It doesn’t receive much attention or notice these days, but the conservative movement at the grassroots level hasn’t changed a whole lot despite massive transformations all around us.
Sure, Democrats and the establishment media still demonize your ordinary, run-of-the-mill average Joe in the hinterlands as a “semi-fascist”, “MAGA Republican”, “bitter clinger to guns and religion”, and, of course, as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic” and “from the basket of deplorables”. The first two slanders are attributed to our current president, often referred to in this space as senile Joe Biden; the third term comes from the previous Democrat White House occupant, Barack Obama; and the lengthier list of descriptive insults were uttered by big bubba Bill Clinton’s first lady (how many ladies after that?) and 2016 Democrat presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.
They’d never cop to it, but Democrats have an inexplicable obsession with hyper-stereotyped nameless, anonymous people who, as a generalization, pretty much keep to themselves, work hard, and demand that the government mind its own business while they champion principles like the right to own firearms for their personal protection against, well, anything that might threaten them or their families. Like everyone else, these folks prefer that the multitude of laws handle the rare cases where discrimination is real and provable.
Who are they? They’re your neighbors, your friends, (some in) your family, your boss, your coworkers, the wait staff at your favorite restaurant and the clerks in a department store. They’re everyone. Each one of them looks different and has a unique personality. We used to toss them into a giant hypothetical cauldron we called the “melting pot” and automatically assumed that within their chests beats an American heart.
Sadly, it seems different these days as many of our betters – a.k.a., elected Democrats – would see to each person being separated into different classifications and treated according to the rules they themselves fashion in big marble structures or at a civil servant’s desk in other government office buildings. There’s no such thing as equality under the law any longer. Liberals demand equality at the point of a pen – or, if the January 6 investigation and tribunals are any indication, at the point of a gun.
As a citizen’s response to the corruption and lack of accountability in the nation’s capital, a little over a decade ago the Tea Party, or more accurately, thousands of smaller Tea Parties, rose up to make their voices heard at the highest levels. They organized countless peaceful demonstrations against the ruling regime. In some cases, they nominated candidates and worked to get them elected in 2010. The Republican freshman class that entered Congress in January, 2011, will forever be associated with the Tea Party.
Eventually, mostly due to the resurgence of a stubborn Republican establishment along with a relentless false smear campaign waged against them by the establishment media, the Tea Party fell out of favor. But the people in them never went away. Instead, starting in 2015, many of the same folks who donned colonial garb and waved Gadsden flags and pocket copies of The Constitution years earlier joined a new force organized and coordinated by an outsider presidential candidate named Donald Trump.
Trump called his campaign “Make America Great Again”, or MAGA as it’s now referred to. Many of MAGA’s themes were the same as the Tea Party’s, but the liberal opponents of this fledgling cause needed a new way to brand them as “extreme” and “insurrectionist.” MAGA is stronger than ever in 2022 and many of the GOP’s candidates chosen in Republican primaries this year are dedicated adherents to the MAGA agenda.
So what does the establishment media do? They predict that the (hopefully) incoming MAGA Republican House conference will be even more “extreme” than that of the Tea Party twelve years earlier. In a piece titled “The MAGA House Will Make the Tea Party Look Tame”, liberal Ross Barkan wrote at New York Magazine:
“If the tea party was rightfully derided as a hard-right, recalcitrant bloc with no serious interest in governing, the 2023 House Republican majority could make that era of instability seem almost quaint in comparison. The House Freedom Caucus, for all their bluster, never impeached Obama. They ranted and raved and triggered a brief government shutdown, but their power always lay in the roadblocks they could throw up to the Obama agenda. And none of the leaders of that caucus, for all their newfound fame, could rival a charismatic, trailblazing president. Speaker John Boehner was wary of the far right anyway, and while he capitulated to many of their demands, he was a canny Washington operator, something of an adult in the room.
“Next year, if Republicans have the majority again, they will enter office with far more fury and star power than whatever the tea party brought to bear. The new class of Republicans will be overwhelmingly loyal to Donald Trump, with many of them elected in primaries that have become, more than anything else, tests of how slavishly devoted a politician can be to the MAGA brand. It’s Trump’s party in every way, even if he’s indicted, even if Ron DeSantis runs for president. Many of these House Republicans tout all of his conspiracies and fever dreams.
“They are devoted to the Big Lie of 2020, that Trump somehow didn’t lose an election to Biden. Unlike the Senate Republican contenders, who have been forced to moderate themselves to appeal to statewide electorates, House Republicans face almost no such pressure, especially in gerrymandered districts. They can be as unhinged as they want to be [emphasis added].”
It's a beautiful thing, ain’t it? If by “unhinged”, Barkan meant that there will be numerical reinforcements for the growing contingent of take-no-crap conservative Republican representatives in the current House who are bent on shaking up a badly broken system -- then here’s to it!
As might be expected considering the source, Barkan’s op-ed featured a rather mocking image of a gleeful Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green wearing a “Vote” button on her outfit with the U.S. Capitol Building in the background. It’s no secret that liberals often employ the aura of MTG to frighten the bejesus out of leftists who might be reading the article so as to motivate them to pick up their “Save Women’s Bodies!” signs and join a George Soros-funded organization’s abortion protest at the local courthouse. They’ll do anything to scare enough ignorant and uninformed people to vote in November.
As conservatives, should we post pictures of MAGA Republicans at gas stations and supermarkets next to “I Did This!!” stickers of Joe Biden pointing at the cash total window?
Is Barkan correct, that today’s MAGA Republicans will be that much worse (better?) than the Tea Party class of 2010 turned out to be? Without doing a side-by-side, person-by-person analysis of the difference in personnel, such a comparison would seem impossible. But there is some truth in the liberal’s assertion that the MAGA Republicans will be much more aggressive than their Tea Party forebears.
Though the MAGA and Tea Party constituencies severely overlap, there are key distinctions. First and foremost, the Tea Party, for all of its merits, didn’t really have a leader. There were lots of organizers at the local level and a number of very good and reputable national groups, but they lacked a central figure to rally around. One of the reasons why the Tea Party eventually faded was because there wasn’t a strong singular presence to guide them.
MAGA, on the other hand, has Donald Trump. But even when Trump eventually leaves the scene, there are a host of strong MAGA leaders waiting in the wings to carry the torch. Who? How about Ron DeSantis? Or Josh Hawley? Or Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake? Or Ohio’s J.D. Vance? All of these folks now rally around the same agenda, as do hundreds (thousands) of other political candidate adherents to MAGA principles.
Which brings me to the second major difference between MAGA and the TP: with MAGA, there’s a core set of beliefs and ideas to formulate actual legislation. The Tea Party revered the Constitution and smaller government and less government spending, but it didn’t promote any concrete plans other than opposing special interest bailouts or big government entitlement programs like Obamacare.
MAGA is much more specific and much broader. Thanks to Trump, MAGA pretty much encompasses all of the ideas included in the conservative movement, including a strong military, a traditional social component (Donald Trump’s three Supreme Court appointments formed the core of the majority that overturned Roe v. Wade), and, sadly, to a lesser extent, a fiscal conservative emphasis.
As is usually the case when Republicans hold power, they appropriated almost as much as Democrats always did, just devoted the largesse to different “stuff”. During the COVID faux-emergency, both parties spent cash like drunken sailors on overnight leave, and the entire Washington class deserves blame, Donald Trump inclusive.
Finally, MAGA incorporates a very strong nationalist “America First” orientation that the Tea Party movement never delved into. I don’t recall the Tea Party talking a whole lot about foreign policy, forcing NATO allies to pay their share or prioritizing trade imbalances and renegotiating treaties like NAFTA or ditching the disastrous Obama Iran deal.
MAGA is bigger and better than the Tea Party. To the extent that MAGA has supplanted the Tea Party to offer tent space to social conservative groups and populist America First-ers, this is a good thing. And if the 2022 class of Republican freshman is therefore more “unhinged” because of it, liberty lovers rejoice!
Contrary to the opinions of most liberals, the MAGA movement is not solely about slavish devotion to Donald Trump, and there are many, many MAGA leaders from coast-to-coast. Trump may or may not run again in 2024 and Congress may or may not go Republican after this year, but one thing is for certain: MAGA is here to stay. Get used to it, liberals.
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