessive individualism, it would do us all some good to remember a time when that was not so. If we are to reclaim anything for our posterity—or to even have one—we should back up and recall that family and the celebrations that marked our lives were at, one time, not a matter of choice, but something more than a duty. They were occasions for joy.
Christmas at our family home was a very special occasion. My mother especially loved Christmas, and December would find my carpenter father building Christmas scenes for the front yard from scraps of wood and whatever other materials he had at hand. I particularly recall a “Christmas train” he built of plywood with coffee cans serving as wheels for the “train,” a jolly Santa as engineer.
Inside, our house was a myriad of lights and decorations that filled the small home my brothers and I were raised in, one built by my father. He and my mother lived there for nearly sixty years.
With Christmas approaching, a drive to look at Christmas lights in the surrounding neighborhoods was always on the agenda.
Christmas eve was a time for a church service, and the children of the Sunday School class would duly perform the perennial nativity play that evening. We dressed for the occasion in our Christmas best, and I rather enjoyed wearing a coat. Living in Texas, we always hoped for cold weather at Christmas time—it set the mood.
After the Christmas eve service, the church elders would hand out goody bags to the children. I remember some oranges especially as a treat in winter. The founding families of our congregation were rural and working class. They had moved to Houston for jobs during the Depression, and my father, raised in the 1930s and 40s, fondly remembered getting such small tokens of Christmas cheer as a tremendous boyhood treat.
Afterwards, my family, including both sets of grandparents, gathered at our home for more Christmas cheer—maybe a drink of wine, maybe something stronger, for the adults, and treats lovingly prepared by my mother for everyone. We kept the living room dark save for the lights on the tree—and there would be hundreds of them, my mother was meticulous in decorating our Christmas tree—and the presents beneath were the object of much speculation by the children.
Christmas morning, we boys would awaken earlier than usual, already eager to get to the presents under the tree. My father and mother would decide when the moment had come, and it was off to unwrap them. My mother took pictures of everything—we have hundreds of photos to remember this all by—and she snapped photos as we opened our presents. We had home movies of more than one Christmas morning, as well. During my childhood, we would watch them projected onto a screen set up by my father in our living room.
Music was an important part of the celebration. Starting in December, our RCA phonograph filled that little house with Christmas songs, and we memorized every line, singing along with gusto.
There were Christmas movies, and I read the TV Guide carefully to pinpoint the time of showings of movies like White Christmas, as well as the ever-present TV Christmas specials from stars like Bing Crosby and Andy Williams.
My mother was an Elvis fan (I have one claim to fame—myself and the entire family saw Elvis live at the Houston Astrodome in 1970), and she was especially fond of his Gospel and Christmas recordings.
Here’s one favorite from his TheWonderful World of Christmas album:
No one could get away with not liking Elvis in our house, but my mother never let us forget that Jesus was the reason for the season, and religious songs like Silent Night and Joy to the World rang in the narrow halls and low ceilings of our home. I’ve always loved this one:
We live in an increasingly dystopian world, one that is also increasingly hostile to the traditional Christmas celebration. We have it in our power to perform one act of defiance and of love that can push back against the dismal tide. Celebrate Christmas.
President Trump is rightly threatening to veto the so-called stimulus bill, which contains lots of money for foreign countries and other favored Beltway causes, but only $600 checks for ordinary Americans who have been greatly harmed by the pandemic and the attendant social and economic disruption. Trump is asking Congress to increase the amount to $2000.
This is called putting America and Americans first. It is completely alien to David Frum and David French and Jonah Goldberg and Rod Dreher and all the other “conservatives” who have been hysterical at best and hateful at worst about Trump, but it explains why millions of us voted to reelect Trump and are glad we did.
In fact, if Trump had more forcefully and more often rejected the Beltway consensus as he is doing here, he would have been reelected regardless of how many tricks Democrats in Philadelphia and Atlanta and Detroit and Milwaukee may have had up their sleeves.