Robert Reich’s piece yesterday titled “When Will the GOP Reach the anti-Trump Tipping Point?” made me think. Although Reich predicts that the GOP won’t quit Trump just yet, I think his ship is sinking and will be shades of the Titanic by November 2024. (Note that I predicted he couldn’t possibly win in 2016 and look how wrong I was then!) While I will be happy to see the GOP disavow Trump, they won’t be disavowing the movement he started. Maga will be, I fear, with us for a long time to come, for like a carnival, people are drawn to it and Trump was, perhaps, only the beginning. And like a carnival, the movement has attracted a fair share of snake oil salesman and carnival barkers. Trump’s arrogance, his oversized ego, and the crimes he has committed against the people of this nation will bring his reign to an end … perhaps already have. But others have been watching, learning, observing what it was about him that drew people, and they will use their observations to fine-tune maga into something less unsavory on the surface, yet far more dangerous.
Consider, for example, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis who is largely expected to throw his hat into the presidential ring sometime in the not-too-distant future. DeSantis is ‘trumpian’ in some ways … he knows how to rally the people … but his public demeanor is calmer, he is more literate, able to string entire sentences together, and his ego is not as glaringly obvious. He doesn’t make ludicrous statements such as “I alone can fix the system” or “I would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!” DeSantis does, however, indulge in ludicrous behaviour, such as his stunt sending asylum seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.
More recently, he has launched a campaign designed to lure the anti-vax crowd, claiming he will seek a grand jury to potentially prosecute the manufacturers of COVID vaccines. He further claims he will set up a “Public Health Integrity Committee” to oversee the medical establishment. What could possibly go wrong when a politician without an ounce of medical knowledge attempts to outwit the experts, the scientists, and play Russian roulette with people’s lives? DeSantis claims that “our CDC, at this point, anything they put out, you just assume at this point that it’s not worth the paper that it’s printed on,” hence the pseudo-justification for his committee. Two of the people on his committee are authors of an open letter, the “Great Barrington Declaration”, published in October 2020, that called for achieving “herd immunity” by letting COVID spread naturally, whatever the cost for the vulnerable, rather than implementing shutdowns and lockdowns. At this point, I can only be thankful that I don’t live in Florida!
And then there’s Senator Rick Scott, also from Florida, who is one of the most abominable men on my radar, but he seems to know how to win the maga crowd’s hearts. During Mr. Scott’s tenure as chief executive of Columbia/HCA, once the nation’s largest private for-profit health care company, the Department of Justice won 14 felony convictions against the company, which was fined $1.7 billion in what was at the time the largest healthcare fraud settlement in U.S. history. That, in itself, should make him a political pariah, but not among the maga crowd. Honesty and integrity are not among their criteria.
So yes, Donald Trump’s days are numbered, as evidenced by his utterly ludicrous scheme to sell digital trading cards with a picture of his head on someone else’s body for $99 apiece, but there are others waiting in the wings to follow the path into the culture war. According to Christopher Sebastian Parker, professor of political science at the University of Washington and co-author of a recent research paper on maga culture …
“Right now, these people feel like they’re losing their country and their identity. They feel like they’re being displaced by communities of color, by feminists and by immigrants. These people are motivated by what they see as an existential threat to their way of life.”
Translation: they are seeking to turn the United States into an all-white, straight, male-dominated, gun-totin’ Christian nation. Any candidate who can convincingly promise that will stand a chance at winning the maga arm of the Republican Party over in 2024. Governance? Justice? Environment? International relations? Education? Civil Rights? None of that matters to the maga crowd. They have listened to Trump & Co long enough that even when Trump is either six feet under or in a prison cell, the movement will not die out any time soon.