It was meant as an insult, focus group tested and all, but has been taken as a badge of honor among the Trump faithful who hold sway over the Republican Party. For them, it is Deplorables 2.0, and they are proud to wear the label Ultra-MAGA. But given that the persuadable voters who are likely to swing the outcome of the upcoming midterms and 2024 presidential election are presumed to be somewhere in the middle — neither embracing nor rejecting the epithet — would the GOP be better off waving the MAGA flag proudly, or dismissing the label altogether?
It might all come down to how much the voting electorate separates the MAGA agenda from its author. Democrats, aided by a compliant media and a once-in-a-century pandemic, were apparently able to convince enough voters in 2020 that Donald Trump’s personality did not warrant a second term, even as his pre-pandemic record was marked by a booming economy at home and peace abroad. But that was before Joe Biden took office to preside over so many self-inflicted and unresolved crises, which have now cast voting for him in an entirely different light than when he simply represented not-Trump. Now he and his party face scrutiny on their own record — persistent inflation, spiking food, gas and diesel prices, supply chain breakdowns, and threats of rolling blackouts across the land — multiple crises that promise to worsen over the summer. It’s not a pretty picture.
But is it enough to override the heavy residual baggage known as Jan. 6, which Democrats will eat, sleep, and breathe as they attempt to cling to power?
As Bill Clinton might say, it depends on what the meaning of Ultra-MAGA is. When Democrats employ the tag as the intended pejorative, they mean the sum total of racism, sexism, nativism, and, of course, authoritarianism they associate with the evil Trump. But for Republicans, it means a roaring economy, energy independence, and a culture that affirms traditional American values, contrary to the agenda of the man who first used the expression — Joe Biden.
With Trump absent from the ballot and the label therefore difficult to attach outright to the 45th president, what Democrats have attempted to do is cast the entire GOP — outside of a tiny minority headed by Liz Cheney, now at 29% approval in her own state — as mini-Trumps. Will the strategy backfire if voters view it as simply an attempt to change the subject from their own ill-fated two-year run with control of Congress and the White House?
You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone?
It is impossible to prove a hypothetical, but the state of the US economy in March 2020, as the pandemic was about to arrive on our shores, was as robust as any in decades. It was firing on all cylinders, with business booming, employment at record levels, and consumer confidence soaring, before it was brought low by COVID-19. American history — replete with presidents granted a second term in booming economic times, and many in less favorable environments — suggested that, absent the deadly virus, Trump would likely have been re-elected. But to what extent will the striking contrast between Biden weakness — many say excessive weakness — and Trump strength — many say excessive strength — override the disturbing final chapter of the Trump presidency in the mind of the average voter? The answer may come in present fears of an economic downturn ripe among the electorate, with a full 90% of respondents in a recent LibertyNation.com poll saying they believe a recession is just around the corner. Such day-to-day “kitchen table” concerns ordinarily outweigh other issues.
The notion that Republicans would do what most Americans might have expected after the 2020 election, brush Trump to the side and start anew, has long since been rudely dismissed, as the former president continues to overwhelm the entire field of presumed GOP hopefuls – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Tom Cotton (AR) et al. — in every measure of support and approval. Indeed, in virtually every primary race in this midterm political season, the MAGA/America First agenda — Trumpism — was front and center. It was not just the beneficiaries of Trump endorsements like Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and JD Vance in Ohio. Whether they were endorsed by Trump or not, all of the candidates in competitive races attempted to persuade voters that they were the most qualified and best positioned to go to bat for things like opening up the fossil fuel spigot, taking on China, completing the border wall, or even dropping out of the Paris Climate Change Accord — again.
It seems that, at a minimum, Trump loyalists have made their decision about Ultra-MAGA. They are generally embracing it as the second coming of deplorables. They dream of going back to the future by reaping a harvest from an insult sown by frustrated leftists. At the same time, the left see it as a vital scare tactic to change the subject as their hold on power starts to crumble amid a country finally coming to its senses and increasingly rejecting the polluted haze of wokeness that enveloped the land after the George Floyd affair. With both sides convinced Ultra-MAGA is a winner, the one thing of which you can be certain is that it will be coming soon to a Republican — and Democrat — attack ad near you.