One nation, divided by seasonal greetings.
That's what the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute claims the Unites States is: The PRRI recently released a poll confirming the popular notion that Democrats have a problem with the words "Merry Christmas," while GOPers insist on the salutation.
PRRI's survey of 1,004 adults in early December shows that 66 percent of Democrats prefer that store workers greet folks with a "Happy Holidays" during the yuletide season, while 67 percent of Republican respondents say businesses should use "Merry Christmas."
Overall, though, Americans are split down the middle, with 47 percent agreeing that it's better to say "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings," so as not to offend devotees of other faiths, and 46 percent of respondents saying it should be "Merry Christmas" or nothing.
The Arizona Democratic Party recently sent out its holiday greeting/fundraising message, wishing recipients, "Happy Holidays to you and your family."
The 2016 message from Arizona GOP chairman Robert Graham, meanwhile, includes an old-school salutation at the end: "I wish all of my fellow Americans a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."
Contacted for this story, the Arizona Democratic Party's communications director Enrique Gutierrez explained that Democrats are looking to be inclusive, which is why they tend to eschew "Merry Christmas" as too religious and referencing one group of people in particular.
"We're inclined to use 'Happy Holidays,' because it encompasses all the celebrations of the season (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa)," Gutierrez writes via email. "In a diverse country as ours, we want to be respectful and accepting of everyone's beliefs."
Coincidentally, Hannukah begins at sundown on Christmas Eve this year, so maybe "Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah" would work. Or if you're not into any of that stuff, you could harken back to the memorable Seinfeld holiday episode, wish folks a "Happy Festivus" and celebrate December 23 with a family feast of sliced meatloaf, a ritual Airing of Grievances, and the much-feared Feats of Strength.
Kidding aside, as you might expect, Graham sees the issue of seasonal salutations differently from Gutierrez. He tells New Times that being "respectful and accepting" of everyone means acknowledging differences.
"Republicans celebrate individualism," says Graham. "We think it's okay to be specific in an individual celebration. I personally say quite often that the differences we have are what gives our country texture."
Rather than a generic, all-inclusive term, Graham thinks Republicans would rather say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hanukkah" or any other such greeting based on the occasion. He suggests that progressive Democrats — not necessarily all Democrats — want to make everyone the act the same, in some sort of dystopian vision on par with that classic 1984 Apple Macintosh ad, directed by Ridley Scott, which envisioned a race of humorless drones, freed from Big Brother by virtue of a sledgehammer thrown by a renegade blonde in jogging shorts.
"I think the progressives like a plain-vanilla universe," he said. "They don't want texture. They don't want difference. Their definition of a utopian society is: we dress the same, we look the same, we behave the same; don't do anything that would ever cause contention or potentially offend people."
It's probably worth mentioning here that the Democrats are responsible for putting the first First Family of African-American descent into the White House. Obama himself referred to his mixed-race heritage in a 2006 interview with Oprah Winfrey as being like "a mini-United Nations."
Obama told Winfrey, "I've got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I've got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher."
And the Democratic Party is demonstrably more diverse than the Republican Party, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released in September, which showed the racial/ethnic breakdown of Democrats to be 57 percent white, 21 percent black, 12 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Asian, and 5 percent "mixed race" or "other."
By contrast, the Republican Party is 86 percent white, according to Pew. Hispanics make up 6 percent of the total, blacks are a mere 2 percent.
Granted, Graham has done his best locally to make the AZ GOP more diverse. But an alternative view of the Democrats' affinity for "Happy Holidays" might be that, as a more diverse party, the Democrats naturally are more politically correct when it comes to such greetings.
As for Republicans, the same Pew study shows that about a third of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters are "religiously unaffiliated," whereas among Republicans, only 12 percent are religiously unaffiliated. Moreover, 70 percent of GOPers are white Christians of one stripe or another.
Which might explain why tuskers are so wedded to "Merry Christmas."
President-elect Donald Trump, reportedly not one of the most devout of individuals, recently announced during a visit to Michigan that "we're gonna start saying 'Merry Christmas' again" — thereby invoking the oft-told Fox News yarn of a liberal "War on Christmas."
Some pundits have scoffed at the notion that people might have been discouraged from saying "Merry Christmas" in the past, and yet, the PRRI survey indicates a unmistakable political divide on the subject. Plus, many lefties have a bad habit of chastising those who are not sufficiently politically correct. Just as some Rs criticize those they view as being too PC. One group's censoriousness is, to another group, merely being polite.
The PRRI poll gave additional evidence of Democrats being more politically correct in general.
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Though just 13 percent of voters overall blocked, unfriended, or stopped following someone on social media for political reasons, 24 percent of all Democrats say they blocked, unfriended, or stopped following someone because of the individual's political posts. Whereas, according to PRRI, "Fewer than one in ten Republicans (9%) and independents (9%) report eliminating people from their social media circle."
Not surprisingly, the study found that liberals are more likely than conservatives to give someone the social-media cold shoulder. Democratic women were the most likely to put the kibosh on someone, according to PRRI, with 30 percent of them willing to give those with an opposing viewpoint the virtual Heisman. (Don't blame the messenger on this one, BTW.)
Though Gutierrez didn't respond to an inquiry about lefty political correctness in social media, Graham offered his take on the phenomenon: "Maybe progressives are so invested in their vision of the world to come or what they think the world should be like that anyone who disagrees with them becomes an enemy."
Which means if you wish Graham "Happy Holidays" online, he'll take it like a trouper and not block you. "Hail Satan" or "I'm Still with Her," however, may elicit a different response.