Donald Trump and MAGA
In MAGA, Trump unified and motivated an increasingly marginalized and downtrodden portion of the population; people whose economic fortunes were in sharp decline, who felt they were losing social power, who felt that their elected officials served some other agenda; people who were waiting for a populist.
Trump successfully posed as the populist the downtrodden were waiting for, telling them what they wanted to hear, tapping into their greatest fears and hopes.
Trump spoke their language – and promised to recalibrate Washington to their needs.
The people bought it, fervently aligning with Trump, congealing into a distinct conservative entity (MAGA), snarling at mainstream or “normal” conservatives, demanding that the “Swamp” be drained.
Trump Was No Populist
Trump of course was not a populist.
Trump is a narcissistic billionaire real estate mogul from New York, completely detached from the wants and needs of the working class. Trump was a false messiah to MAGA.
Whether MAGA fully appreciates how disingenuous Trump was, and how misaligned he was in representing their interests, remains unclear.
What is clear is that conservative support is migrating away from Trump, towards new candidates, namely Florida Governor Ron DeSantis; Trump is more vulnerable now than at any point since he won the GOP nomination in 2016.
Although Trump has won two consecutive GOP nominations for president, his win of the 2024 nomination is far from certain. A very real possibility exists that Trump will lose in the GOP primary.
So, the question is: if Donald Trump loses the GOP primary will MAGA World hold out from supporting another candidate, damaging the GOP in the process?
MAGA After Trump
The important thing to remember is that a non-MAGA GOP remains very much intact.
Amusingly, non-MAGA candidates are often referred to as “normal” Republicans. And normal Republicans still exist in droves. Take the 2022 midterms as an example. During the midterms, 1,397 GOP candidates ran in the primaries. 59 percent “were not endorsed by Trump, made no mention of Trump on their websites or social media, and made no mention of MAGA or America First.”
Normal Republicans who won their primaries and competed in the general election did well. Brad Raffensperger for example, the Georgia Secretary of State who told Trump ‘no, I will not find you the 11,780 votes you need to win Georgia’ cruised to a 10-point victory over a Democratic opponent.
Also in Georgia, GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, who “became enemy number one in Trump’s post-election vendettas” for certifying Biden’s 2020 win, trounced celebrity Dem Stacey Abrams with a 7.5 percent margin.
It wasn’t just Georgia; normal Republicans won elsewhere, too.
In Nevada, gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo beat the incumbent Democrat despite saying during a debate that “he was bothered by Trump’s false claims of a stolen election” and that Trump’s lies had undermined the confidence of voters. Now, Trump had initially endorsed Lombardo – but after hearing Lombardo’s comments, Trump threatened to retract his support. The threats didn’t matter, Lombardo won anyway. By contrast, Adam Laxalt, a Nevada Senate candidate who was a Trump sycophant, lost his election.
The point is: candidates who disassociate from MAGA are still viable. Even candidates who denounce MAGA are still viable. So, if Trump loses the GOP primary, which is increasingly possible, the new GOP standard bearer will probably be just fine.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.