Given that Donald Trump has done a good job of stoking the anger of America’s majority white, mainly Christian population about the alleged liberal “war” on Christmas, let’s recognize a few facts:
- Everywhere in the world, Christmas time has become a collective Sabbath (click here to read a blog I wrote on the exact same subject back in 2013)
- So much so that even the Muslim Council of Britain, as I wrote in that blog, was moved to send out the seasonally appropriate message: “Keep calm, it’s Christmas…Don’t panic! Christmas is not banned”.
- Christmas is particularly well-timed for everyone, Christian or not, to stop and draw breath, coming when one year is ending and the other about to be born
- You don’t have to be Christian to mark Christmas – I’m not and I’ve always done so, along with almost everyone else I know
And yet, Mr Trump has managed to turn his America’s reclamation of Christmas into a major military-style operation! What will come next? Tanks with commanders wearing Santa hats to raze racks of greeting cards with secular messages such as “Happy Holidays”.
Anything is possible in an idiocracy, something Mr Trump himself has indicated many times. As Francis Wilkinson @fdwilkinson recently reminded us in his excellent piece, Mr Trump himself has appeared to marvel at his voters’ imperviousness to conscience or reason. Remember when Mr Trump said he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters”?
But the whole Christmas crusade should also be read in terms of two books recommended by Mr Wilkinson as providing advance insight into Mr Trump’s electoral success.
The books are:
- The End of White Christian America, published earlier this year and written by Robert Jones, chief executive officer of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI)
- The Confidence Trap, published 2013, by Cambridge University politics professor David Runciman
Francis Wilkinson quotes Mr Jones’s description of how and why the white majority has managed to recast itself as a ”beleaguered minority” that’s not even allowed to celebrate its festivals in the way it wants and always has.
The “slow death” of white Christian America, which after more than 400 years of dominance is losing political influence and cultural relevance, has “left many with a haunting sense of dislocation”. To cope, this “formerly powerful majority recasts itself as a beleaguered minority in an attempt to preserve its social values.”
This is why, as Mr Wilkinson reminds us, Tea Party adherents and evangelical conservatives have spoken of living in a state of siege under President Barack Obama. “This is why,” he goes on, “in 2014, almost three quarters of Tea Party adherents agreed with the statement, in a PRRI survey cited by Jones, that discrimination against whites ‘has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities’.”
And this is why a 2016 pre-election PRRI poll found 72 per cent of Trump-supporting likely voters saying that American society and way of life have changed for the worse since the 1950s.
Mr Wilkinson points to the key words and phrases that promised a reclamation of “white Christian hegemony” and led huge numbers of evangelical Christians to vote for Mr Trump:
- “Merry Christmas“, which means turning back the clock on multiculturalism
- “the wall“, which means ending mass non-European immigration
- “Man of the Year“, which means shafting feminism
- “tariffs“, which mean stopping globalization
There you go then. But even though I refuse to let Christmas be taken over by the #Trump #FauxCrusade, I’m conscious of the truth of what Francis Wilkinson says about the less-than-merry consequences of Trump for the American project as a whole. It has been pursued for more than two centuries but may now be in danger.
As Francis Wilkinson memorably writes: “It has been almost a year since Trump brandished his gun fantasy in Iowa. Every student of drama – and Trump certainly is one – knows what happens when a gun is displayed in the first act. Sooner or later, it goes off.”