The Morning Jolt


The Thanksgiving Rhythm

A Charlie Brown balloon hovers above the crowd during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan,New York, U.S., November 22, 2018. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: What Thanksgiving is probably going to bring tomorrow; two cases of epic triumphs in political opposition research; and the year America had two Thanksgivings, a week apart.

What’s Going to Happen at Your Thanksgiving Tomorrow

I hope your travels today are mild and manageable and your Thanksgiving is joyous. This might be my favorite holiday, because there’s minimal aggravation and shopping, no worrying about getting the right gift for someone, and only a few decorations here and there. It’s about family, eating a lot of food, and watching television.

Every year, the day follows a particular rhythm. In the morning, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will feature too many Broadway singers and too few shots of the balloons. We’ll be treated to syrupy lip-synced versions of allegedly popular songs from country-pop crossover artists with names like “Dakota Leggings” and bands like “Basement Flooding Damage” singing with Grover from Sesame Street. Depending upon the weather in New York City, many of the young stars and starlets will appear to be having the time of their lives while battling hypothermia.

The adults will sit around and wonder which NBC host will resign in disgrace the coming year. NBC will “just happen” to stumble upon stars of its prime-time lineup in the crowd, and we’ll waste a few minutes watching costars of Law and Order: Parking Enforcement or the legal drama Admissible Hearsay telling us what Thanksgiving means to them.

It appears the wind might ground the balloons this year; it’s going to be a “game day decision.” If we’re lucky, the winds will be in that window where it’s safe enough to have the balloons, but high enough for a particularly powerful gust making the balloons go rogue, and Manhattan will be momentarily menaced by a giant runaway SpongeBob or Pikachu. I loved the sight of the NYPD beating down the Barney the Dinosaur balloon in 1997.

During the commercial breaks, some implausibly cheerful millennial will tell us that the holidays are a great time to switch our phone carrier to AT&T or Sprint or Verizon or one of the others. Right, because there’s nothing like the Christmas shopping season to head into the mall, get the attention of a salesperson, and then decide from among a menu of incomprehensible offerings and calculate how many gigs of data I need to share among the family. (Okay, maybe Milana Vayntrub comes closest to pulling off this advertising version of Mission: Impossible.)

The parade ends at noon, which means you’ve got a half-hour of pregame before the 3-7-1 Detroit Lions host the 5-6 Chicago Bears, and Terry Bradshaw, Curt Menefee, Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson, and Michael Strahan get the challenging assignment of building up anticipation and excitement for a matchup between two teams with losing records. For some of us on the East Coast, this is the only Detroit Lions game we see all year, and for all of the Lions’ flaws, many years they’ve offered us somebody really exciting to watch — Barry Sanders, Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, Matthew Stafford. The fans in Detroit always seem pretty happy to be there; I guess when you’ve been going to a pro football game on Thanksgiving your whole life, it doesn’t seem odd at all.

By mid-afternoon, you can smell the food cooking in the kitchen. Those doing the cooking tend to shoo family members who are lurking about and tempted to steal a nibble of the work in progress.

The Dallas Cowboys are the other NFL team that traditionally hosts a game on Thanksgiving, and usually they have the better matchup. That’s true again this year, as they’re 6-5 and hosting the 8-3 Buffalo Bills at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. But the second game is in the prime Thanksgiving dinner window, and I suspect that every year, many fans surreptitiously sneak away during the big meal to check on the score.

It’s fascinating that every year brings some playful debates about what Thanksgiving foods are best, because almost every house goes with at least some of the traditional ones: a big roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, yams or sweet potatoes, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, glazed carrots, and rolls. God help America’s family chefs as they begin to account for vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians, the gluten-intolerant, those doing Atkins or avoiding carbs entirely, kids with fatal peanut allergies, those keeping Kosher, and picky eaters at the kids’ table. Who knew that the Thanksgiving tradition of having a lot of different dishes was so farsighted?

This is also probably one of the most prayerful days of the year, and despite all of our troubles and problems, the overwhelming majority of Americans can find something in their lives to be thankful about.

The evening news might feature stories on people camping out overnight near some big box store in preparation for Black Friday, although I think this trend is waning. Cyber Monday offers all the stuff and none of the crowds — unless you yearn for the days of Cabbage Patch Doll-related violence and haven’t truly felt alive since the day you elbowed somebody in the ribs for that last Tickle-Me-Elmo.

You’re probably too stuffed to eat by the end of the day, but there are still plenty of leftovers. As I noted on The Editors podcast, this is the hour many belts get unbuckled and people settle into recliners and couches. Growing up we were stuck with reruns on the big networks, but the National Football League, in its infinite wisdom, decided to give us a third game in prime time! This year it’s a pretty good one, the 9-2 New Orleans Saints visiting the 3-8 Atlanta Falcons. You might think watching part of a third game is a bit excessive, but having one more serving than you should have is another Thanksgiving tradition.

Someone will ask whether it’s too early to hang mistletoe, and someone will respond that it won’t hang itself, much like Jeffrey Epstein.

Great Moments in Opposition Research History

Man, did somebody do their homework on “how to destroy Cenk Unger’s congressional campaign.” Cenk Unger was an outspoken leftist commentator who hosted a program on MSNBC from 2011 to 2013, and then moved to Current TV. He’s now running for Congress to replace Katie Hill, and this morning he probably regrets the decision, as every inane and insane thing he’s ever said is now compiled and makes him not only unfit for Congress and unfit for polite society, he probably needs to be institutionalized.

Speaking of destroying campaigns, let’s give Arkansas senator Tom Cotton credit for bringing his A-game to next year’s Senate campaign. He’s effectively already won, as the only Democrat who filed to run suddenly and mysteriously withdrew, hours after the deadline passed: “In a memo from Cotton’s campaign obtained by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette earlier this month, campaign staff touted how it identified ‘significant vulnerabilities’ in Mahony’s background, which it held off publicizing until after the deadline had passed for another Democrat to join the race.”

No Democrat is likely to appear on the ballot next year against Republican U.S. senator Tom Cotton, Arkansas’ Democratic party leader said Monday after reviewing the state laws applicable to replacing the aborted candidacy of Josh Mahony.

Mahony, who unexpectedly quit the race a few hours after Arkansas’ candidate filing period closed Nov. 12, has since ceased communication with party leaders, Chairman Michael John Gray said Monday, frustrating the party’s efforts find a legal avenue to replace Mahony.

“Barring further information provided that satisfies the statutory language in the state of Arkansas to replace a candidate, the Democratic Party will not field a candidate for the U.S. Senate,” Gray said in a news conference at Democratic Party headquarters in Little Rock.

In the two weeks since Mahony announced his decision to exit the race with a tweet citing “family health concerns,” talks between the Democratic Party and its former candidate appear to have broken down. Mahony has hired an attorney to represent him in future discussions. 

Patience is a deeply underrated virtue.

ADDENDA: You think the country is divided now? Eighty years ago, we couldn’t even agree on what day Thanksgiving was. I found this bit of American history strangely hilarious:

In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared November 23rd, the next-to-last Thursday of the month, to be Thanksgiving Day. This break with tradition was prompted by requests from the National Retail Dry Goods Association to extend the Christmas shopping season by one week. Roosevelt had rejected the association’s similar request in 1933 on the grounds that such change might cause confusion. The President’s 1939 proclamation proved him more right than he probably would have liked.

As always, the president’s 1939 proclamation only directly applied to the District of Columbia and federal employees. While governors usually followed the president’s lead with state proclamations for the same day, on this year, twenty-three states observed Thanksgiving Day on November 23rd, twenty-three states celebrated on November 30th, and Texas and Colorado declared both Thursdays to be holidays. Football coaches scrambled to reschedule games set for November 30th, families didn’t know when to have their holiday meals, calendars were inaccurate in half of the country, and people weren’t sure when to start their Christmas shopping. The nation was again divided over the date of Thanksgiving Day in 1940. 

God bless Texas and Colorado. “Hey, boss, what are we supposed to do if there are two Thanksgivings on the calendar?” “Eh, you know what, give everybody both days off.”


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