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Our Best Stuff From the Week Before the Week Before Christmas
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Our Best Stuff From the Week Before the Week Before Christmas

Trump disappoints his fans, Oregon kills the death penalty, and more.

Donald Trump. (Photo by Alon Skuy/AFP/Getty Images.)

Hello and happy Sunday. We’re officially at DEFCON 3 in terms of Christmas preparations here in the Ohio bureau. That means placing multiple orders from Amazon in a single day (what else are you supposed to do when you see the “Only 3 left in stock—order soon” warning?), sending frantic texts to relatives asking about clothing sizes or music preferences, and—sssshhh, don’t tell our youngest—trying to socialize our boxer-pit bull mix with felines so that we can adopt a cat. (Don’t worry, we won’t put it in a box and wrap it up like Aunt Bethany in Christmas Vacation.)

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, in part because my parents always worked extremely hard to make it very special for my brother and me. And I’ve always wanted my kids to have similar memories of nice gifts, beloved traditions, and time with family and friends.

As with so much else about parenting, it’s bittersweet to experience how the holidays change as your kids get older. Before you have kids, you imagine endless years of shopping for fun toys and games and watching their eyes light up at the sight of a new bike or toy truck or doll. But those years pass pretty quickly, and before you know it they ask for clothes and gadgets. One year you surprise them with a train set circling under the tree (“I’m the luckiest boy ever!”) and then a few years later, you can’t even drag them downtown to see the train display.

But it’s not all bad. Eventually, they start asking what you want for Christmas. They buy gifts for their siblings with their own money. You don’t even have to redecorate the Christmas tree when they’re not looking, because they stop putting four ornaments on a single branch.

Still, I end up feeling pretty nostalgic when the Amazon toy catalog comes in the mail, or I wander past the Lego section at Target. I might even get a little weepy when digging through our storage area for Christmas decorations and find a random container full of old toys they’ve outgrown (but that I can’t get rid of because one day there will—hopefully!—be grandkids).

It’s then that I’m most grateful for the traditions we’ve established. We might have to wake them up rather than have them burst into our room these days, but we still make them wait at the top of the stairs until we’re ready for the big reveal. There will be cinnamon rolls for breakfast, the dog will help them open at least a few presents, and we’ll spend the afternoon and evening with our extended family. We’ll quote lines from Christmas Vacation, Elf, and A Christmas Story. And at the end of the day, I’ll remember that the memories we’re making are far more valuable than anything we put under the tree. 

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful holiday season.


Kevin asks an important question: “What do we do when a bad process produces a good outcome?” He’s referring to the recent decision by outgoing Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to commute all of the death penalty sentences in the state to life in prison. Getting rid of the death penalty is a good thing, he argues, but it wasn’t a decision for Brown to make. Oregon has a long history of abolishing and reinstating the death penalty by referendum, and voters chose to reimplement the death penalty in 1984. “Having had so much experience with death-penalty referenda, Oregon shouldn’t have trouble organizing one more—if capital punishment is to be abolished in the state, it should be done the right way. Sniff at procedure all you like—procedure is what stands between us and chaos.”

Did you spend Wednesday wondering what Donald Trump’s promised “major announcement” would be? If so, did you imagine it would be that he was selling NFT trading cards of himself dressed up as a superhero, an astronaut, and a cowboy? Yup, that was it. That was the whole thing. As it turns out, some of his biggest fans were unimpressed. Nick notes that many MAGA enthusiasts took to Twitter to complain about the former president and wonders if this is how it all ends, with Trump going out not with a bang but a grift. “It must be dawning on him and his cronies that there’s a fair chance he’ll end up either losing the primary or having to contrive some embarrassing pretext to withdraw to spare himself the ignominy of an impending loss,” he writes. “If they’re not going to get a second term in the White House out of this, they need to get something out of it. And that something, obviously, is to turn the MAGA base upside down and shake it until the loose change has fallen out of its pockets.” 

What do Ron DeSantis, Gavin Newsom, and runaway government spending all have in common? They have David French feeling a bit libertarian. He kicks off his Tuesday French Press with an anecdote about a friend who wanted a spendy car at the ripe old age of 20 only to get a lecture—from the car salesman no less—about wants vs. needs. He points out that our massive debt “is the result of generations of accumulated wants made real.”  But it’s not just spending, He notes that, however different the Republican governor of Florida and the Democratic governor of California might seem, they have a similar appetite for wielding state power against their political enemies. DeSantis has gone after Disney and other “woke” corporations and liberal educators. Newsom has attacked pro-life pregnancy centers and churches, and prohibited state-funded travel to states with anti-LGBT policies. “Our nation’s spending spree and our political class’s love affair with state power is working out very poorly for our republic. While the most recent inflation reports show improvement, our nation is still suffering under the worst wave of price increases in generations, and it’s hitting families hard. And the weaponization of government in our cultural conflicts fuels many of the most contentious debates of our time.” It’s time for the government to do less, not more.


And here’s the best of the rest:

  • It’s hard not to chuckle when you read texts by elected officials to Mark Meadows calling for Donald Trump to implement “Marshall Law” to keep Joe Biden from becoming president. And Kevin definitely snickers a little bit in this piece, but he makes a dead-serious point: It’s a real problem that we’re governed by illiterates and buffoons. 
  • It’s a common lament: Trade and immigration policies have left working class men behind to the point that women deem them unmarriageable, because it’s no longer possible to raise a family on one income. Scott Winship has a new report out that debunks this conventional wisdom.
  • Kevin McCarthy has a headache that can’t be fixed with a couple of aspirin. Audrey reports that the battle for the speakership is not getting any less contentious even as January 3 quickly approaches.
  • But before we get there … Congress has to finish this term. In Uphill, Haley writes about the conflict between Mitch McConnell, who would like to find 10 Republicans to support a government-spending package that would likely include more money for Ukraine, and Kevin McCarthy, who wants to put it off until the GOP controls the House.
  • The pods! Neither the White House nor Congress is doing much about immigration, which leaves it up to the Supreme Court. David and Sarah discuss on Advisory Opinions. With Jonah on vacation this week, Stirewalt fills in on The Remnant and has a fascinating conversation on America’s changing racial makeup and the prevalence of mixed-race families. On Good Faith, David and Curtis Chang tackle a big question: What does it look like to have Christian hope in this chaotic world? Meanwhile, just how unpopular is Donald Trump? The gang discusses that and much more on The Dispatch Podcast.

Rachael Larimore is managing editor of The Dispatch and is based in the Cincinnati area. Prior to joining the company in 2019, she served in similar roles at Slate, The Weekly Standard, and The Bulwark. She and her husband have three sons.