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There’s No War on Thanksgiving

Republican turkeys pretend pandemic restrictions are a culture-war issue, while Trump floats in a gravy of resentment.
November 26, 2020
There’s No War on Thanksgiving
A Thanksgiving postcard from 1907. (NYPL)

This should be a time of national solidarity. Our nurses and emergency-room doctors should be celebrated like conquering heroes. Our leaders should raise us up and enjoin us to participate in this great struggle on behalf of our fellow man. To triumph over the virus with the meeting of American innovation through the coming vaccines and our generous, frontier spirit. To think of the day, six or nine months from now, when we can all feel the pride of a nation that suffered loss but rose to the occasion.

Here would be a moment for the so-called nationalists to channel their calls for patriotic pride for good—toward duty, unity, and shared sacrifice.

Instead we have a president whose focus is entirely on his effort to perpetrate a fraud on the American public and convince his voters that they live in a communist junta where elections are rigged—in order to protect his fragile ego and keep hold on his party during his impending exile from government.

Our president has uttered nary a word of sympathy for the sick or of condolence for the families of the dead. Or a kind word for the Americans who are spending this holiday alone or far from home—or with an empty seat at the table in remembrance of a lost loved one.

Instead, our president has emitted a constant stream of self-pitying tweets. The only sympathy he expresses is for himself—for his treatment at the hands of the fake news. He has spent significantly more energy this fall complaining about how the news media discussed the unimaginably high death toll on his watch (“COVID, COVID, COVID”) than he has trying to resolve it.

And while he hasn’t offered solace to the Americans who are suffering from the pandemic that he mismanaged, he did find time on the eve of Thanksgiving to pardon his traitorous, grievance-laden national security advisor, who sold out our country’s interests to Turkey for a few hundred thousand shillings.

Meanwhile, Republican elected officials are too frightened, too submissive, and too self-serving to speak the truth about the president’s decisive electoral defeat or his illicit pardon. Nor have they spooned out a dollop of concern about the health of their constituents, instead preferring to carve for themselves yet another slice of culture war.

COME AND TAKE MY TURKEY, Ted Cruz exclaimed in one of the most asinine tweets ever shared on a platform that specializes in asininity. Dan Crenshaw said that Thanksgiving COVID restrictions should be met with organized resistance from individuals and businesses that feel unfairly oppressed. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) echoed this call to flout the law, applauding a sheriff who is choosing not to enforce it. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) wanted to prove that he could put on his big-boy pants by himself this year, saying “I will do whatever I want on Thanksgiving.”

Well here’s the deal, Chip and Lee and Dan and Ted: We all want to do what we want this Thanksgiving. But one thing that most people have learned by the time they are adults is that they don’t get to do whatever they want whenever they want. And this year, we are in the middle of a fucking pandemic that has killed over 260,000 people and is once again starting to overwhelm hospitals around the country, so our wants and desires conflict with the broader interests of our nation. It’s a concept that grown men would understand.

And while nearly all of the prominent Democratic leaders are saying the right thing, it can’t go unmentioned that many of them are refusing to practice what they preach. My hometown mayor, Michael Hancock, is flying to Mississippithrough Houston—to see his mother for Thanksgiving. Three states! Thirty minutes before his flight took off, he tweeted “avoid travel, if you can.” You serious, Clark?! Andrew Cuomo was bringing his mother up to Albany until he got shamed out of it. Gavin Newsom held an indoor event at the posh French Laundry restaurant in Yountville.

This is part of the whole leadership deal: If you are asking other people to make sacrifices for the good of the whole, you have to do it too.

There is one person throughout all this who has actually done the right thing, time and again, and that’s our president-elect, Joe Biden.

For months, he was ridiculed by right-wing provocateurs and Trump himself for modeling responsible behavior. “Virtue signaling!” they bellowed. But he never bowed to their taunts. He never caved when TV pundits mocked his drive-in rallies or his small, socially distant events. And throughout the transition he has said and done the right things focused on getting his incoming administration ready to handle this crisis.

This is normal. This is what we would expect from someone who strives to lead a country made up of people who have common purpose and aspire to be the hope of the world.

As enraged as we all should be by the actions of these selfish turkeys who have made this time of hardship worse than it needed to be for their own political gain, I’m thankful that we have a president-elect who has held the line.

I’m thankful for all of you who have chosen to sacrifice fellowship for our benefit.

And I’m so thankful for all of those in health care who are working themselves to the bone—doing longer shifts, putting themselves at risk, and on top of it all isolating from their vulnerable loved ones—to try to save one life at a time.

Hopefully they can be a model for the renewal of leadership that our nation so clearly requires.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.