Battered by electoral disaster and a withering budget fight, Republicans should rally their disheartened troops by reclaiming the most beloved figure in American life as one of their own: yes, Santa is a conservative!
In the past, right-wingers made a big mistake by letting their opponents seize on Kris Kringle as a symbol of kind-hearted liberalism. On too many occasions, conservatives even aided and abetted this process. In 1936, former-Democrat Al Smith explained the popularity of the Roosevelt administration (which he had come to oppose) by declaring:
“Nobody ever shot Santa Claus!” This not only conjured up the unpleasant image of gunfire turned on the Jolly Old Elf, but seemed to suggest that FDR had assumed the ever popular role of a supernatural, seasonal gift-giver.
In our own era, Rush Limbaugh repeatedly explained Barack Obama’s successful re-election by comparing the president to Santa due to his penchant for handing “goodies” to an increasingly dependent electorate. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney himself echoed those sentiments with his description of the Obama strategy of providing “gifts” to favored groups he meant to sway.
This sort of criticism counts as profoundly self-defeating: If given a choice (and we are, in every election cycle) why would the public express its preference for Scrooge over Santa?
In reality, what we know about St. Nicholas strongly indicates that his personal political orientation leans right, not left. Consider three essential characteristics of his work:
–All experts agree that Santa keeps a list, dividing the naughty from the nice, before ever distributing his annual rewards. He does not believe in indiscriminate entitlements. This is the sort of discrimination that would never win endorsement from the likes of Nancy Pelosi or Michael Moore — despite the latter’s mild resemblance to Mr. Klaus. In contrast the conservatives, who insist on meaningful distinctions between the deserving and the undeserving, between productive and destructive patterns of behavior. It’s Democrats who regularly blur the dividing line between naughty and nice: how else to explain their incurable adoration of Bill Clinton?
–Meanwhile, consider the working conditions at Santa’s place of business: his hugely productive workshop, staffed with eager elves. Though definitive evidence may remain unavailable, this doesn’t look like a union shop that honors all the rules of OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration). The elves work long, punishing hours with great enthusiasm and no known habit of filing union grievances; they maintain a strong identification with the business owner and operator, despite (or perhaps because of) his paternalistic attitude toward the work force. In fact, impartial observers might reasonably conclude that the North Pole counts as a right-to-work state.
–Finally, Santa operates as a private charity, not a governmental bureaucracy. No Paper trail suggest that he’s ever received governmental grants, subsidies or bailouts of any kind. His yearly round-the-world errands occur without sanction or sponsorship by any regulatory agency or even the UN. Though entering sovereign air space might normally demand approval of national defense establishments, and landing on roof-tops should lead to environmental impact statements, Kris Kringle cheerfully ignores such requirements. His independence of governmental funding and rules helps to demonstrate that individual initiative and private enterprise can accomplish far more than bungling bureaucrats– a conservative message to be sure.
In addition, some of Santa’s personal characteristics also suggest his rightist, politically-incorrect inclinations. Michele Obama can’t approve of his physique or his status as a potential role model for children in an era of childhood obesity and Michael Bloomberg would surely love to correct his irresponsible diet of milk and cookies. Moreover, the original Santa (St. Nicohlas of fourth century Turkey) was, in fact, a Catholic bishop and martyr who surely shared more viewpoints with Pope Benedict than with Pope Barack.
With all of these pieces of evidence it should be obvious that conservatives can make a convincing case for reclaiming Santa Claus. And no addition to Republican ranks could do more for morale and regenerating energy in a season when right-wingers desperately need a jolly jolt of seasonal good will and holiday cheer.
This article appeared originally in USA TODAY.