This is Trump at his Fox News-iest but the culture war is arguably the most successful part of his presidency so far. In the past week alone, he handed the right a policy victory by ending ObamaCare’s contraception mandate and a cultural victory by getting the NFL to come out against player protests during the national anthem. If SCOTUS rules next year for the Christian baker in Colorado’s gay-wedding antidiscrimination case with Neil Gorsuch as the deciding vote, that’ll be a landmark victory for religious freedom and a major payoff to conservatives. There’s not much he can do about ObamaCare repeal while Congress is jammed up (although he’s working on it) but he can fight some cultural battles in the meantime, whether meaningful or empty calories. I wouldn’t underestimate the political potency of even distracting trivia like the NFL matter, given how long the right has been retreating in the culture wars. Any victory, even if it’s just a skirmish, is a morale booster to Republicans.
Nor would I underestimate Trump’s ability to shape *perceptions* of victory on the right, however illusory. An early Christmas wager for you: Some pollster will conduct a survey in December asking Americans if, as Trump suggests in the clip below, they’ve heard other people saying “Merry Christmas” more often than they used to. I’ll bet something like 75 percent of Republicans say yes. And most of them will believe it. Now that the president has used the bully pulpit to put this on people’s cultural radar, it’s natural that every Christmas greeting one of his fans receives will register more deeply than it used to. It *will* seem like people are saying “Merry Christmas” again, never mind that they never actually stopped.
A pregnant line from elsewhere in today’s Values Voter speech:
Trump pointed to the Founding Fathers, noting that “Our Creator was invoked four times in the Declaration of Independence.”
“How times have changed, but you know what? Now they’re changing back again. Just remember that,” Trump said in his Washington address.
That bit about times changing back drew some of the biggest cheers of the speech. You can’t distill his reactionary appeal any better. And in some ways it’s true. The teen birthrate is at an all-time low and there’s reason to believe that the youngest American adults are a bit more conservative socially than their older peers. But Trump’s claim is harder to defend big-picture: Americans, especially white Americans and young Americans, are losing their religion. Support for gay marriage continues to climb. A Gallup poll taken earlier this year found that record numbers of adults hold “liberal” moral values. And a slim majority now agrees that government shouldn’t promote “traditional values.” In 1993, when Bill Clinton took office, 57 percent thought it should. Trump’s presidential victory does suggest that the times have “changed back” in certain ways but not so much in the realm of values. Would a nation deeply concerned with traditional Judeo-Christian ethics have elected a twice-divorced playboy from New York who encouraged fans at his rallies to punch protesters? C’mon.
Anyway. Watching him rev up into full “war on Christmas” mode this winter a la his NFL crusade while tax reform collapses in Congress will be completely insufferable. Also completely inevitable.
Trump to Values Voter Summit: "We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values…We’re saying ‘merry Christmas’ again." pic.twitter.com/Kp8J0XdtOJ
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) October 13, 2017