MAGA, Inc.

The English philosopher G. K. Chesterton believed legends should be treated more respectfully than a book of history. “The legend is generally made by the majority of the people in the village, who are sane,” he wrote. “The book is generally written by one man in the village, who is mad.”

What the “prince of paradox” meant is that legends, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the world, give us a sense of self. They codify our mores, giving us a sense of meaning that impels us to act. But history books come after the legends and are written to nudge history along a particular person’s desired arc—bulldozing the villages, legends, and people along the way. 

Something similar is true of institutions: they arise from the people in order to serve the people, but in time they turn on them. Four years in and it appears that President Trump’s administration is becoming one of those institutions.

The “MAGA movement” arose to serve a need. It flew on the fervor of Americans who still tell themselves that, as Americans, they are a good and decent people, undeserving of blood libels or the dispossession wrought by neoliberalism. With Trump’s victory, “MAGA” became an institution in the Beltway, promising to drain the swamp. Little by little, it compromised with the establishment it was supposed to combat. The administration filled itself with people for whom “MAGA” and “America First” are repulsive jokes at best. 

Words and Deeds

We still hear sounds coming from Washington reminiscent of the battle cries to which Trump charged in 2016. But the incongruity between what is said and what actually is done cannot be denied. 

Trump promised to end the proliferation of anti-white, critical race theory in the federal government. He even issued an executive order to that end. But a great many federal agencies carry on as usual. “The State Department, EPA, and VA are moving forward with critical race theory trainings—in violation of a presidential order,” tweeted investigative journalist Christopher Rufo. 

Days later, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said during his confirmation hearing that “white supremacists” are the “most persistent and lethal” internal “threat” to the United States. Wolf made that absurd claim on the same day that, amid yet more Black Lives Matter rioting, a black man shot two police officers in Louisville. 

Before taking on his current role, Wolf was a paid immigration lobbyist for a trade body of Indian firms. Under Wolf’s leadership, DHS is planning a massive giveaway of renewable work permits, the “Employment Authorization Document,” also known as a “green card lite.” He’s also overseeing the state-approved vilification of Trump’s very own voters. 

Wolf’s claim is part of a patently false, activist-media driven narrative that effectively weaponizes critical race theory. “White supremacist extremist” is any white male unafraid to stand up for himself. 

Sabotaging Trump’s Immigration Policies 

Enter the U.S. State Department, hard at work manufacturing consensus around that narrative. 

A widely cited report claiming 93 percent of this summer’s Black Lives Matter “protests” have been peaceful received funding from the State Department. The report attributes those rare incidents of violence to extremist right-wing agitators, naming Kyle Rittenhouse as an example. Rittenhouse is a 17-year-old who shot and killed two left-wing assailants in self-defense in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Not only is the State Department helping fund the Black Lives Matter public relations campaign, it also plans to join DHS in a pre-election immigration giveaway.

“The State Department is offering green cards to roughly 120,000 additional visa workers because they took jobs needed by college graduate Americans,” reports Neil Munro. Combined, he writes, Wolf’s DHS and the State Department are plotting a “huge giveaway to at least 400,000 foreign visa workers and their Fortune 500 employers just before the November election.” 

How to square this with “hire American”?

Fact is, the federal government approved 95.5 percent of all H-1B visa applications filed in the third quarter of the current fiscal yearthe highest ever since Trump took office. 

In an end-of-the-year email published by Roll Call on April 2, 2020, Ken Cuccinelli, then-acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, lauded “processing a large number of applications and requests while naturalizing 833,000 new U.S. citizens, an 11-year high.” 

But Cuccinelli should have paused before popping the champagne corks. “The number of new foreign-born voters, naturalized since 2014, exceeds the 2016 margins of victory in a number of swing states,” journalist John Binder reports. If the administration worries about recently naturalized immigrants threatening Trump’s reelection, it has no one more to blame than itself.

Repeating Mistakes

The administration’s “Platinum Plan” for black Americans highlights the issue of a rotten “MAGA” establishment, against which Trump himself has occasionally protested. 

In July, Trump expressed regret over the passage of the First Step Act, primarily pushed by Jared Kushner, Ja’Ron Smith, and Brooke Rollins. One staffer summarized Trump’s thinking: “No more of Jared’s woke shit.” 

In September, angry that criminal justice reform failed to boost his support among black voters, Trump reportedly shouted at a senior aid: “Why the hell did I do that?” Nevertheless, the Platinum Plan was launched, conceived by the same people who pushed criminal justice reform. 

The plan does nothing to combat Black Lives Matter, which seems to agitate as it pleases now. It actually pledges to continue down the road of criminal justice reform by finalizing a “Second Step Act”—evidently the president is fine with more of his son-in-law’s “woke shit.” It will create an official alternative “Independence Day” known as Juneteenth—that is what Juneteenth symbolizes, an alternative, racial independence celebration—and thus it means to lower the status of Independence Day proper. 

Further, the plan reveals that the White House thinks the right way to win more black voters is to promise them billions in affirmative action in the form of federal contracting—a message that directly contradicts the very concept of “draining the swamp.”

Rewarding Enemies, Rebuffing Friends

There are many more contradictions. 

At a rally last week in Newport News, Virginia, Trump campaigned for congressional candidate Nick Freitas. It wasn’t long ago that Freitas called Trump a “five-time draft deferring ‘tough guy’” who would “take some candy from a small child . . . or maybe kick a kitten.” He complained Trump “would make a disastrous president,” that “[t]here is nothing positive to say about [Trump].” 

On immigration, the administration’s signature issue, the libertarian-minded Freitas said he is wary of the federal government punishing localities that do not enforce federal immigration laws. On law and order in general, the White House continues to say one thing and do another.

The administration not only continues to push criminal justice reform through legislation, but appointed a pro-reform Heritage Foundation scholar, John Malcolm, to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Malcolm vehemently defended the Smarter Sentencing Act, which some lawmakers worried would put at risk our hard-won national drop in crime. How to square this with the “law and order” messaging? 

In 2020, “MAGA,” thus infiltrated, has become just another Beltway institution on autopilot, disconnected from the people on whose backs it was built. Trump made a mistake by listening to the most subversive elements of the GOP. If he loses in November, Republicans will deny their strategic failures, abandoning their base, and point the finger elsewhere. 

But even if he wins, the same is true because this is a much tighter race than it should be against an opponent in steep cognitive decline. Trump should be crushing Biden. The reason he is not is that he forgot why he won in 2016 and who carried him to victory. Regardless of the November outcome, there is rebuilding to be done. It will take a village.

About Pedro Gonzalez

Pedro Gonzalez is associate editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture and an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He publishes the weekly Contra newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @emeriticus.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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19 responses to “MAGA, Inc.”

  1. This is you blaming Trump that people he can’t control won’t do what he wants them to do?

    How is agencies carrying on despite his executive order HIS FAULT? Do you even know what the Deep State is? What is meant by that phrase?

    This looks like some bullsh!t anti-trump shilling to me. There are a lot of things one could say negative about Trump, but to pretend he hasn’t been hamstrung by the deep state and judiciary the entire time he’s been in office is intellectually dishonest.

    • Absolutely spot on. Who would have managed to achieve 5% of what Trump has done if he had to combat enemies and uncontrollable circumstances for the entire presidency ? Trump deserves kudos not this kind of sideswipe.

    • Yes, either this is a test to see if we are paying attention or something has changed here.

  2. Trump is one man. I’ll not fault him for filling positions with those that will take them in this climate, especially after supposed allies recommend them : ala Bolton on Mark Levin’s recommendation etc. But, this column borders on a self-exposure of a grift…a Coulter-like pivot of backstabberry. Volunteer for a position, set up a commission that vets and recommends people for the administration…anything but more finger wagging while assembling a circular firing squad. The left is united in its assessment of how awesome Biden is this morning, yet this is the kind of unity I have to expect from the right?

  3. Well done, my friend.

    The issue that got Trump elected in 2016 is “Build the Wall”–halting illegal immigration and excessive legal immigration.

    Forget that, and forget the election.

    BTW Building a few hundred miles of border wall is not completing the job! Completing the job requires strong and relentless effort to dethrone the Deep Staters who promote undermining American values with Sozialist values.

    • That said the 800k+ immigrants are not crossing the southern border.

      This is a sad article, even PT can’t fight the deep-state, he’ll be lucky if he’s re-elected.

  4. We’ll never be able to reform D.C. using conventional methods. There may be no way out of the swamp. The spectacle of watching so many otherwise intelligent people acquiesce to the mask mandates is a depressing reminder that the spirit of 1776 is no longer present in American society. We are now in the Age of Managerialism…permanent bureaucratic oversight. In order to make America great again, the federal bureaucracy must be largely destroyed.

  5. Trump is struggling now because he walked into the trap and let the nation be shut down in a panic. Combined with no definition of what constitutes an end of the emergency and an unwillingness to force governors to obey the Constitution, he sandbagged himself and left economic recovery in someone else’s hands beyond his control.

    Trump also has fought his own branch for four years because he didn’t have people ready to fill positions. He’s left far too many holdovers in place, and many of his appointments failed him miserably like Sessions. Personnel is policy which is why he has little control on implementing his policies.

    As a movement, MAGA has spent too much time behaving as a personality cult when we should have been creating a new party over the last four years. We need to recruit more fighters like DeSantis who can carry on when Trump is gone. Right now the bench is empty.

    • PERFECTLY SAID!!!!!!! How Could he make such mistakes, it befuddles me. I’m just a guy on a couch and can see this, and have been saying the same things for years. I just wish someone, anyone, would wake him up to it!

  6. Agree with much of this article, and the comments, except the end. We do not live in a country any longer where one candidate can/should be “crushing” the other. Remember how HRC’s campaign railed at the sky, in their more honest moments, that she should be “crushing” Trump and wasn’t. This is now an electorate where 47-48% will vote for a D even if their candidate is under indictment or actually dead. And, 47-48% will vote for an R no matter what the circumstances. The election outcomes hinge on a few thousand people in a few states and that’s just how it is. You can’t look at Trump and Biden and think from your partisan perch – wow – how isn’t Trump handily walking away with the election given Biden’s dementia coupled with the fact that Biden was an incompetent fool even when he was well. Because half the country will still vote for him if he keels over in public. It’s just the way it is. Trying to rationalize this is failing to recognize reality.

  7. Great article by my friend, Pedro Gonazlez. He is right to point out there is this MAGA Inc. beltway grift with people like Charlie Kirk and Matt Gaetz, who pretend to be edgy but aren’t.

    • I’m going to vote for Trump. The problem with the DHS is just because right wing groups get caught in the cookie jab more doesn’t mean there are plenty of left wing groups doing things like rioting and so forth.

  8. Kudos to Pedro Gonzalez. He speaks for me and others who were firm supporters of Trump during the first campaign and for a while after. Then we began to notice the various anomalies of his administration. Oh heck, who am I kidding? We noticed the anomalies well before he took office, (his endorsements of John McCain, Paul Ryan and Kelly Ayotte, for example. His radio silence on the supporters who were savaged in San Jose). Oh, and then the “copes” from his supporters started up: “38 DD chess” “He has to do that because…” “He can’t because the democrats” etc. etc.

    Mr. Gonzalez sums it up with this: “Rewarding Enemies, Rebuffing Friends”. Exactly.

    • Thank you. Only a true fellow conservative would have the courage to speak the truth about Donald the Narcissist. I only wish I could upvote your post on this new and terrible comment system. But even American Greatness has succumbed to the new censorship and social credit system.

  9. ‘The Heartbeat of MAGA – White House Policy Report on “Buy American/Hire American” Success…’

    “The White House is pleased to release a new report from the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy entitled “Donald J. Trump: The Buy American, Hire American President.”


    • Issuing an Executive Order isn’t the same thing as enforcing it or imposing consequences for those who flout it.