Not Even A Festivus For The Rest Of Us…

Unlike most Americans, I was never a big “Seinfeld” fan, but many of the sitcom’s jokes became widespread–none more than its promotion of “Festivus for the rest of us,” a “celebration” for those who don’t celebrate Christmas.

What brought that mythical holiday to mind was a very unfunny report from Talking Points Memo about America’s growing Christian Nationalist movement, a movement that–if successful–will leave no room for alternate (i.e. nonChristian) holidays. The sub-head really says it all: “From traditional Christian-right figures to secret societies envisioning a ‘national divorce,’ a growing contingent of radical activists is planning for Christian supremacy.”

The report was written by Sarah Posner, a journalist who has covered the Christian Right for two decades.

Over the past three years, I began to more frequently use the term “Christian nationalism” to describe the movement I cover. But I did not start using a new term to suggest its proponents’ ideology had changed. Instead, the term had come into more common usage in the Trump era, now regularly used by academics, journalists, and pro-democracy activists to describe a movement that insists America is a “Christian nation” — that is, an illiberal, nominally democratic theocracy, rather than a pluralistic secular democracy.

To me, the phrase was highly descriptive of the movement I’ve dedicated my career to covering, and neatly encapsulates the core threat the Christian right poses to freedom and equality. From its top leaders and influencers down to the grassroots — politically mobilized white evangelicals, the foot soldiers of the Christian right — its proponents believe that God divinely ordained America to be a Christian nation; that this Christian nation has come under attack by liberals and secularists; and that patriotic Christians must engage in spiritual warfare to rid America of demonic forces, and in political action to restore its Christian heritage. That includes taking political steps — as a voter, as an elected official, as a lawyer, as a judge — to ensure that America is governed according to a “biblical worldview.”

Those of us who occupy a far more secular America have been laboring under the misapprehension that religious wars are things of the past. Those of us who are comfortable in a society formed in large part by changes introduced during the Enlightenment–respect for science and empiricism, belief that governments derive their powers from the people, not from deity–have a hard time recognizing, let alone understanding, a worldview that remains rooted in the 16th Century. But that is the worldview that has spawned today’s politically active megachurches, and what the article calls “culture-shaping organizations like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.

These “Christian soldiers” want governance according to their vision of a biblical worldview. They oppose church-state separation, want expanded rights for conservative Christians, are dead-set against abortion and LGBTQ rights, and are extremely hostile to trans people and trans rights. (Here in Indiana, Jim Banks–currently the unopposed Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, often called “Focus on the Family’s man in Washington, is a perfect example of a Christian Nationalist “warrior.”)

Posner and several others have noted the prominence of Christian iconography at the January 6 insurrection, and the growing willingness of MAGA Christians to tolerate, even welcome, virulent racists, anti-Semites and other extremists in their midst. As she writes, “Their entire alliance with Trump is one of sharing political and ideological space with the overtly antisemitic, racist, Islamophobic, nativist extremists he elevated to mainstream status in the GOP.”

Posner describes the various strands within Christian Nationalism, but notes commonalities as well: they “believe they are restoring, and will run, the Christian nation God intended America to be — from the inside.”

They will do that, in their view, through faith (evangelizing others and bringing them to salvation through Jesus Christ); through spiritual warfare (using prayer to battle satanic enemies of Christian America); and through politics and the law (governing and lawmaking from a “biblical worldview” after eviscerating church-state separation). Changes in the evangelical world, particularly the emphasis in the growing charismatic movement on prophecy, signs and wonders, spiritual warfare, the prosperity gospel, and Trumpism, has intensified the prominence of the supernatural in their politics, giving their Christian nationalism its own unmistakable brand.

Every single MAGA politician elected in November will be a foot-soldier for Christian Nationalism. A Trump victory would give them free reign to remake America in accordance with a “Godly” vision–a vision that was expressly rejected by the nation’s Founders.

The world that these Christian Nationalist politicians inhabit (and want to impose upon all of America) is pre-modern, intolerant, anti-science, anti-democracy. It has no room for “the rest of us.”


Why Does Anyone Support This Buffoon?

I don’t get it.

Read a recent, snarky Dana Milbank column in the Washington Post. It began with a visit to Trump-speak–a language bearing less and less relationship to American English.

The Very Stable Genius is glitching again.

This week, he announced that he is not — repeat, NOT — planning to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He apparently forgot that he had vowed over and over again to do exactly that, saying as recently as a few months ago that Republicans “should never give up” on efforts to “terminate” Obamacare.

“I’m not running to terminate the ACA, AS CROOKED JOE BUDEN DISINFORMATES AND MISINFORMATES ALL THE TIME,” the Republican nominee wrote this week on his Truth Social platform. Rather, he said, he wants to make Obamacare better for “OUR GREST AMERICAN CITIZENS.”

Joe Buden disinformates and misinformates? For a guy trying to make an issue of his opponent’s mental acuity, this was not, shall we say, a grest look.

Milbank offered some additional examples of Trump-speak: “We’ll bring crime back to law and order,” “We just had Super Tuesday, and we had a Tuesday after a Tuesday already,” and “You can’t have an election in the middle of a political season.”

Whenever I am reminded of Trump’s intellectual lapses and/or his inability to use the English language, I marvel that this is the guy MAGA folks think should control the nuclear codes….

Much of Milbank’s column was focused on Trump’s selective memory. When he recently recited the time-honored political question “are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Milbank theorized that he’d “forgotten all about the economic collapse and his administration’s catastrophic bungling of the pandemic.”

As the Supreme Court was hearing arguments about banning the abortion pill, Trump also conveniently “forgot” his previous emphatic support for that ban, and his proposal to ban it fortuitously disappeared from his web site. Given that polling shows some 7 in 10 Americans opposed to such a ban, the Heritage Foundation also experienced a website “glitch” that conveniently obscured that part of the Foundation’s Plan for 2025.

As Milbank wrote,

The Heritage Foundation-run Project 2025, to which Trump has unofficially outsourced policymaking for a second term, said that a “glitch” had caused its policies — including those embracing a mifepristone ban — to disappear from its website. The Biden campaign said it was “calling BS on Trump and his allies’ shameless attempt to hide their agenda,” and the missing documents returned — including the language calling abortion pills “the single greatest threat to unborn children” and vowing to withdraw regulatory approval for the drugs.

Evidently, the House Republicans didn’t get the polling memo.

The extremism isn’t just at Project 2025, stocked with former Trump advisers. The House Republican Study Committee, which counts 80 percent of House Republicans as members, put out a budget last week that would rescind approval of mifepristone, dismantle the “failed Obamacare experiment” and embrace a nationwide abortion ban from the moment of conception.

Sometimes its a convenient loss of memory; other times, it’s obvious mental illness compounded by jaw-dropping ignorance. Take Trump’s “explanation” of why Truth Social’s stock wasn’t listed on the New York Stock Exchange:

He said he didn’t list the company on the New York Stock Exchange because it would be “treated too badly in New York” by Democratic officeholders. So he instead listed the company on Nasdaq, which is based in … New York. Trump said the “top person” at the NYSE “is mortified. … He said, ‘I’m losing business.’ ” As CNN pointed out, neither the president nor the chair of the exchange is a “he.”

Then there’s the most recent grift: selling bibles.

Trump is getting kickbacks for selling the Gospel — marketing God the same way he sold Trump-branded “Never Surrender High-Tops” sneakers last month for $399 a pair and, before that, digital trading cards showing Trump as a superhero.

“All Americans need a Bible in their home, and I have many. It’s my favorite book,” Trump said in the video promoting his new bible hustle.

Trump’s campaign shows a video at rallies announcing that “God Gave us Trump,” and he has called himself “the chosen one.” He’s shared a post calling him “the second greatest” after Jesus. And Milbank reports that Trump recently posted a verse from Psalms, topped by a message likening Trump’s suffering in the fraud case to the Crucifixion. 

There’s much, much more–but it all begs the question: who in their right mind looks at this pathetic sociopath with his limited (and rapidly declining) intellect and his God complex and says “yes, that’s my guy!”?  Is giving his supporters permission to express their racism and hostility to “elitists” really enough to outweigh the daily evidence of his manifest unfitness?

I don’t get it.



A former student sent me a blog post by the singer Carrie Newcomer that coincided with an observation of my own that I’d recently discussed with my husband. (I should note here that this wasn’t a student from my “professoring” days–he’s a student from my high-school English teacher days who still keeps in touch! Talk about making this old lady feel appreciated!!)

Newcomer’s post was titled “Holding the Both/And of Human Possibility,” and began with her description of a trip she’d taken to a small town. Her plane had been delayed, and when she got to the airport, the rental car agencies were closed, the town’s only taxi service was closed for the night, and her hotel was a half-hour drive away. She’d reconciled herself to spending the night in the airport with her coat as a blanket, but then the last couple at baggage claim asked her if she had a ride.

They looked at one another (they had been on my same late flight) and said they would be happy to give me a ride to the hotel. Relief rolled down my shoulders and I told them I would be eternally grateful for their help. So as the last lights were dimming in the airport we packed up the back of their car with our things and headed into town. We talked about that region of the country in the springtime, family, music and traveling and I discovered they were returning home from a trip to Australia. With all the weather delays they were more than thirty hours into traveling, but were heading home right after they dropped me off. They were lovely people. When we reached the hotel I offered to help pay for gas (which they graciously refused) and I gave them as many CDs as they would accept. As they were about to leave I mentioned how grateful I was for their help and grateful that my hotel was on their way home. The woman chuckled and the fellow said, “well actually we live about 45 minutes the other direction” and I realized they had added a full hour to their already brutally long travel day —to help out someone they didn’t know who was going to have to sleep in an airport alone until morning.

Newcomer went on to contrast that kindness with a recent speech in which Trump had made fun of people with various disabilities, and reminded her readers that it was far from the first time “this man has used the dangerous tools of authoritarianism to marginalize, demonize or dehumanize entire groups of people (immigrants, persons of color, women, persons with disabilities, and others).”

The rest of the post is a thought-provoking meditation on how we should live in a world where we inevitably encounter both kinds of people. I encourage you to click through and read the entire post, because it is thoughtful and inspiring–and absolutely true.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I read Newcomer’s essay just after I had shared a similar observation with my husband. After we downsized, we moved into an apartment building in the center of Indianapolis’ downtown. The vast majority of other residents are a very diverse population of young professionals–and I do mean young. And they have been unfailingly kind and considerate. They open doors for us, offer to help us with packages, wish us a good day…From what I can tell, those courtesies extend to each other, even though they represent a very diverse mix of ethnicities, races and even nationalities.

They give me hope.

And then I turn on the news, and see what Carrie Newcomer described so movingly. As a commenter here noted a couple of days ago, it isn’t just Trump. His MAGA supporters are evidence that there are many fearful, limited people who have channeled those fears and limitations into grievance and hate. Worse still, there are so many candidates willing to pander to that hate and encourage those bigotries. (One of the Republican candidates for Indiana Governor is currently running an ad in which Tucker Carlson characterizes Black Lives Matter members as “cop killers.” He ran a previous ad featuring an African student he’d helped, so I presume he thought it inoculated him against charges of racism…)


As Newcomer says, we live at a time when all our daily actions matter for lifting up the potential for goodness. Read the essay.


Ever Wonder Where MAGAs Get Those T-Shirts?

As regular readers of this blog know, I read a lot of stuff from a lot of very different sources. Mostly, I do so in order to find material to post about, but I also do so because I’m retired, curious and have time but no hobbies– and I’m not much for movies and television viewing.

I mention this because, as I’ve continued to skim available media, I have slowly come to a very concerning conclusion: the MAGA, far-Right takeover of this country is a lot farther along than most normal Americans realize. I alluded to that when I posted about the Heritage Foundation’s willingness to put its appalling Plan 2025 in writing, evidently confident that any blowback to its profoundly anti-democratic, anti-American proposals would be offset by the embrace of millions of committed culture warriors.

Once you look around, you can identify numerous examples of just how far MAGA has penetrated. Trump and McConnell accelerated its capture of the federal courts. Faux News and its proliferating clones provide alternate realities to MAGA folks offended by verifiable facts. Americans continue to retreat into selected tribes. In much of Red America, Christian Nationalism has been normalized.

Then, of course, there’s the considerable cowardice of most Republican office-holders; as Liz Cheney recently said, most of the GOP members of Congress know that Trump is a liar and a danger to the Republic, but they are terrified of his supporters–the current base of the Republican Party.

I’ve recently come across more pedestrian examples, and in a way, I find them even more chilling.

The New Republic recently published a column describing Rightwing business startups. These are businesses that deliberately gear their appeal to the MAGA “tribe.” We’ve evidently come a long way from the time that businesses avoided political identification like the plague, believing that “weighing in” on contested political issues posed  an unacceptable risk to their brands. (That belief was so BT: before Trump.) The article focused on two companies: the Black Rifle Coffee Company (intended to become the “Starbucks of the Right”) and Nine Line Apparel.

Black Rifle got seed money from one Brandon Herrera,

a gun YouTuber and DIY machine-gun manufacturer known as the “AK Guy.’” Two weeks ago, after forcing the Republican congressman representing Uvalde, Texas, Tony Gonzales, into a runoff after he dared vote for a gun safety bill, Herrera tweeted, “Texas is done with RINOS. The war starts now.”

It also turns out that a“black rifle” is not a rifle that is black. It’s an AR-15 assault rifle.

You may have seen Black Rifle’s logo–Kyle Rittenhouse was photographed in the company’s t-shirt after bailing out of jail for fatally shooting a Black Lives Matter demonstrator. Or maybe you saw it on pictures of the “Zip Tie Guy” during the January 6th insurrection–the guy who was going to use his zip ties as tools to hog-tie “treasonous” senators–who wore a baseball cap featuring a Black Rifle product.

The linked article suggests that Black Rifle is just the leading edge of “a trend of brands that make fascist aesthetics into a central part of their business strategy.”

ONE COMPANY ORGANIZED ON THE BLACK RIFLE MODEL is both more modest (it booked an estimated $36 million in annual revenue in 2023, compared to BRCC’s $300 million) and more immoderate. None of Evan Hafer’s crisis communications–style hedging for Nine Line Apparel. After visiting their website, my feed immediately began filling up with ads picturing images like the Christmas card trollingly circulated by Gen. George S. Patton’s son, also a general, after the revelation of the My Lai massacre. Beside the inscription “Peace on Earth,” it depicted a stack of Vietnamese corpses. He also passed around a picture of himself posing with a polished skull with a bullet hole above the eye. Dad bods can now sport stuff like that on a hoodie for the low, low price of $47.99, less if you join Nine Line’s “Patriots Club.”

Among Nine Line’s products: a Spartan helmet done up in Darth Vader black above the legend “I’m a patriot. Weapons are part of my religion,” a Blue Lives Matter flag identifying the stripe in the center as the “Barrier between community and lawlessness,” and t-shirts proclaiming that “Family/Faith/Friends/Flag/Firearms” are “5 Things You Don’t Mess With” and an Air Force number that boasts “Dropping warheads on foreheads since 1947.”

As the article correctly notes, these enterprises are further confirmation of the willingness of many Americans to divide the moral universe into “two incommensurate categories—us, who are blamelessly pure, and them, who are dangerous pollutants of that purity.”

Or in the inimitable words of their Lord and Savior Donald Trump, they are “vermin.”


Anecdotes Are Not Data

An often repeated mantra in academia is a reminder: anecdotes are not data. Your run-in with a devotee of the Second Amendment isn’t reflective of majority opinion on the subject of guns; the sermon your pastor delivered about abortion isn’t evidence of a monolithic religious position on reproductive choice…etc. etc.

I know that. I really do.

But anecdotes can be intriguing, even if they don’t amount to statistical evidence. And I’ve been involved in recent conversations that have me mulling over their possible larger meaning–especially since they have displayed an unexpected similarity. I am filing them under “possible omens for November.”

Here’s the context.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have been working as a volunteer on Marc Carmichael’s campaign for Indiana’s open U.S. Senate seat. Marc is running against Jim Banks, who may be the most odious example of MAGA Republicanism running for public office this year, and yes, I know that is really saying something. Among the tasks I’ve taken on is an effort to recruit Republicans willing to identify as “Republicans for Carmichael.” Banks is so extreme (and, from all reports, personally unpleasant) that even many Republican voters detest him, so I figured my odds were good.

I spent 35 years as an active Republican, and most of the people I worked with in what was then still a political party are still alive, so I thought I was an ideal person to make the ask. I began calling former colleagues who I had found to be reasonable, “good government” partisans.

And one after another, I got virtually the same response: I’m no longer a Republican.

A lawyer friend who was a long-serving Republican ward chairman told me he’d not only left the GOP, he’d also cooled relations with friends who’d remained.

A Republican who formerly served as Mayor of a northern Indiana city said he’d love to help, but he was now a Democrat.

A friend who was a former Republican Speaker of the Indiana House said he was no longer a Republican, and didn’t understand how any thinking person could embrace the party’s transformation into MAGA extremism or consider putting Donald Trump back in the Oval Office.

A friend who served two terms as a Republican county-level office holder told me “Sorry, I ‘came out” as a Democrat on Facebook last year.”

Over half of the people I called had similar responses. A couple volunteered to help the Carmichael campaign, but pointed out that it would be incorrect–even fraudulent– to include them in a list of Republican supporters. As one of them said, they are now “proud to be ex-members of the GOP.”

Most of the individuals I have thus far managed to recruit (a list will be announced by the campaign in due course) expressed extreme distaste not just for Banks and Trump, but for the current iteration of a political party they had worked for and supported financially for many years. But they are hanging in, hoping for a turn back to sanity.

I draw two conclusions from these conversations. One is obvious: when so many former party workers and elected officials have left, expressing disapproval and anger at today’s iteration of the GOP, it’s a reasonable assumption that membership in the Grand Old Party is shrinking. Admittedly there is no way of knowing or estimating the size of the cohort represented by these “high information” individuals. It’s possible that the people I talked to don’t represent significant numbers who have disaffiliated. It’s equally possible, however, that there are hundreds more who–for similar reasons– no longer consider themselves Republican.

My second “take-away” is more a theory than a firm conclusion. I have often shared my bewilderment that any sentient American can support Donald Trump, who–in addition to lacking any redeeming personal, ethical or intellectual qualities– is clearly, deeply, and increasingly mentally ill. My inability to get my head around support for Trump extends to my reaction to MAGA folks, who are opposed to every value that really does make America great.

My repeated discussions with individuals who have fled the GOP, as well as my conversations with those who are struggling with their choice to remain, suggests to me that people who clearly see the danger posed by an explicitly racist and fascist movement are largely drawn from the ranks of more informed citizens–people who not only follow political news but who possess the knowledge and experience to understand the nature and extent of the threat posed by the MAGA cult.

Perhaps neither of my conclusions is correct. After all, my evidence is anecdotal.

In the meantime, if anyone reading this still identifies as Republican and is willing to join Republicans for Carmichael–shoot me an email.