MAGA was far more mainstream than most Americans realized, and its electoral rejection will prove to be a historic mistake
Americans may come to view Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again movement not as an embodiment of white supremacy, but rather a vehicle of economic opportunity that cut across racial, ethnic and gender lines.
Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign slogan, Make America Great Again, or MAGA, has been seized upon by Americans from all political walks of life, who either view it as a dog whistle for white supremacists, or a rallying cry for a revolution in US domestic political affairs that seeks to create economic opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race, gender or creed.
Much has been written about the alleged racial connotations of MAGA. But history will almost certainly demonstrate that the MAGA movement was more revolutionary than racist, and its rejection at the polls in 2020 a mistake of historical proportions which locked the American people back into the failed policies of the past.
The fact is, the MAGA movement, as promulgated by Donald Trump, is a repudiation of decades of two-party political combat that had devastated both the heartland of the US and its urban centers, leaving millions of Americans from all walks of life feeling disenfranchised.
While the Democratic Party, in 2016, paid the usual lip service to the minority communities which comprise much of its demographic base, Trump pointed out that these people – and in particular the inner city black communities – were being played for fools.
“You’re living in your poverty,” Trump told a crowd in a suburb of Lansing, Michigan in August 2016, imploring American blacks to rally to his support. “Your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed, what the hell do you have to lose?”
For decades, the African-American community has adopted Joe Biden as one of their own. Biden certainly thinks so. In an interview with ‘Charlamagne tha God’, a co-host of the radio show the Breakfast Club Charlamagne noted that “We’ve got more questions.” Biden, clearly irritated, responded, “You’ve got more questions? Well I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
And therein lies the rub. Joe Biden, the quintessential embodiment of the privileged white ruling establishment, actually believes that he is more ‘black’ than many black Americans.
Black Americans, Biden believed, could not possibly embrace Trump or, by extension, MAGA. Biden’s belief is born of a lifetime of systemic racism where the African-American community has been broken into two distinct categories. On the one hand are the predators who preyed on – and needed to be removed from – society (i.e. imprisoned.) On the other are black leaders who, like Charlamagne, must defer to him or run the risk of not being black.
Biden, like the rest of the white men who made up the leadership of the Democratic party, had decades of experience working with a black American ruling class. They conspired with them to divide the black American community into individual fiefdoms where these, and other, black leaders have enriched themselves politically and financially.
The statistics touted by Trump in his appeal to black voters in Lansing were not pulled from thin air. The reality is that the leadership of black America, in exchange for their subservience to the white political leadership of the Democratic Party, have presided over congressional districts whose poverty levels and crime rates increase every year.
While Trump was ultimately able to win over some eight percent of the black American vote in 2016, four years of MAGA-inspired rule, characterized by pundits and critics alike as being blatantly racist, led most political observers to believe that he would not be able to repeat his small showing of support in the African-American community. In addition, his MAGA-centric policies would cost him support in every other minority community in America, including among Latino Americans and white women.
That, however, is not how the election played out. In 2020, 18 percent of black men, and eight percent of black women, ended up voting for Trump, up from his 2016 numbers of 13 percent and four percent respectively. Lest anyone think that Trump’s appeal among black Americans was a statistical anomaly, the president was able to repeat similar gains in every voter category except the one MAGA critics claim he was specifically courting – white men.
More white women voted for Trump in 2020 (55 percent) than in 2016 (53). So, too, did Latinas (28 percent versus 25 percent) and Latinos (36 percent versus 32 percent). Only the precipitous decline in support among white American men (58 percent versus 62 percent) prevented him from winning a second four-year term as president.
The simple explanation for this unanticipated show of support among the very segments of the American populace that were supposed to have been alienated by four years of MAGA rule is that, far from being the embodiment of systemic white racism that its detractors claimed it to be, it was in fact an economic revolution which sought to reshape the socio-economic map of the US.
MAGA empowered individual black Americans at the expense of their entrenched traditional black leadership, provided the Latino community with a viable off-ramp from systemic poverty, and implanted the kind of economic equality that women of all races could only have dreamed about previously.
Had MAGA proceeded unchecked for four more years, there is every reason to believe that the economic gains that would have been made could very well have broken the backs of the demographically driven Democrats and theologically driven Republicans alike. As James Carville famously reminded then-candidate Bill Clinton on the eve of the 1992 US presidential election, “It’s the economy, stupid.” These words ring true to this day. At the end of the day, most American voters are driven to vote for their pocketbooks more than any single issue.
Were it not for the Covid-19 pandemic, the MAGA-driven economy of President Trump would have more than likely propelled an unbeatable coalition of economic-minded Americans to his cause, abandoning their decades-long marriage to either the Democratic or Republican establishments. MAGA could have become embraced as the symbol of economic revolution, instead of reviled as a racist trope.
Instead, America elected Joe Biden, a man permanently married to establishment politics and policies, Democratic and Republican alike. For black Americans, this means a continued subservience to a black political leadership which has locked them into a cycle of perpetual poverty in exchange for personal political viability in the white man’s world. For all other minorities (including white women), this means a return to an economy dominated by the age-old rules that shift overwhelming power to white men, while leaving everyone else trapped underneath a glass ceiling that allows them to look up and dream, but little more.
“What about Kamala Harris?” some might retort. But anyone who thinks on it for a moment will see the emptiness of that gesture, for that is exactly what her being selected as vice president by Joe Biden was – a gesture.
Kamala Harris did not earn this appointment, but rather had it given to her. She was humiliated in her attempt to become the Democratic nominee by fellow candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who exposed Kamala for being a racist prosecutor possessive of more than a touch of hypocrisy. Kamala bowed out of the race with zero delegates. She was selected by Biden because she was a woman of color, a token gesture designed to appease a demographically focused Democratic Party hierarchy. She has become the embodiment of affirmative action, the antithesis of the kind of merit-driven focus promoted by MAGA.
At the time of writing, the official results of the presidential election remain unconfirmed. The odds are, however, that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be certified as the president- and vice president-elect. They have a hard road ahead of them. The same pandemic that crushed Trump’s re-election bid will hound them for at least the next two years as they struggle to contain the virus while regrowing the American economy.
The MAGA-inspired policies that built the booming pre-pandemic American economy will be erased, and with them the very engine that drove the kind of unprecedented economic growth that brought minority voters over to Trump in the first place. With the passage of time, historians and economists may very well conclude that the MAGA movement was America’s last great hope for relevance. By that time, however, the rot of establishment politics as usual will have resumed its death grip on American society.