We Need a MAGA 2.0

With all sincerity, what was the “Stop the Steal” rally supposed to accomplish? When you think about millions of unhappy Americans traveling to Washington, D.C. to express their unhappiness with the results of the 2020 elections, one is left to ponder whether that energy needed to be directed elsewhere, or if there should have been a different message for the event? Everyone at that rally had the right to be unhappy and to protest, but just because they were within their rights does not make that action the right choice for the moment.

Much like waiting until after he contracted COVID-19 to start conveying a more aggressive message about re-opening the economy, President Trump led a rally that was many days late and many dollars short. As we approach the 300th day of 15 days to flatten the curve, it is becoming apparent that taking a backseat to the Fauci-Birx-Redfield triumvirate and allowing the country to fall under the rule of the White House Coronavirus Task Force doomed the president’s reelection chances more than Sharpies in Arizona.

In short, the time to “stop the steal” was before Election Day. An “open the country” or “take off your mask” rally would have been more productive for the more than 74 million Americans seeking to reclaim their freedom.

Because of the ugliness of January 6, it’s tempting to be gaslighted into thinking President Trump’s administration was an unmitigated disaster. There were foreign policy wins and tax cuts. His outsider status exposed the many RINOs who populate the Republican Party. His exposure of media bias pushed the mainstream media ever deeper in the tank for the Left, further eroding its public image. His outreach to different racial and ethnic communities produced greater support in those demographics. 

Yet, because he is a flawed human like us all, his ability to create his movement came with heavy baggage. His boorishness has been documented ad nauseam. More relevant to where we are today is the reality that while he was bestowed the magic “R” by the Republican Party, he is not a principled conservative. Rather, he is a septuagenarian businessman who loves the country and understands marketing. That unleashed the MAGA movement and many red hats, much like President Obama’s “Hope and Change.”

Unfortunately, MAGA also was revealed as an ambiguous slogan that faltered when we needed it in March 2020.

Principled conservatives who are guided by freedom and liberty would not allow themselves to become the face of putting a multitrillion-dollar economy “on pause.” One who believes that citizens are responsible for their own risk tolerance in life would seek to inform rather than mandate. Nothing guided the messaging on COVID policy beyond declaring preemptive victory over the virus. This emboldened a determination to enact an unprecedented level of government intervention, even in states with trifecta Republican control of the state government. We can have the federalism debate all we want, but regardless, a strong leader owns a crisis response. 

The president’s reactionary style contributed to the communication of a hodgepodge message about the government’s COVID strategy. Even as we sit here today, what is the COVID endgame? The public signed on to saving hospital capacity but has been conditioned to believe that we are seeking zero COVID cases, which effectively ends our culture as a free country.

Thus, it’s now crucial that patriots thank Donald Trump for the awakening, but it’s time to move on to MAGA 2.0. MAGA 1.0 was about Donald Trump and effectively ended on January 6. MAGA 2.0 is about infusing the culture with the energy and onus behind the original movement. As the late Andrew Breitbart noted, politics is downstream from culture. The current political climate that has Communist analogies is rooted in the Right ceding the culture battle to the Left. Reclaiming some semblance of liberty involves infusing popular culture with that spirit for freedom. 

Whether Joe Biden’s victory was legitimate or not, more than 74 million Americans cast a vote for the candidate who, to their minds, stood for challenging the uniparty political system of cronyism. MAGA 2.0 needs to harness the energy created by Trump’s ascendency but refocus that energy away from how one man was wronged and into local communities and culture.

More than 80 percent of the counties in the United States voted for Trump. At least a few of them can be governed as far to the Right as California is to the Left. Many of these areas should declare themselves “constitutional sanctuaries that reject COVID coercion and promote freedom of expression. MAGA 2.0 should also encourage dollars to flow to businesses that are pro-freedom. Liberty sells. It’s tough to refute the notion that long, unkempt facial hair and camouflage clothing are now stylish because a family of God-fearing duck hunters in Louisiana had one of the most popular shows on television a few years ago. 

Most politicians on the Right are not leaders, they are followers who are constantly ceding ground to the spirit of the age. They don’t drive the culture, they follow the trends. Very few are Ron DeSantis, Kristi Noem, Chip Roy, or Thomas Massie. Those like Mike DeWine, Larry Hogan, Eric Holcomb, and Liz Cheney are more common.

Yet, if the 75 million Americans who voted for Trump demanded toughness from all elected public servants, you’d eventually see more of the former and less of the latter. The Georgia runoff sent a signal about what people didn’t want. But that can only go so far. That’s why MAGA 2.0 really needs to be less about making America great again and more about making America free again. 

About Jason Fertig

Jason Fertig is an associate professor of management at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. His research interests involve effective management and leadership. He also has an interest in commenting on the state of higher education. He has written essays for the National Association of Scholars and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He also advises the College Republicans at the University of Southern Indiana.

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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