MAGA vs. Trump

MAGA vs. Trump July 1, 2022

The Donald Trump phenomenon is not just a personality cult.  He brought to the fore a new populist conservatism, one that appeals to the working class rather than the rich, advocates protectionist America-first economics rather than global capitalism, and opposes foreign wars rather than sending troops in the name of nation-building.

Now that Trump is out of office, he still has lots of loyalists who want him to run again.  And his Make America Great Again (MAGA) ideology retains much of its populist appeal.

But the ideology associated with him has taken on a life of its own.  And, in some cases, Trump and MAGA conservatives are going in different directions.

In holding on and extending his clout in the Republican Party, Trump has been endorsing candidates.  But he has not always chosen the most MAGA of the candidates, considering other factors also such as their perceived electability and his personal feelings about them.

In the Pennsylvania senate race primary, one fervently loyal MAGA candidate that he snubbed was black conservative Kathy Barnette, endorsing instead the recently-liberal TV star Mehmet Oz.  She lost, due in part to Trump’s criticism of her, but  Oz’s victory did not set well with some of the most conservative voters.  Barnett’s comments are telling:

“MAGA does not belong to President Trump,” she said at an April debate. “MAGA — although he coined the word, it actually belongs to the people,” adding, “Our values never, never shifted to President Trump’s values. It was President Trump who shifted and aligned with our values.”

The co-founder of Women for Trump, Amy Kremer, now says that Trump has become “disconnected from the base.”  She was bothered that the former president endorsed Katie Britt in the Alabama GOP primary race for senate instead of his long-time supporter Mo Brooks.  Again, Trump’s candidate won.  Much of his base is loyal, above all, to him.  But Kremer is speaking now for that part of his base that is loyal to his ideas, rather than to the man.  “It’s time for those of us in the movement to get back to basics, back to our first principles,” she said. “We were here long before President Trump came along, and we’re going to be here long afterward.”

Quite a few other MAGA enthusiasts are  COVID skeptics and anti-vaxxers who resent Trump for shutting down the economy and rushing the vaccine development.

At least some of these MAGA fans are looking to other politicians, such as Florida governor Ron DeSantis, to make America great again, instead of Trump.

So we can speak of anti-Trump MAGA fans as another faction within the Republican Party, along with pro-Trump loyalists, and anti-Trump traditional conservatives.  (Are there other factions we should include?)  If Trump decides to run for president again, he could attract primary opponents from both sides.  If Trump doesn’t run again, expect lots of candidates to attempt to claim his mantle.  Conceivably, though, traditional conservatism could be reborn, if the economy is in such bad shape that it requires a strong dose of the free market.


Illustration from Open Clipart, Public Domain.

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