We’ve become so used to hearing the term ‘maga’ that perhaps we’ve forgotten what those four letters were originally intended to stand for (though they never did): “make America great again”. It was the campaign slogan for the former guy back in 2015-2016 and should have gone into the dung heap thereafter, for he did nothing to make anything great. However, the media kept applying the term to any and all who supported said former guy, and now it’s become part of American slang … much to my our chagrin. Paul Krugman, an economist and astute political observer writing for the New York Times, posits that what the ‘maga crowd’ have done and are doing today is actually quite the opposite of making the nation ‘great’, and I fully agree with his take on the subject …
Making America the Opposite of Great
05 January 2023
I admit it: Like many liberals, I’m feeling a fair bit of MAGAfreude — taking some pleasure in the self-destruction of the American right.
There has, after all, never been a spectacle like the chaos we’ve seen in the House of Representatives this week. It had been a century since a speaker wasn’t chosen on the first ballot — and the last time that happened, there was an actual substantive dispute: Republican progressives (yes, they existed back then) demanded, and eventually received, procedural reforms that they hoped would favor their agenda.
This time, there has been no significant dispute about policy — Kevin McCarthy and his opponents agree on key policy issues like investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop and depriving the Internal Revenue Service of the resources it needs to go after wealthy tax cheats. Long after he tried to appease his opponents by surrendering his dignity, the voting went on.
But while the spectacle has been amazing and, yes, entertaining, neither I nor, I believe, many other liberals are experiencing the kind of glee Republicans would be feeling if the parties’ roles were reversed. For one thing, liberals want the U.S. government to function, which among other things means that we need a duly constituted House of Representatives, even if it’s run by people we don’t like. For another, I don’t think there are many on the U.S. left (such as it is) who define themselves the way so many on the right do: by their resentments.
And yes, I mean “resentments” rather than “grievances.” Grievances are about things you believe you deserve, and might be diminished if you get some of what you want. Resentment is about feeling that you’re being looked down on, and can only be assuaged by hurting the people you, at some level, envy.
Consider the phrase (and associated sentiment), popular on the right, “owning the libs.” In context, “owning” doesn’t mean defeating progressive policies, say by repealing the Affordable Care Act. It means, instead, humiliating liberals personally — making them look weak and foolish.
I won’t claim that liberals are immune to such sentiments. As I said, MAGAfreude is a real thing, and I’m feeling a bit of it myself. But liberals have never seemed remotely as interested in humiliating conservatives as conservatives are in humiliating liberals. And a substantial part of what has been going on in the House seems to be that some Republicans who expected to own the libs after a red wave election have acted out their disappointment by owning Kevin McCarthy instead.
And does anyone doubt that resentment on the part of those who felt disrespected was central to the rise of Donald Trump? Are there any pundits left who still believe that it was largely about “economic anxiety”?
I’m not saying that the decline of manufacturing jobs in the heartland was a myth: It really did happen, and it hurt millions of Americans. But the failure of Trump’s trade wars to deliver a manufacturing revival doesn’t seem to have turned off his base. Why?
The likely answer is that Trump’s anti-globalism, his promise to Make America Great Again, had less to do with trade balances and job creation than with a sense that snooty foreigners considered us chumps. “The world is laughing at us” was a consistent theme of Trump speeches, and his supporters surely imagined that the same was true of domestic globalist elites.
And I have a theory that Trump’s own underlying ludicrousness, his manifest lack of the intellectual capacity and emotional maturity to be president, was part of what endeared him to his base. You fancy liberals think you’re so smart? Well, we’ll show you, by electing someone you consider a clown!
The irony is that the MAGA movement has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of sinister globalists (if any exist) in making America the opposite of great. Right now the world really is laughing at us, although it’s terrified, too. America is still the essential nation, on multiple fronts. When the world’s greatest economic and military power seemingly can’t even get a functioning government up and running, the risks are global.
I mean, even with a speaker in place, how likely is it that the people we’ve been watching the past few days will agree to raise the debt ceiling, even if failing to do so creates a huge financial crisis? And there may be many other risks requiring emergency congressional action even before we get to that point.
Of course, the world is laughing even harder at Republicans, both the ultraright refuseniks and the spineless careerists like McCarthy who helped empower the crazies. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall lose his own soul, and still not gain enough votes to become speaker of the House?
I’m not sure what we are in store for, nor is anyone else. One thing is sure, however: America is already less great than it was when Nancy Pelosi ran the House, and it’s shrinking by the day.
My wish is no Republican Speaker elected, dragging this process out till 2024! That would expose the farce that is American politics, let the adults back to the room.
Too late, I’m afraid, and that would have been a catastrophe in any case. McCarthy will be a big enough disaster, but so would any of the ones who were being considered for the speakership. Sigh.
It’s clear that the emperor has no clothes! The “GOP” is just a bunch of hypocritical power hungry hacks who doesn’t care at all about the country they purport to serve.
McCarthy would be greatly respected if he simply renounce his seat and allow Nancy to continue as Speaker. But alas I see the Repugs somehow pushed him thru just to save face. 😦
Make America Govern Again.
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That would be a nice change!
But won’t be happening anytime soon under a power-hungry Kevin McCarthy. Reading his acceptance speech does not encorage me in any way, except his praise for Cheryl Johnson.
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Jill, when the MAGA president was sworn in January 2017, the economy was in its third longest economic growth period ever at 91 consecutive months of growth, unemployment was less than 5%, the stock market has more than doubled under his predecessor and we had six straight years of 2+ million per annum job growth. That sound pretty great, yet that is not the story the incoming president broadcast. He could not say that as he needed to take credit for all of that, which was already in place. We need to look at facts – they are the things Donald Trump is more unfamiliar with than not. Keith
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All very true, and then he ignored the pandemic that came along in 2020 and because of his ignorance and lies, hundreds of thousands of lives were lost that might not otherwise have been. His ego is destructive and rages on even today. He doesn’t understand economic issues any more than he understands delicate foreign relations, and thus he nearly destroyed both.