Politics & Policy

Trump’s Christmas Gift to America

(Reuters photo: Jonathan Ernst)
Liberals are suddenly concerned with the dangers of big government. It’s a holiday miracle!

On Tuesday morning, the Heritage Foundation, the well-known conservative think tank, composed a doozy of a tweet, queued it up, and cheerfully blasted it out to over half a million followers. “It’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas,” Heritage declared, attaching a graphic of a beaming, thumbs-up, camo-hatted Donald Trump. One of Trump’s favorite rally one-liners — beloved by some, gleefully mocked by others— was helpfully superimposed on the image: “We’re going to start saying Merry Christmas again.”

Like many Americans who never stopped saying Merry Christmas in the first place — full disclosure: I sometimes also say “Happy Holidays,” “Happy Hanukkah,” or other jolly derivations on this theme — I found this somewhat confusing. Is the resurgence of “Merry Christmas,” said in concert from sea to shining sea, really a gift that President-elect Donald Trump will bestow upon America?

I suppose we can wait and see. But, all wild-eyed holiday enthusiasm aside, there is an actual gift hidden within Trump’s election: Suddenly, left-leaning partisans — many of whom have never met a government program they didn’t like, a boatload of money they didn’t want to spend on a study determining the proper gender roles of wombats, or an “incorrect” opinion they didn’t yearn to squash in the name of “free speech” — are learning to harbor a healthy distrust of big government.

Lo and behold! Merry Christmas!

Witness Ana Marie Cox, a popular progressive writer with gigs at MTV and the New York Times. “So who else has been researching basic disaster prep stuff?” she polled her Twitter audience on Wednesday. “Bc—congrats, right wingers—I do not trust the government to help anymore!” Her next tweet extended the holiday merriment to our nation’s Second Amendment enthusiasts: “Getting my rifle out of storage this week.”

Bravo! Both are fabulous ideas. I, after all, am an enthusiastic “prepper,” meaning I have stocks of canned goods, water, various walkie talkies, and books on how to survive things like parachute failures and grizzly-bear attacks stashed throughout my house. I live in Texas, so obviously I also have a gun. Or two. Or ten. Unfortunately, telling everyone you’re a prepper is not the best idea in the world, because when some sort of alien invasion or EMP attack actually does happen, those legions of un-prepped slacker friends who once made fun of you will descend upon your house and ask for all of your stuff.

Moving on into the Trump presidency, we can expect to see more of this strange new liberal respect for limited government, federalism, and a restrained executive.

All kidding aside, though, the era of left-wing panic is here, it’s real, and it’s growing like a brand-new bureaucracy with an unlimited budget staffed by hundreds of enthusiastic Millennials paralyzed by college debt. The difference between people like me and many suddenly panicked progressives, of course, is that I’ve never really trusted big, expansive, in-your-face government, no matter who the president might be. This isn’t a stance based on paranoia of the kind that makes you put tinfoil hats on all 17 of your cats. It’s a rational conclusion based on familiarity with sound economics, historical evidence, and comparative politics.

We limited-government types will have to take what we can get, though. Witness Vox, the website modestly dedicated to explaining everything in the world. Vox, you see, is suddenly on board with federalism and “states’ rights,” a term one of its writers derided in February as “the sneaky language today’s politicians use to get away with racism and sexism.” What a difference ten months and a new president make! On Tuesday, our explainers-in-chief had a much different explanation: “We’re about to see states’ rights used defensively against Trump.”

Or take the newfound media panic about a change to the nation’s Broadcasting Board of Directors, which supervises the Voice of America and other state-funded media outlets. Power over the board is about to be consolidated in the hands of a presidential appointee, in an ostensible reform that “Vladimir Putin or Qatar’s emir might admire,” as the earnest Washington Post editorial board worried on December 9. How on earth did we sink to this dangerous state of affairs? “The Obama administration — perhaps anticipating a Hillary Clinton Presidency — supported these changes.”

#related#Expect to see confusion mixed in with the consternation. There will be massive teeth-gnashing, for instance, about Trump’s meeting with various celebrities, conveniently ignoring the fact that President Obama once granted an interview to a YouTube star who sits in a bathtub filled with Froot Loops. There will be earnest articles about how Trump is a secret “Ayn Rand acolyte” — the Washington Post ran one this week — that oddly omit his repeated, decidedly non-Randian calls for haphazard government intervention in the domestic economy. And over the next few days, there will be earnest attempts — after a month of berating the horrors of the Electoral College — to talk various electors into going rogue.

Yes, moving on into the Trump presidency, we can expect to see more of this strange new liberal respect for limited government, federalism, and a restrained executive. And when the seesaw of political power eventually tilts back to the left? I’d guess progressives will forget this ever happened, cheer right up, and revert to big-government business as usual.

Some things, after all, never change.

Heather Wilhelm is a columnist for National Review. Her work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, RealClearPolitics, the Washington Examiner, Commentary magazine, the Dallas Morning News, the Miami Herald, and the Kansas City Star


The Latest