When President Donald Trump spoke at the Values Voter Summit in Washington on Friday, his biggest applause line didn’t come when he mentioned the border wall or the economy or how America is starting to be respected in the world again. It was when he talked about Christmas.
“They don’t use the word ‘Christmas’ because it’s not politically correct,” Trump said. “We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
Cue massive standing ovation.
At this point, it feels worth mentioning that today is October 13. Christmas is in 72 days. We have Halloween and Thanksgiving to get through before the real Christmas countdown even begins! (Sidebar: I l-o-v-e Christmas carols. I am not joking.)
Of course, this isn’t even close to the first time Trump has insisted that people will being saying “Merry Christmas” again when he is in charge. Back in July, at the Celebrate Freedom gathering at the Kennedy Center, Trump said this:
“Our religious liberty is enshrined in the very first amendment in the Bill of Rights. The American founders invoked our creator four times in the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin reminded his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention to begin by bowing their heads in prayer. I remind you that we’re going to start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
Just after his victory in 2016 – and just 12 days before Christmas! – Trump traveled to Wisconsin to make good on a campaign pledge.
“So when I started 18 months ago, I told my first crowd in Wisconsin that we are going to come back here someday and we are going to say ‘Merry Christmas’ again,” he said. “Merry Christmas. So, merry Christmas, everyone. Happy New Year, but merry Christmas.”
Back in January 2016, in a speech at Liberty University in Virginia, Trump reminded people that even though Christmas had passed less than a month before, people would start saying “Merry Christmas” again – or something.
“You go into a department store,” he said. “When was the last time you saw ‘Merry Christmas’? You don’t see it anymore. They want to be politically correct. If I’m president, you will see ‘Merry Christmas’ in department stores, believe me, believe me. “
As far back as 2015, Trump was using the line. He tweeted this in December of that year: “@JenniferJJacobs: Trump: ‘Protect the 2nd amendment…And by the way we’re going to be saying Merry Christmas again.’ Iowa crowd LOVES it.”
You get the idea. If Trump is ever in front of what he believes to be a religious audience – and sometimes just when he feels like it – he rolls out the we’re-going-to-start-saying-’Merry Christmas’-again line.
Why? Well, first of all, because it works. Trump is a showman. He spent much of 2015 and the early party of 2016 focus-grouping lines in front of audiences. He threw out the ones that didn’t hit and kept the ones that got a laugh or a big round of applause. And, short of “we’re going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it,” few lines have succeeded as consistently well as the Christmas one.
The appeal of the line is simple. One of Trump’s strongest arguments during the campaign – and now – is that the political correctness police have taken over. You can’t say what you want anymore! Hell, you can’t even think it!
For people – and there are lots of them – who rage against the scolding and shaming from the coastal elites – the idea that you allegedly can’t even say “Merry Christmas” is sort of a final outrage. They’ve even taken that from us!
That anti-PC message also dovetails nicely with the whole trying-to-take-the-Christ-out-of-Christmas angle that Trump knows appeals to some segment of evangelical conservatives who resent what they see as the attempt to neuter the religiosity from the holiday.
In short: The “Merry Christmas” line is a perfect potion of cultural warfare and anti-PC ingredients. It’s the mixture that Trump ran on and won on.
Which is why, come December 25, we’ll all be wishing each other a very merry Christmas. Or else.