Starting shortly after my birth, my parents purchased Christmas albums for $1 from an unlikely place by today’s standards, tire stores.
(That’s as seemingly outmoded as getting, for instance, glasses every time you filled up at your favorite gas station, back in the days when gas stations were usually part of a car repair place, not a convenience store. Of course, go to a convenience store now, and you can probably find CDs, if not records, and at least plastic glasses such as Red Solo Cups and silverware. Progress, or something.)
The albums featured contemporary artists from the ’60s, plus opera singers and other artists.
These albums were played on my parents’ wall-length Magnavox hi-fi player.
Playing these albums was as annual a ritual as watching “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” or other holiday-season appointment TV.
Those albums began my, and then our, collection of Christmas music.
You may think some of these singers are unusual choices to sing Christmas music. (This list includes at least six Jewish singers.)
Of course, Christians know that Jesus Christ was Jewish. (And faithful to his faith.)
And I defy any reader to find anyone who can sing “Silent Night” like Barbra Streisand did in the ’60s.
These albums are available for purchase online, but record players are now as outmoded as, well, getting glasses with your fill-up at the gas station. (Though note what I previously wrote.)
But thanks to YouTube and other digital technology, other aficionados of this era of Christmas music now can have their music preserved for their current and future enjoyment.
The tire-store-Christmas-album list has been augmented by both earlier and later works.
In the same way I think no one can sing “Silent Night” like Barbra Streisand, I think no one can sing “Do You Hear What I Hear” (a song written during the Cuban Missile Crisis, believe it or not) like Whitney Houston:
This list contains another irony — an entry from “A Christmas Gift for You,” Phil Spector’s Christmas album. (Spector’s birthday is Christmas.)
The album should have been a bazillion-seller, and perhaps would have been had it not been for the date of its initial release: Nov. 22, 1963.
Finally, here’s the last iteration of one of the coolest TV traditions — “The Late Show with David Letterman” and its annual appearance of Darlene Love (from the aforementioned Phil Spector album), which started in 1986 on NBC …
… and ended on CBS:
Merry Christmas. (To play this whole thing as a YouTube playlist, click here.)
By day, John Podhoretz is a columnist for Commentary Magazine, the New York Post and elsewhere.
But if you follow him on Faceboo, you will see that the Hallmark Channel, which has produced hundreds of Christmas-themed movies with essentially one plot, should hire Podhoretz to generate the latest holiday-themed dreck.
Social media has already divined the plot of every Hallmark holiday movie …
… but Podhoretz has applied Hallmark’s generic plots to the political circus of the past few months, going further as well by casting the lead roles:
When a disappointed 2020 pollster (Lea Michele) returns to her home town to help her father (Max Gail) fulfill the orders at his Christmas wreath farm, she meets a sexy widower (Generic Canadian). What will she do when she discovers a mail-in ballot he didn’t mail in—and opens it to discover he would have voted for the losing candidate she had said would win in a landslide? With a little help from a mysterious bearded man (Bruce Dern), can she learn to forgive and love? Watch “A Christmas Without a Postmark” on the Hallmark Channel.
(TV viewers of a certain age might remember Gail from “Barney Miller.” Dern is a character in my favorite Western comedy, “Support Your Local Sheriff.”)
When a hard-charging member of the Electoral College (Kate Walsh) returns to her hometown of Holly Springs to help her father (Len Cariou) fulfill the holiday orders at his fruitcake store, she meets a local fig farmer (Generic Canadian). But when he tries to convince her to change her vote to protest her candidate’s support of a new dried fruit tariff, their future is put in danger. Can a mysterious bearded man (Oliver Sacks) come through with new evidence of voter fraud along with a sprig of mistletoe? Watch “A Faithless Elector Yuletide” on the Hallmark Channel.
(Sacks, by the way, is dead. The response from one commenter who pointed that out? “CGI, my friend.” Another commenter suggested, “That screams for a Wolf Blitzer cameo as the newscaster improbably reporting on a local tariff referendum.”)
A hard charging agribusinesswoman (Katherine Heigl) is sent back to her home town by the conglomerate run by her hard-charging boyfriend (Scott Caan) to shut down the local mistletoe farm. She discovers it’s run by her high school beau (Generic Canadian), a widower whose son takes bassoon lessons from her father (Chuck Grassley). With a little help from the product, and a little magic supplied by a mysterious bearded man (Jack Dorsey), can a city-slicking takeover artist find it in her heart to save the farm and play Yuletide wind-instruments duets with the widower? Watch “A Double-Reed Mannheim Steamroller Christmas” on the Hallmark Channel.
A hard-charging marketing director of an international egg nog conglomerate is sent to the town of Nutmeg Springs to buy the local spice farm and corner the market before Christmas. She didn’t count on meeting the hunky town podiatrist, a widower whose son has an albumen allergy. What will happen when she gives the child a glass of her product? Will his violent and ceaseless vomiting indicate that she has put him into anaphylaxis—or does the boy just have good taste? Only a mysterious bearded man can help find the answers. Becki Newton, Wayne Gretzky, and Grigory Rasputin star in “A Hangnail for the Holidays” on the Hallmark Channel.
(I was not aware that Gretzky has ever acted in anything besides commercials. Nor Rasputin, who has the same problem casting Sachs would have.)
Stacey Staceyington (Meghan Ory), a hard-charging takeover specialist at the world’s largest maypole conglomerate, is sent the town of Compost Corners to buy and shut down the local log farm run by hunky widower Goodman Brown (Anthony Perkins). But when a snowstorm threatens the annual Yuletide Sacrifice, she and Goodman must work together with a strange bearded man to ensure the Hellmouth stays closed and doesn’t ruin the holiday season. Ari Aster directs “It’s Beginning to Look a Lottery Like Christmas” on the Hallmark Channel.
(A commenter pointed out that Perkins, of “Psycho” fame, would not fit the “hunky widower” characterization even if he were not, like Sachs and Rasputin, dead.)
It’s a sad day in Prothonotary Warbler Springs when the town’s favorite owl is transported by mistake to Rockefeller Center in the giant Christmas tree cut down for that purpose. Sparks fly when local Manhattan birder Chris Cooper (Cuba Gooding Jr.) accuses the town tree doctor (Natasha Henstridge) of being a Karen. Can they find a path to peace and avoid firing and arrest through the mediation of the big-hearted 30 Rock security guard (Generic Canadian) who drives the tree doctor and Chris Cooper back to Prothonotary Warbler Springs for the annual Birding and Egg Nog Wassail? And who’s that mysterious bearded man with the mistletoe? You’ll know when you watch “Owl Be Home for Christmas” on the Hallmark Channel.
(Someone contact Generic Canadian’s agent. He’s going to be busy the next few months.)
“Owl Be Home for Christmas” prompted a comment, “with the greatest of respect, that I do not know another Jew who cares so much about terrible Christmas movies,” to which Podhoretz replied: “Buddy. We invented Christmas. We wrote White Christmas. We wrote the Grinch. We. Are. Christmas.”
That in turn resulted in this: “There is an economics Ph.D thesis in how Christmas provides American Jews with all the positive externalities without imposing any of the stress or responsibilities. It’s the greatest free ride around. Almost as if we arranged it that way!”
It certainly could be pointed out as a member of a religion that celebrates the birthday and post-death resurrection of an observant Jew that a lot of the Christmas music I listened to (and still do) as a child was performed by, shall we say, pre-Christians, and not just secular songs …
… in the same way that (as another commenter pointed out) the producers of many pre-Hallmark holiday movies were of the same religion as Irving Berlin.
Podhoretz’s first “plot” prompted a guest contribution, and you will see why I included it in one sentence:
Dana Strivers (Staci Keanan), a New York based public relations specialist, returns to her hometown of Notch Falls, Wisconsin, to help oversee a recount of the contested election. A chance encounter at the Christmas tree lot with her onetime fiance Chad Potter (Shane West) stirs up repressed feelings, especially since his Potter’s wealthy father (Robert Pine) owns the company that’s the town’s largest employer and is working for the opposing candidate. “Counting on Christmas” debuts Dec. 12 with a special lead-in show hosted by Jodie Sweetin.
Older readers would recognize Pine as Sgt. Getraer on “CHiPs.” Younger readers might recognize Pine as the father of Chris Pine, who tries to play Capt. James T. Kirk in the J.J. Abrams (destruction of) “Star Trek.”
Finally public radio gives us information that is of interest to the public, from Audrey Nowakowski:
The brandy old fashioned, bloody mary with a beer chaser, Tom & Jerrys — Wisconsin has laid claim to many cocktails, or perhaps just made them better. In a state that continuously ranks in the top margins for alcohol consumption, Wisconsin’s drinking traditions aren’t just cherished, they’ve rarely changed.
Freelance writer Jeanette Hurt’s latest book, Wisconsin Cocktails, contains the recipes, history, and traditions surrounding most of the Dairyland’s favorite drinks. But she says perhaps the most important part of this book is setting the record straight on exactly why Wisconsinites drink brandy old fashioneds.
The common story of why Wisconsin drinks so much brandy is credited back to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. It’s there that Captain Pabst displayed his beer, Aunt Jemima demonstrated her pancake mix, and people tasted the Californian brandy.
Since Chicago was only a train ride away, many Wisconsinites came to the exposition. And it’s been told that German Wisconsinites, in particular, loved the Korbel brothers’ brandy, which then popularized drinking brandy in the state.
“Now that sounds really interesting and that’s the story that I even wrote about at one time,” admits Hurt. “But when I was working on this book, every time I’ve talked to the folks at Korbel they’d say, ‘Well, we can’t confirm that.’ So, I’m like well what is really going on?”
This question led Hurt down a long investigative historical research road, where she looked at more than 200 years worth of newspaper microfiche for every printed reference for “brandy,” “Wisconsin,” and “cocktails.”
Hurt discovered that in 1894 there was a cocktail revolution in Milwaukee among the young German men, and one cocktail that was popular was “the Old Fashioned,” but it’s not the one Wisconsin prefers.
“Once upon a time, we drank old fashioneds like everybody else [with bitters, sugar and whiskey]. So what happened between 1894 and now?” asks Hurt.
She eventually found a Milwaukee Journal article where a reporter, who was asking the same question, discovered a man who had been in the Wisconsin liquor distribution business from post-Prohibition to the ’70s, says Hurt.
This distributor notes that there was a lot of bad booze being served during post-World War II, in part due to distilleries being shut down to send grain to Europe. “But Wisconsin distributors found a cache of something, like 30,000 cases of really good, aged Christian Brothers brandy and they bought it up,” notes Hurt.
“So in Wisconsin, if you could get bad whiskey or good brandy, rotgut rum or good brandy — what were you going to drink? You were going to drink brandy. So, people started drinking their cocktails with brandy,” she adds.
Once we started drinking brandy, brandy makers naturally started marketing to Wisconsin and the rest is bitter and muddled history. So while it’s not as romantic as brandy getting popularized by the Wisconsin Germans who visited the Chicago Exposition, Hurt says it also gives a nod to Midwestern habits of finding a good product and sticking with it.
“It’s hard to figure our the origin of some of our cocktails, but this one I feel very solid about and I feel really good setting the record straight,” Hurt admits.
“God is in control.”
“It doesn’t matter who is president because Jesus is King!”
As a Christian who has been heavily involved in the political sphere for many years, I find myself deeply disturbed by these phrases.
Have you ever stopped and pondered the words that come out of your mouth and others’ during the times we struggle in this world? Is God truly in control of the affairs of this world—or is there something more that Christians are missing?
While I understand that many followers of Christ may mean well when they say phrases like, “God is in control”, the reality of the matter is phrases such as this are not only untrue, but theologically lazy as well as immoral. They create an attitude of apathy in the hearts of individuals concerning the fate of this planet. This frame of mind, if allowed to mature, will give birth to all sorts of morally repugnant theology.
God is not the perpetrator of evil, nor does He even allow it. He never did, nor does He now. To imply that God is in control of all things in this world would mean that He at least allows evil—or worse, causes evil as some part of a divine scheme. I realize some of you just read those words and thought I must have never even read the Bible, because what about all that violent stuff in the Old Testament that the writers say God did, right? Many Christians do not realize that the Old Testament writers believed that Satan was the left hand of God who dealt out fiery wrath, judgment, and condemnation. This can most famously be seen in the Old Testament story of Job, which many modern-day Christians misinterpret through centuries of misguided teaching.
When Jesus came to earth, he taught that Satan is purely evil and does not operate under the guidance or allowance of God, who is a good Father to His core. Satan is the enemy of God as Christ said in Luke 10:18, “While you were ministering, I watched Satan topple until he fell suddenly from heaven like lightning to the ground.” (TPT) (For more evidence that Satan the author of all evil, see John 8:44, Hebrews 2:14, and 1 John 2:16)
Richard K. Murray, the author of the book, God Versus Evil: Sculpting An Epic Theology of God’s Heroic Goodness, states it beautifully when he says, “Any evil that is comes from the free wills of angels or men. The misuse of free wills of angels or men, that’s what Augustine believed that’s what the church fathers believed, they did not blame evil on God. They did not say God soveriginly commanded evil events or even destructive events. They instead used something called the rule of character and the rule of character is that no matter what the Bible literally says about God’s judgment or God sending evil, it has to be reinterpreted by the love and nature of Jesus.”
In political application, if government grows due to our allowance of tyrannical elected officials either through our approval or apathy, we can’t turn around and think that God caused or allowed this as some sort of punishment, or that He allowed for tyranny to come to America. That is entirely on us as American Christians.
That is not to say that God will not hear our prayers or that He will not divinely intervene at times to correct our screwups because He will. But God will not do for us what He has given us as believers the power and authority to do in Him. Jesus said to his disciples in John 14:12-14 (AMPC),
I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, if anyone steadfastly believes in Me, he will himself be able to do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these because I go to the Father.
13 And I will do [I Myself will grant] whatever you ask in My Name [as [a]presenting all that I Am], so that the Father may be glorified and extolled in (through) the Son.
14 [Yes] I will grant [I Myself will do for you] whatever you shall ask in My Name [as [b]presenting all that I Am].
We must not forget that as it was in the Book of Genesis, God gave humanity dominion over this world that never changed from the beginning until now. The only thing that has changed is that He sent Jesus to destroy the barrier of sin that humanity placed between ourselves and God.
Followers of Jesus Christ are the literal hands and feet of Christ; it is high time we put away this demonically-guided theology of apathy and stop blaming God when evil spreads. It is time that we understand that it is our responsibility to purge the evil from this world with the direction and guidance of God so that Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane will be a reality, “on Earth as it is in Heaven”. We must stand against all evil in this world. We must stand against evil in all its forms. We must stand against tyrants who seek to kill, steal, and destroy in the spirit of Satan.
We can and we must rid the world of evil, and not allow those who wish to turn this world into hell to have their way. Jesus said in Luke 4:18-19 (CSB)
18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
We must follow His example and prevail against evil. If we do not, someone else will. The choice is ours. Will we work with Him? Or allow the consequences of apathy to take root?
On Facebook yesterday someone posted this, with the command “Everyone needs to read this.”
So, for those who slavishly follow dictates from others, here is Mitch Albom, of “Tuesdays with Morrie” fame, who wrote this on Election Day:
To be honest, I am less concerned with what we do Tuesday than what we do Wednesday, Thursday, and every day thereafter. My biggest fear isn’t who sits in the Oval Office come January; if the rest of us keep conducting ourselves the way we have been the last six months, it won’t make a difference.
We have more than taken sides in America. We have tunneled moats. In the name of “our way” we have demeaned, denigrated, destroyed. We’ve lost friends, alienated families, split our communities by lawn signs. We have hurt one another, emotionally and even sometimes physically. Yet far from looking at our guilty hands in regret, we continue to make fists and shake them across the great divide.
Is this who we want to be?
Let me start in my own backyard. The media. I used to be so proud of this business. I would defend it to any critic. I’d point to the need for an independent press as the only thing standing between big power and big money running rampant over the citizenry.
Now it seems we are running alongside them.
Some of us are even carrying their banners.
The partisanship of the news has never been worse. Subtlety is a memory. Asking for balance brings an eye roll, as if asking an adult to finger paint.
Cable news has long been considered slanted, but there used to be an attempt to acknowledge another side. Not anymore. Fox News will regularly begin programs with reminders that you only have so many days left to vote for President Trump and a future, or Joe Biden and earthly destruction. Biden is mocked, referred to with nasty nicknames, and regularly derided for his age and cognitive abilities. In recent days, the Hunter Biden story either leads or is highly featured nightly.
Meanwhile, you can’t find that story on the CNN or MSNBC broadcasts. It doesn’t exist. Instead, Trump gets a daily and nightly skewering on coronavirus, and is the focus and blame for a large percentage of their stories and panels. Even the rare piece of positive data — i.e. last week’s report of record GDP growth for the third quarter — gets the “Yeah, but…” treatment. Snide asides are now woven into the dialogues.
This is bad behavior. It’s also bad, period, because so many Americans get their information from cable news.
The print media used to be different. It used to take pride in standing above such food fights.
Not anymore. In many places, print has abandoned even the pretense of objectivity. It’s very hard, for example, to read the Op-Ed sections of the New York Times or Washington Post and think you’re getting an evenly balanced chorus. (Thursday’s Times featured op-ed pieces with these titles: “How Trump Lowered America’s Standing in the World,” “Trump Killed the Pax Americana,” “Four Wasted Years Thinking About Donald Trump,” “Lies, Damned Lies and Trump Rallies” and, too rich for irony, “Five Great Things Joe Biden Has Already Done.”)
The Wall Street Journal — which leans decidedly in the opposite direction — ran an op-ed last week claiming those in charge of once-traditional newsrooms defend and protect Joe Biden “on the grounds that Donald Trump is a unique threat to democracy and that they have been forced to take commensurately unusual measures.”
If true, that’s the problem. We can’t throw out the rules of journalism because we feel it’s our moral imperative to replace one guy with another. Who put us in charge? Many in our business act as if we’re simply smarter than the common folk who vote, and it is therefore our duty to give those people what’s good for them.
When I watched the recent 60 Minutes interview with Trump — in which he evidenced more bad behavior by walking out before it was done — I took note of one question by the interviewer, Lesley Stahl. She asked, “Can you characterize your supporters?”
It struck me as odd. Would that be asked of Biden? It’s as if those who support the current president are a strange cult, a foreign herd with wacked-out beliefs, instead of nearly half the country based on the 2016 election. Then again, as a Midwesterner, it often seems that many coastal “experts” can’t grasp why anybody out here votes the way they do. That’s not journalistic curiosity. That’s hubris.
And more bad behavior.
Of course, we have plenty of inspiration from the politicians themselves. You can start with the president. There is no question his preening, his prevarication, his fast-and-loose-with-the-facts approach and his infatuation with putting people down is, by any measure, bad behavior. Heck, many of his supporters will admit that. He gathers masses with no COVID-19 concern. He lauds his staff members, then trashes them if they dare speak their mind. The Republican senators, congresspersons and governors behind him often seem to have taken a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil pact.
But if you think that makes his opponents holy, you’re not being fair. Joe Biden brags about his “transparency,” but he barked, “No they don’t,” when a reporter asked if the public had a right to know his stance on Supreme Court packing, and he remains radio silent about his son’s business dealings, carefully avoiding any situations where he might be asked a single question. Is that really being “transparent?”
As for decorum? Nancy Pelosi called the president “morbidly obese” and said he’s like a kid “with doggy doo on his shoes.” Chuck Schumer threatened Supreme Court justices, saying, “You won’t know what hit you.” Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, instead of casting a simple “nay” vote on Justice Amy Coney Barrett, marched to the table and declared, “Hell, no.” And for adopting two kids from impoverished Haiti, Barrett was likened to a “white colonizer” and her kids as “props” by a celebrated author and professor.
Are we proud to express ourselves that way? Is that admirable behavior?
We’ve attacked one another over the simple act of wearing a mask. People have been shot. A security guard was killed. Over a mask? We die on the hill for that?
The summer of protests saw many good people gathering to be heard. That’s our right, something to preserve. But the looting, burning, destruction and intimidation of innocent citizens was far too often excused or ignored because, once again, certain forces felt bad behavior, even violent behavior, was justified in the current ideological struggle.
Well, here’s some breaking news: the struggle isn’t going away. It won’t magically disappear on Tuesday night. We will eventually have a freshly elected president, but he’ll be presiding over the same nation, the same people, the same Congress, the same media and the same disagreements.
We keep acting as if this is the first time liberal and conservative have clashed, the first time race or police have been issues, the first time we’ve faced a health pandemic. None of that is true. And all of these things will repeat themselves in the future. In fact, they’ll all still be here, smack in our face, come Wednesday morning.
How will we be any different?
A common refrain has been, “If Trump goes away, we’ll all go back to being nicer.” That’s naïve, like a 5-year-old pointing to his kid brother and saying, “He started it!”
The fact is, we’ve gotten quite used to behaving badly. To rude and self-righteous postures. So when do we stop? The Republicans shoved through a Supreme Court justice because they had the power; now the Democrats threaten to pack the court if they have the power. Does that sound like a stop? Twitter and Facebook, who brazenly act as editors of their users’ viewpoints, aren’t getting any smaller. Where’s the stopping there? No matter who wins the White House, half the country will view it as Armageddon and vow to fight the oppressors.
Does that sound like an ending — or a beginning?
A recent poll showed three out of four Americans are concerned about violence on Election Day. City stores are being boarded up. Security is being strengthened near expensive properties. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is literally shutting itself down Tuesday and Wednesday. Violence when we vote? Does that sound like America, or a revolution in some small, war-torn country halfway around the world?
We are stressed, locked down, haunted by a common enemy virus that should have united us but instead divided us further. The truth is, our future won’t be determined by who we choose to lead us this week. It will be determined by how we act after we do.
An American president, when he wakes up, doesn’t step off a cloud. He is a representative, nothing more. What will he represent? What will we represent? Think about the friends we’ve lost this election season. The neighbors we’ve alienated. Who will we be on Wednesday, Thursday and beyond?
I know this: If the winners gloat and the losers threaten, we won’t be any better than we’ve been the last six months. And does anyone really want the country of the last six months to be the country of the next four years?
In spite of the admonition that is usually a sign for me to ignore what I have been commanded to read, Albom makes numerous good points here, but ignores the biggest point of all.
The obvious reason things are like this today is that government and therefore politics is too large and therefore too important. The political behavior we see today is the logical result of the overwhelming power government has at every level. When government is as large and powerful as it is, winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. That means politicians and their supporters will do and say anything to get into power and to stay in power. (How we have not had widespread assassinations so far is beyond my understanding.)
Cases in point: Democratic Assembly candidates Kriss Marion, Erik Brooks, Emily Siegrist, Kristin Lyerly and Sarah Yacoub. Each raised between $390,000 and $540,000, and each spent between $335,000 and $409,000 running for their Assembly seats. Each outspent their Republican opponents. They have one other thing in common: Each of them lost. That’s a hell of a lot of work for a job that pays $60,000 a year.
Why would donors give a collective $14.34 million to the winners and losers of 99 Assembly seats? Why would those candidates spend almost $11.4 million? Because of the power the Legislature has in this state. You want to fix our culture? Take away Madison’s power. And while you’re at it, defang cities, villages, towns and cities as well.
The related thing Albom missed is Americans’ increasing inability to leave each other alone and increasing judgmentalism of others. Increasingly Americans appear to want to force others to do things the way they want, and of course run to government to attain their goals for others.
I would say that Democrats and liberals (but I repeat myself) are the worst offenders. The joke is that conservative atheists just don’t go to church, conservative vegetarians just don’t eat meat, and conservatives who don’t like guns don’t own gun; liberal atheists try to prove that God doesn’t exist and want to ban religion, liberal vegetarians want to prevent you from eating meat, and liberals try to ban guns.
One of the unfortunate trends of the Trump era has been conservatives acting like liberals, not in beliefs, but in, for instance, being as nasty as liberals after liberals lose elections. There is no question that four years of Donald Trump is the result of eight years of Barack Obama because curiously conservatives don’t like being called “bitter clingers” or “deplorables.” And while Trump may have lost the election, the GOP did better than anyone thought likely in large part, I believe, to liberals continuing to underestimate conservatives’ intelligence and belittle conservatives because conservatives don’t agree with liberals on political issues.
When Donald Trump pulled off a stunning upset and won the presidency in 2016, few people were more shocked than the professional take-havers in the mainstream media. Pundits, journalists, and political strategists—who live in Washington, D.C., or New York City but seldom leave their Twitter bubbles—were totally blindsided by the fact that a crass reality TV star had managed to defeat Hillary Clinton, the embodiment of the Democratic establishment.
A healthy media might have learned from its mistakes, engaged in soul-searching, and tried to gain some insights into the working-class coalition that Trump had assembled. Clearly, this didn’t happen, because four years later—in the midst of a nail-bitingly close election—the predictions of the pundit class have proven to be no more accurate than they were in 2016. In fact, by some measures the experts performed even worse than last time: The pre-election polls, which suggested a landslide Biden victory, Democratic control of the Senate, and gains in the House, are so spectacularly wrong it calls the validity of the profession into doubt.
To take just one example, Sen. Susan Collins (R–Maine), for instance, did not lead her Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon, in a single poll of the Maine senate race. She was thought to be losing by 5, 6, or 7 points. (Quinnipiac had her down 12 points in September.) On Wednesday afternoon, Gideon conceded the race, which Collins won easily.
And while Biden currently looks likely to narrowly eke out a presidential victory, he is underperforming the polls in several states. In 2016, pollsters could reasonably claim that the numbers actually showed a very close and ever-tightening race in battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania: Trump’s win, though surprising, wasn’t exactly outside the range of possible outcomes. This time, the public was primed for a blowout that never materialized.
This means, of course, that the mainstream media narrative about the “shy,” reluctant, or otherwise undercounted Trump voter—namely, that he does not exist—was completely, utterly, bafflingly wrong: Once again, Trump is more popular than the media thought was possible.
Perhaps more importantly, the media continues to be wrong about why Trump is popular, and about which people like him. Unable to admit that a Democratic Party held hostage by liberal arts graduates who write their preferred pronouns on their name tags might be out of touch with the working class voters who traditionally vote blue, many cable news talking heads settled on any number of alternative explanations: from Russian interference to lingering, perhaps resurgent, racism throughout the U.S. (CNN’s Van Jones called it a “whitelash” in 2016.)
Trump, though appears to have improved—albeit modestly—his totals with minority voters, including and especially Latino voters. The narrative that Trump’s divisive rhetoric about foreigners and immigrants renders him completely toxic to minority voters just doesn’t match the reality. Indeed, the results thus far suggested that the racial gap—at least for Latinos—is shrinking, and class and educational attainment are becoming more salient considerations than race.
It’s unfortunate that many within the media—including and especially the prognosticators—continue to get things so wrong. Massive polling errors are bad for cultivating a well-informed citizenry, as David Graham argues in The Atlantic:
Without reliable sources of information about public opinion, the press, and by extension, the public, should perhaps employ a measure of humility about what we can and can’t know in politics. As wise as this may be—and even if people manage to act on it—that sort of epistemic humility risks falling prey to the same asymmetrical warfare that has characterized much of the Trump era. At the moment, the leader of the Republican Party is an authoritarian populist who claims to represent the “true” will of the people, despite losing the popular vote twice. The president is unlikely to exercise any such humility in claiming, without evidence, that public opinion is with him. He might be wrong, but without reliable polls, who’s to say otherwise?
Given the narrowness of Biden’s presumed victory, it seems unlikely that Trumpism has been dealt anything resembling a death blow. The GOP will have little reason to shun Trump; on the contrary, given the results in 2016, 2018, and now 2020, one could make the case that the Republican Party performs better with Trump’s name on the ballot than without it. Those in the mainstream media who continue to fail to understand Trump aren’t going to get off easy: They just plain have to get better at this, or they will continue to lose ground to their challengers in the alternative media.
Several people who fall into this latter category—which includes a bevy of populism-sympathetic podcasters and upstart policy advocates—were recently profiled in The Federalist. Publisher Ben Domenech and culture editor Emily Jashinsky call them the new contrarians, or “the New Contras for short, because the one thing they all have in common is refusing the wokeness that dominates legacy media, and has created a practically religious climate of insufferable identity politics.” They cite Glenn Greenwald and Katie Herzog as two such New Contras: Both were solid journalists of the left, gradually chased out of respectable leftwing journalism spaces for disagreeing with mainstream orthodoxy.
Institutions like The New York Times and The Atlantic have grown much more squeamish about inviting dissenters into their midst. Publications are now occasionally beholden to staffers who think it’s the job of journalists to run interference for the Democratic Party and hide stories from readers if they could conceivably help Trump. Many young rising stars in the world of investigative reporting think newsrooms have wrongly prioritized objectivity and should move toward a kind of “moral clarity” that is likely to make their institutions even more confused about why millions of people—roughly half the country—have aligned themselves with Donald Trump.
As independent thinkers exit the mainstream media, groupthink and blind spots among the legacy press are likely to get worse. The result would be a travesty, and not an outcome anyone should want or root for.
Will Friedwald writes about …
There’s a telling moment in the 1940 Tex Avery cartoon “A Wild Hare” when Bugs Bunny sneaks up behind Elmer Fudd, covers his adversary’s eyes with his hands, and instructs him to “Guess who!” The hunter reels off a list of contemporary leading ladies, including, as expressed in his exaggerated speech impediment, “Cawole Wombard.” Yet even though one of the actresses in the list, “Owivia DeHaviwand,” lived until July of this year, the joke has largely been lost on younger generations—because most viewers born after 1970 have barely heard of most of the movie stars of Hollywood’s golden age.
And that’s the most salient fact about this remarkable cartoon rabbit, a venerable Warner Bros. star who is currently celebrating his 80th birthday (at least in human years). Bugs fans can enjoy a three-disc Blu-ray set being released in December by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment; if you don’t want to wait, he’s also featured in an excellent series, developed by Peter Browngardt, of newly produced Looney Tunes cartoons (viewable on YouTube and HBO Max). Although your average millennial scratches his head at the mention of Barbara Stanwyck, everybody knows Bugs Bunny.
Bugs’s durability clearly has something to do with his intrinsic status as an underdog. Even before “A Wild Hare,” which is generally considered the first full-blown Bugs Bunny cartoon, the directors and animators working for (infamously hands-off) producer Leon Schlesinger had experimented with the notion of a hunted animal—the prey—turning the tables on its armed predator in a prototypical series of hunter-and-rabbit cartoons from 1938-40. Less than 18 months after the cartoon’s release, America itself would seem like a plucky underdog, entering a war in which the whole world was being menaced by little men with big guns. (“A Wild Hare” ends patriotically with Bugs re-creating the “Spirit of ’76” march.)
The tropes in “A Wild Hare” immediately established the rules of the hunter and the game: In their many encounters to follow, we’d find a clueless Elmer unaware that he is talking to Bugs—followed by a dramatic realization (“that was the wabbit!”); a comic death scene by Bugs—followed by exaggerated guilt pangs from Elmer. Nearly two decades later, “What’s Opera, Doc,” perhaps the single best Bugs Bunny cartoon, readdressed all those leitmotifs in grandly Wagnerian terms. The No. 1 rule isn’t so much that Bugs always wins (although that’s usually the case), but that physical aggression is always punished. Bugs triumphs by driving his antagonists crazy (as he does in “A Wild Hare”); rather than by responding with force, Bugs will taunt, tease and gaslight them until they just quit in sheer frustration. The only times Bugs loses are those rare instances when he is the aggressor, as in his three encounters with his persistent racing opponent, Cecil Turtle.
Yet as firm as the rules are, there was room for infinite variation on those familiar themes. And while the brilliant voice actor Mel Blanc gave Bugs his distinctive—and consistent—New York accent, there were noticeable differences in the approaches of the various directors: Bob Clampett’s Bugs was the most wacky, egomaniacal, out-of-control incarnation of the rabbit, in distinct contrast to Chuck Jones’s vision of the character, who was much more coolly calculating. Friz Freleng gave us a highly theatrical Bugs who seemed to exist on a vaudeville stage, always ready at the drop of a downbeat to fly into song and dance.
Even so, those directorial transformations are subtle compared with those that Bugs himself effortlessly achieves. He instantly morphs into the king of England, an imperious symphonic conductor, and a variety of drag roles—from a perky bobby-soxer to a Noo Yawk manicurist to a Teutonic Valkyrie perched on a corpulent white steed.
“Bugs needed a stronger adversary than Elmer, because Elmer was about as stupid as you could get,” Freleng said. “So I came up finally with a character called Yosemite Sam.” And in a cartoon parallel to the Cold War arms race, Bugs’s adversaries grew increasingly powerful over the years. Elmer toted a rifle he rarely used, but Sam’s six-shooters were constantly a-blazing. The rogues’ gallery of heavies gradually grew to include predatory animals (a wolf, a lion, a bear, a hunting dog), mad scientists, a furry monster, giants, an abominable snowman, a gorilla, a pirate, a Martian, a Nazi, a witch, and a Tasmanian devil. In several episodes he even goes up against the entire U.S. Army.
Bugs sometimes presents himself as an actor in a role, although in especially meta moments he is conscious of being a pen-and-ink creation. But Chuck Jones was fond of a little boy’s response when his father introduced the cartoonist as “the man who draws Bugs Bunny.” The child protested that Jones didn’t “draw Bugs Bunny”—rather, he drew “pictures of Bugs Bunny.” The difference is crucial. Even now, as an octogenarian, Bugs is alive and well, no matter who is drawing him.
My two favorites are …
Liberals often mock conservative Christians for supporting a notorious sinner and philanderer in Donald Trump, but the left has grown increasingly hostile to biblical (small-o) orthodox Christianity. Even the ostensibly moderate Democratic nominee Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. represents an insidious threat to the religious freedom of conservative Christians. He also represents a threat to Roman Catholics, even though he is himself a practicing Catholic.
How could this be? Biden’s rhetoric and policies single out those who adhere to traditional religious beliefs and moral convictions, aiming to limit their ability to live by their consciences and ostracizing them from polite society. The Democrat may outwardly campaign on a platform of unity and diversity, but his candidacy truly represents a threat to traditional religious believers.
The most recent evidence of this insidious threat came last week, when a Biden staffer suggested that traditional religious beliefs that homosexual acts are sinful and that marriage is between one man and one woman should be so “taboo” as to disqualify someone from serving on the Supreme Court.
Politico contributing editor Adam Wren noted that President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett “was a trustee at a South Bend private school that described ‘homosexual acts’ as ‘at odds with Scripture’ & said marriage was between ‘one man and one woman’ years after Obergefell v. Hodges.”
Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, responded, “Wait, why is this news? Isn’t this the standard position for any orthodox Catholic?”
Nikitha Rai, deputy data director for Pennsylvania at Biden’s campaign, responded to Hamid, saying, “Unfortunately, yes.”
Hamid responded, “to be fair, it’s the standard position for any orthodox Muslim or Jew as well…”
“True,” Rai acknowledged. Yet the staffer insisted that this perspective must be marginalized. “I’d heavily prefer views like that not be elevated to SCOTUS [the Supreme Court of the U.S.], but unfortunately our current culture is still relatively intolerant. It will be a while before those types of beliefs are so taboo that they’re disqualifiers.”
Rai suggested that presidents and the U.S. Senate should apply a religious test for Supreme Court nominations and confirmations. The Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for service in government. Article VI Clause 3 reads in part, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Nikitha Rai is just one Biden staffer. She doesn’t represent the entire Biden campaign, right? On the contrary, Rai’s insistence that traditional religious beliefs on marriage and sexuality should be taboo fits perfectly with the candidate at the top of the Democratic ticket.
In 2018, Biden described conservatives who oppose LGBT activism as “the dregs of society.”
Speaking to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Biden attacked people who have “tried to define family” in the U.S. “Despite losing in the courts and in the court of public opinion, these forces of intolerance remain determined to undermine and roll back the progress you all have made. This time they, not you, have an ally in the White House,” he said of President Donald Trump.
“They’re a small percentage of the American people, virulent people, some of them the dregs of society,” Biden added. “And instead of using the full might of the executive branch to secure justice, dignity, safety for all, the president uses the White House as a literal bully pulpit, callously exerting his power over those who have little or none.”
As my colleague Paula Bolyard reported, Biden again spoke to HRC in June 2019. On that occasion, he called the Orwellian Equality Act his first priority. The so-called Equality Act would force biblical orthodox Christians to violate their consciences on LGBT activism. It would also open women’s sports and women’s private spaces to biological males, undercutting fair play and privacy. A broad coalition of diverse groups allied to oppose the Equality Act, including pro-lifers, religious freedom advocates, and radical feminists.
Yet of the Equality Act, Biden said, “I promise you if I’m elected president it will be the first thing I ask to be done. It will send a message around the world, not just at home.”
“This is our soul, da*mit, this is who we have to be… This is our real moral obligation,” the Democrat added. “Using religion or culture to discriminate against or demonize LGBTQ individuals is never justified. Not anywhere in the world.”
Interestingly, while Biden vocally condemns traditional believers in such harsh terms, he has remained curiously silent on the horrific attacks against Catholic statues and churches amid the George Floyd riots this summer — despite his Catholic identity.
Americans do not support discrimination, but Democrats have twisted the notion of discrimination in order to force Christians to violate their beliefs.
Christian baker Jack Phillips, for example, refused to bake a custom cake for a same-sex wedding, although he gladly sells all sorts of pre-made cakes to LGBT people in his shop. Yet the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that he had discriminated against people on the basis of sexual orientation. He appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court and won — because members of the commission displayed animus against his religious faith, comparing his views to those of the Nazis.
Even after this Supreme Court victory, Phillips again faced the commission. A transgender lawyer asked him to bake an obscene custom cake celebrating the lawyer’s gender transition. Phillips refused, citing his free speech right not to be forced to endorse a view with which he disagrees. The commission again found him guilty of discrimination, but it dropped the complaint in March 2019. The lawyer promptly sued Phillips. Christian florists, farmers, and other bakers have faced government sanctions for “discrimination” when they refused to celebrate same-sex weddings, exercising their rights to religious freedom, freedom of association, and free speech.
This year, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) signed legislation that will force Christian schools and ministries to hire people who oppose their religious convictions on sexuality and gender. The laws will also force these ministries — which hold that God created humans male and female — to open women’s sports and women’s restrooms to biological males, to refer to biological males by female pronouns if they “identify” as female, and to pay for transgender surgery in their health care plans.
A lawsuit challenging the new laws as unconstitutional charged that Virginia’s LGBT statues force “people of faith to adopt a particular government ideology under threat of punishment.”
This religious freedom battle in Virginia is just a small taste of what the Equality Act threatens nationwide.
Joe Biden’s opposition to the “discrimination” from the “dregs of society” represents a tragically mainstream view in the Democratic Party. Last year, the Democratic National Committee adopted a resolution condemning religious freedom defenses.
“[T]hose most loudly claiming that morals, values, and patriotism must be defined by their particular religious views have used those religious views, with misplaced claims of ‘religious liberty,’ to justify public policy that has threatened the civil rights and liberties of many Americans, including but not limited to the LGBT community, women, and ethnic and religious/nonreligious minorities,” the DNC resolution states.
Senate Democrats have launched attacks on the religious faith of Trump nominees, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) infamously saying, “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) compared a conservative Christian law firm to the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot, citing the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) “hate group” accusation against mainstream conservative and Christian groups.
The SPLC faced a devastating sexual harassment and racial discrimination scandal last year, and former employees outed the “hate” accusations as a cynical fundraising scheme. An attempted terrorist tried to kill everyone at a conservative Christian nonprofit due to the SPLC’s “hate group” accusation, but Democrats continue to cite the SPLC as a reliable arbiter of hate.
Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), has proven one of the worst offenders. In May 2018, Harris launched an inquisition into the Roman Catholic faith of two of Trump’s judicial nominees — because they were members of the Roman Catholic fraternal order the Knights of Columbus Harris also cited the SPLC in branding Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative Christian law firm that defended Jack Phillips, a “hate group.”
While serving as California’s attorney general, Harris refused to defend the state law defining marriage as between one man and one woman — even though Californians had voted for it in 2008. Adding insult to injury, Harris rushed to officiate the first same-sex marriage after a court struck down the will of the people.
Animus against conservative Christians is a growing problem among American elites, and it arguably fuels the legacy media’s astounding ignorance of Christian doctrine.
In the book So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States? sociology professors George Yancey and David Williamson painstakingly document the presence of bias against conservative Christians, proving that it is as real as animus against Muslims and Jews. Indeed, Yancey’s most recent research shows that animus against Christians leads some people to support LGBT activism, even when they have a low opinion of LGBT people.
Democrats represent this Christianophobia in political form. Even though Biden is a practicing Roman Catholic, his candidacy represents an insidious threat to traditional Christianity, including orthodox Roman Catholic positions on sexuality and gender.
Those who support traditional marriage or the biological definition of sex as male or female will find their beliefs demonized and their religious freedom and free speech under fire in a Biden administration. It does not matter that supporters of traditional marriage or biological sex are a rather diverse group, including Roman Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, even atheists, and radical feminists. Biden’s presidency would represent a threat to all of them.
Interestingly, Biden’s own church does not perform same-sex marriages and considers sex of any kind outside marriage to be a sin. Unfortunately, as with Hillary Clinton’s supporters four years ago, many Americans are just fine with discriminating against those with traditional religious views.
I gathered with the entire student body of Wyoming Catholic College on Sept. 17, 2019, for a mandatory celebration of Constitution Day. We began with the Pledge of Allegiance, witnessed a lively panel discussion between professors on the history and modern relevance of America’s founding principles, and concluded by singing patriotic songs.
If you are a student at a typical American university, that description probably sounds foreign to anything you have experienced. Anti-Americanism has spread across college campuses like a wildfire, igniting rage and resentment against anything perceived as oppressive — even the American flag. As a result, most universities would likely shy away from a celebration of our nation’s founding in favor of more “inclusive” events.
And that’s why university officials have been among the first to lash out at President Donald Trump’s still vague calls for “patriotic education” in our schools.
In a Gallup poll this June, only 63% of U.S. adults say they are either “extremely proud” or “very proud” to be American, the lowest level of patriotism ever recorded since Gallup first asked the question in 2001. Among members of my generation, the youngest surveyed, patriots are in the minority. Only 4 out of 10 respondents ages 18-34 claim to be extremely or very proud of being American.
Unfortunately, many people my age do not believe that America is worth loving. This position is certainly understandable. Recent riots, violence and corruption remind us that America is far from perfect. Patriotism, however, does not claim a country is without flaws. In fact, many people who identify as patriotic do not always feel proud of their government, their fellow citizens or even themselves.
As English author G.K. Chesterton explained, patriotism treats one’s country like a family member — you love it simply because it is yours, and that love motivates you to mend any imperfections. Today, that motivating force is rapidly receding.
Mark Twain defined patriotism as loving your country all the time and your government when it deserves it. Bill Clinton said you cannot love your country and hate your government. He was wrong.
But there’s nothing new here. The medieval philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas once observed, “Love follows knowledge.” Love of country is no different; I believe our lack of patriotism stems from a lack of knowledge.
You would think knowledge isn’t in short supply, considering members of Generation Z have grown up with smartphones and, according to Pew Research Center data, are on track to be the most highly educated generation yet. Yet in a typical American university, a basic account of the nation’s history is hard to come by.
A 2016 report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni found that more than two-thirds of top U.S. colleges do not require history majors to take a single course on United States history. Instead, several colleges require history majors to “complete coursework on areas outside the United States.”
This trend is disturbing, to say the least. This standard for history education is a cafeteria-style menagerie of classes that emphasize a global timeline over the events that have shaped America. Without knowledge of our country’s particular history, we lose a sense of our shared identity and its characteristic values, including perseverance, integrity and freedom.
The problem extends well beyond a simple lack of information. A 2019 Title VI complaint filed against the UCLA alleges a professor cited “killing people, colonialism and white supremacy” as American values. On the contrary, they are stark departures from the goals of freedom and equality lauded in our founding documents.
The principles of the founding should be lauded as guiding stars amid the stormy sea of relativism, not extra weight to be thrown overboard.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Some colleges — like mine — offer a holistic perspective of American history and honor our characteristic values. If you are a proud American, consider attending or supporting these colleges and aspire to continually fulfill the mission of our Constitution’s preamble: to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” The stakes are higher than ever, and we hold the nation’s fate in our hands.