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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

What chance does a 'silent night' have against political hysteria?

Reince Priebus
Reince Priebus
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 27, 2016 05:38 am
I'm sorry, but a correction is in order for my Christmas Day column supporting President-elect Donald Trump's assertion that more people should say "Merry Christmas" because it has since come to my attention that perhaps some people should simply ignore the holiday altogether. It wasn't just the annual "Jesus was homeless" drivel. This year we also endured thinly veiled socioeconomic lectures about how Jesus was an immigrant "turned away by many" (ABC News' Matthew Dowd) and a refugee (Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, among others). Never mind that the Holy Family had traveled to Bethlehem from its home in Nazareth not because of economic necessity or political persecution but because of a census mandated by Big Government.

Then it got worse. In a Christmas Day column Occidental College Professor E.P. Clapp suggested Jesus was a socialist, while Drexel University Professor George Ciccariello-Maher offered a modern twist on an old holiday favorite by writing "All I want for Christmas is white genocide."

Peace on Earth, indeed.

Yet, somehow, it was the seemingly reverent Christmas message from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus that best illustrated how easily even a savior's birth can be warped by politics.

Priebus, who will serve as President Trump's chief of staff, urged Americans to remember the less fortunate and servicemen and women. No problem there. But then he added this:

"Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of  a new king."

An obvious reference to the "newborn king"? Not if you're  scripturally illiterate — or insist on injecting partisanship even into the holiest of events.

Writer and activist John Aravosis, a self-described Democratic strategist, demanded the RNC to apologize for comparing Trump to Jesus and crowing him the "new king."

"The distinction between a president and a king is not trivial," tweeted New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait.

BuzzFeed News even compared Preibus' statement to his 2015 Christmas greeting and found significance in the fact that "he didn’t use the words 'new king' last year." At the end of its story BuzzFeed polled its readers about Priebus's intent, giving them three options:

The GOP just decided to compare Trump to Jesus; It’s poor phrasing, but the statement unintentionally compared Trump to Jesus; They clearly meant Jesus. Stop this madness.

As of a couple of days ago, more than half chose the first answer while just 11 percent voted to "Stop this madness.”

And madness it is, because the furor created by Priebus' message perfectly captures the paranoia created in otherwise rational Americans by Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton. Trump, we were warned before the election, was a dangerous strongman. A demagogue. Another Hitler.

Now, we are told, Trump's comparing himself to God Almighty.

Whether the people making such claims actually believe their own drivel is almost irrelevant. The point is they want you to believe it — and respond accordingly.

The plan does not seem to be working, which may begin to explain the obvious desperation. Even though a recent survey from the Pew Research Center found that 76 percent of Clinton voters are scared by Trump's victory, a new Gallup poll concluded that 51 percent of U.S. adults are "more confident" in Trump since the election while 40 percent are less confident.

Anybody as powerful as a president is potentially dangerous, and all elected officials should be closely scrutinized and held accountable for what they do or fail to do. Trump will be no exception when he takes office next month. For now, though, the hysteria seems simultaneously unhinged and cynical, exposing its practitioners as both fools and hypocrites who did not seem the least bit fazed when Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan actually said what Priebus did not. When Barack Obama spoke, Farrakhan testified in 2008, “the messiah is absolutely speaking.”

If any politician is your messiah, or your devil for that matter, you don't understand Christmas no matter how often you say the word. Stop the madness.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.



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