Accounting For MAGA

In a recent newsletter from The Atlantic, Tom Nichols echoed a frustration of my own. He wrote that, in his lifetime, he’d seen” polio defeated and smallpox eradicated. Now hundreds of thousands of Americans are dead—and still dying—because they refused a lifesaving vaccine as a test of their political loyalty to an ignoramus.”

Ever since 2016, a significant percentage of my posts have revolved around the reality (or actually, the unreality) of that political loyalty, and my inability to understand what–other than racial grievance–might account for it.  Study after study, however, has confirmed that it is, indeed, racism that explains support for Trump and the MAGA movement.

The Guardian recently published an article building on that research. The author began by commenting on President Biden’s forceful condemnation of Trump and MAGA, and as he noted, that attribution was correct —so far as it went.

The deeper, more longstanding threat, however, was articulated by historian Taylor Branch in a 2018 conversation with author Isabel Wilkerson recounted in Wilkerson’s book Caste. As they discussed how the rise of white domestic terrorism under Trump was part of the backlash to the country’s growing racial diversity, Branch noted that, “people said they wouldn’t stand for being a minority in their own country”. He went on to add, “the real question would be if people were given the choice between democracy and whiteness, how many would choose whiteness?”

 Whiteness is the deeper threat because championing whiteness is what makes Trump powerful. People forget that Trump was not particularly well-regarded before he started attacking Mexican immigrants and signaling to white people that he would be the defender of their way of life. In the months before he launched his campaign, he was polling at just 4% in the May 2015 ABC/Washington Post poll. After stirring the racial resentment pot, his popularity took off, growing exponentially in a matter of weeks and propelling him to the front of the pack by mid-July 2015 when he commanded support of 24% of voters, far ahead of all the other Republican candidates.

Of course, Trump’s discovery of the power of racism is nothing new. (That’s why the Right doesn’t want accurate history taught in our schools.) The author quoted George Wallace’s epiphany:  “I started off talking about schools and highways and prisons and taxes – and I couldn’t make them listen. Then I began talking about n—–s – and they stomped the floor.”

People who’d dismissed Trump as a loudmouth buffoon “stomped the floor” when he began talking about (brown) Mexicans and Muslims.

The article reminded readers of Wallace, Nixon’s “southern strategy,” and the fact that David Duke–an “out and proud” Klansman–had attracted the support of 44% of Louisiana’s voters when he ran for the U.S. Senate.

The good news is that the proponents of whiteness do not command majority support. The original Confederates themselves were in the minority and represented just 11% of the country’s white population. People who enjoy majority support have no need to unleash fusillades of voter suppression legislation in the states with the largest numbers of people of color. Yet, from the grandfather clauses of the 1800s to the restrictive voting laws passed last year in the south and south-west, we are seeing an unrelenting practice of trying to depress and destroy democracy by engaging in what the writer Ron Brownstein has described as, “stacking sandbags against a rising tide of demographic change”.

It’s one thing to confirm that a majority of Americans aren’t racist. It’s another thing to ensure that the people in that majority turn out to vote. As the author says,

In order to defend democracy and win the fight for the soul of the nation, two things must happen. One is to make massive investments in the people and organizations working to expand voting and civic participation. Coalitions like America Votes Georgia and Arizona Wins played critical roles in bringing hundreds of thousands of people of color into the electorate, helping to transform those former Confederate bastions.

We also need to “name and shame” the numerous political figures who are appealing to racist sentiments in order to turn out their supporters. Too many liberals shrink from calling out those who are trafficking in racism–it seems so uncivil. But racism is also uncivil–and far more dangerous.

To ultimately prevail in this defense of our democracy, we must clearly understand the underlying forces imperiling the nation, name the nature of the opposition, and summon the majority of Americans to unapologetically affirm that this is a multi-racial country.

This is a test, and we cannot afford to fail.


  1. Tom Nichols “–so far as it went” regarding President Biden’s condemnation of Trump and MAGA doesn’t take into consideration that the president, the leaders in major democratic nations, must carefully choose their words when speaking to and about the public. Our recent history with Nixon “your president is not a crook”, George W. (“good job, Brownie” and TRUMP (with all of his utterances) as presidents not only insulted entire groups of this country but openly supported those whose seditious and treasonous actions and often stupid comments went against democracy, Rule of Law and the Constitution as well as logic and common sense.

    “We also need to “name and shame” the numerous political figures who are appealing to racist sentiments in order to turn out their supporters.”

    Democratic candidates and those sitting in Senate and Congress need to be using “name and shame” tactics but carefully word their comments so not to paint their supporters as being too stupid to recognize their representatives who are working against their best interest. Just opening their mouths these days is a test of tact and diplomacy to speak truths.

  2. I for one am very willing to call out bigots of any & all stripes. Just ask my Southern Baptist CULT “preacher” and “doctor” brother.

  3. John Sorg:
    I just read your comment on yesterday’s post by SK. Everyone should study your post’s merits.
    Thank you.
    As Belafonte would do to his audience, a deep bow in appreciation from me to you.

  4. we continue to see how a social media has become the magaphone of ignorance. when the little person only had gossip and a opinion,between few and close bys,they now have a paid for free megaphone. (trumpers in NoDak for example)the human operating system hasnt evolved yet to comprehend its staggering power.nor do,they have a civics class to understand its fallout.
    they,(like myself,)(i dont social media,but here) now use this tool to open mindd and gather,whereas,others may use it as a tool to convince themselves how important they are. the game gets dicier when you think tank what gains can be made from a few tick words and phrases that can be aligned to make one read and understand something that changes their preseption of what they thought of,believed or were willing to accept.(example,how king geo. the 2nd convinced us to invade iraq)with a full monte of pigion holed lists sold by the likes of google to sell to orgs,buisness or? (get a warrent)just for expanding how ones mind thinks and thier subscriptions to H&G and stuff. targeting a voting public via data mining is a billion dollar biz convincing them bigger money to fewer.and we have all fallen for its scam. now shake and stir well,the ones who still stare blindly into that infinate glass window,and you have the scam leading the blind. Thanks Mr Nichols,And Sheila, keep up the good work.

  5. JoAnn:
    in NoDak ive named the names and face to face told someone who they are. no issue,many will accept it,many have a loaded gun in thier possesion. if i went to war in 72 and came home alive,i now stand defending our democracy on my own turf. i may go down with my finger in the air,but i should not have to do that in my own country.

  6. The problem is that the MAGA side, although a minority overall, seems to vote with a higher percentage of persons than the non-MAGA side. I have long had a problem with thought leaders who tell folks to “stay home” and not vote until the politicians cater to “our issues”. It just doesn’t work that way. Politicians cater to those that show up. If your side can’t be relied upon to vote, you will never have elected officials solidly on your side. Plus, sometimes a defensive vote matters too – voting against MAGA is worth showing up no matter who is on the other side of the ticket. The majority of people may seem reasonable but they are not showing up where and when it matters.

  7. The key sentence is: People who enjoy majority support have no need to unleash fusillades of voter suppression legislation

  8. jack smith at 7:37; thank you. I have done the same and posted Democratic yard signs the entire 17 years I have lived here which resulted in people, including a few family members, who no longer speak to me. As for my neighbors who stopped speaking to me, we had never talked politics but shared complaints about infrastructure problems and general conditions, they stopped speaking in 2016 after posting “Trump for President” yard signs. During previous years, knowing I had worked for city government for years, they often asked me to contact those I knew still on city payroll for help. I was happy to oblige and had already contacted old friends about issues. I have my Andre Carson for U.S. Representative yard sign posted again; if you are unaware, Rep. Carson is a Black Muslim who in the previous primary garnered 72% of the votes. I have saved my “Pence Must Go” which came out long before he tied up with Trump and will post it if he runs for anything. I also have my “Anyone But Trump in 2020” yard sign, will paint over the last zero to read “Anyone But Trump in 2024”. I am sending what donations I can when I can to Mark Kelly, Beto O’Rourke, Rafael Warnock, Tim Ryan, Stacey Abrams and Destiny Wells and Tom McDermott here in Indiana.

    I may go down with that same “finger in the air” but will not stop fighting from my limited position. As for taking the “flight” option; I have never understood why people leave this country on vacations when there is, or was, so much beauty and history to travel to in this country.

  9. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Why might that be true? Perhaps it’s because fear is one of the greatest motivators in the world. Republicans have used fear to get out their base for decades. First they came for the Communists (McCarthy and Nixon). Then they came for the radical hippies (Nixon). Then they came for the blacks (Nixon and Reagan)(note that they keep coming for the blacks, no matter who else they target). Then they came for the gays and lesbians (Bush II). Then they came for the Mexicans (Trump). If you want to get the people rushing to the polls, just tickle the amygdala.

  10. Una,

    Thank you so much!

    I try, but, not for myself, but because I have accepted a commission to tell the truth to the best of my ability. To connect the dots, to shed the light on things not clearly seen. What lurks in the shadows? What is the reason for wholesale deception? Why do most folks despise a better way? Hate! And hate combined with ignorance is very dangerous. It gave us World war I and World war II, it gave us Fascism, Proverbs 18:7 States: “the mouth of the stupid one is the ruin of him and his lips are a snare for his soul.”

    Say you hate your kitchen floor, it might look good when it’s clean, but you wished the floor was different, so you continue to wash it several times a day, hoping that the floor will change its texture, it will change its aesthetics, but every day after much work scrubbing and cleaning it’s still the same. It might not be dull, it might be bright and shiny, but it’s still has not changed it’s style or function.

    Until a person has decided to tear up that floor, and replace it with a new and desirable product, it’ll always be the same ‘ol same ‘ol. 🤔🤙

  11. Peggy: succinct and right; repubs always play the victim and demonize the “other”, rather than attack the issues honestly. Latest example, Alabama’s Tommy Tuberville, well known idiot. And they rely on lying, too. Latest example: Herschel Walker.

  12. “The majority of people may seem reasonable but they are not showing up where and when it matters.” Why? No hope. The last time “hope was on the ballot” was 2008 and look what it got us. Combine “giving up” on democracy with entertaining ourselves to death on social media, sports, video games and stimulants expanded…who cares, really?

  13. So far, our nation seems to contain our differences at the microphone while most of us go about our privileged lives.

    I lived and worked in Ethiopia where far beneath the headlines in the West beyond Ukraine, is a vicious and brutal conflict primarily rooted between loyalists of the central government and rebels from the Tigray province. It is far more complicated than that. There are bloody conflicts on going elsewhere around the world that displace hundreds of thousands of people globally.

    There are enough caldrons of potentially explosive conflicts, that place at great risk, pitting the world against itself where borders no longer matter.

    Those within our country who are self absorbed in the belief, survival is contingent upon white majority rule… are foolish. They seem to be blind to caution of being careful what to wish for. America too distracted by its own undoing, is a nation no longer useful as a leader to negotiate peace and promote sustainability.

    A world economy left to its own means to achieve stability and mutual desires for peace and progress will leave aspirations for white supremacy as totally irrelevant and relegated to third tier status at the global table.

  14. How fitting that this discussion should fall on Columbus Day. Our original sin began with the “discovery” of America by CC in 1492. But by the turn of the 16th century, slavery was in full throat in the western hemisphere. Chris had to get the sugar can/molasses/rum industry started and after European smallpox killed most of the original inhabitants, there was nobody left to exploit for cheap/free labor. Enter the Africa-to-America slave trade.

    Columbus Day was passed into law in 1936 by a shamed Congress as a sop to the Italian immigrants the “white” people had been bashing for almost 30 years. But those Italians were mostly Sicilyians – the darker-skinned of that ethnic group. Of course the Cosa Nostra had something to do with that too.

    My point today that racism/tribalism is at the heart of the human social condition. Other recent blogs here thrashed that pretty well. So, here we are once again allowing the intellectually lazy 25% create 90% of the mayhem in our precious democracy. How do we fix that?

    I’m all about solutions to problems…if there are any, but when some even smaller minority of that 25% are trying to suppress real history because they WANT to remain racist, that hate-mongering will remain our worst nightmare. Well done, Republicans. You continue to flog our worst instincts for the sake of keeping your sorry asses in public office.

    I also wonder when enough of the rational people in the MAJORITY will finally step up and stop this runaway nonsense instead of running away or returning to their favorite TV reality show. Yes, I’m a dreamer….

  15. Yard signs? Talking at is much different than talking to. Change for the sake of change is not really change, it’s like washing the floor, when you’re done, it’s the same floor!

    The ancient Greeks had a phrase, “Metanoia” it suggested remorse but remorse without real change. “Always searching but never being able to find.”

    Wanting the World to change but never really being tolerant of change.

    Superior thinking, or believing yourself to be superior in thought process, is no different than someone feeling Superior because of the color of their skin. Humanity functions on its own self-interests and not the interests of his fellow humans. If humanity as a whole had concern for his fellow man, there wouldn’t be conflict, there wouldn’t be homelessness, there wouldn’t be lack of medical Care, there wouldn’t be lack of food!

    Every single person on this planet is responsible for every other person on this planet! That shows loving your neighbor that shows brotherly love, Philia. But, different than Agape love, the love of friendship. The love of family, Storge. And lastly, Eros, which is intimacy, race mixing? Ethnic cohabitation?

    Our free moral agency should allow us to express these types of love. But because of a wide level of ignorance born of hatred and unspecified grievance, these things are very rarely showed enMasse. And that’s a huge shame, and a fatal human flaw.

    So, don’t just say it, show it, by example, “one is accurately known.”

  16. Concerning the Sicilians, Vernon is absolutely correct! Sicilians are mixed with Greek and of course the Moorish Islamic people who were basically african. Carthaginian invasions during the Roman and Carthage war, also caused plenty of race mixing as Carthage was a North African power. Most of the Moors were probably from the area of Carthage, as they spread into the Iberian Peninsula also.

  17. As a citizen living in an extremely rural area of northern Indiana I can attest to the fact that those of us who speak out against racism and white terrorism have to be very strong and confident in our beliefs because we do get attacked and shunned. I am also on the county election board as the only Democrat with two republicans. The county clerk used to be a Dem, but switched parties to keep getting elected and my republican counterpart is very pro trump and pence. There is NO political discussion among us because they know where I stand and any BS right wing comments from them could cause a very ugly discussion.

  18. Election yard signs – what cheap virtue signaling (and pollution). Showing ain’t the same as showing up. Like the once popular and now fading “We believe” lists…

  19. Why is it that “people said they wouldn’t stand for being a minority in their own country”? While there are for sure many possible answers to that the most obvious seems that those people knew how they treated minorities over the years. Why did they treat them badly? That’s another complex question but, because they could is one answer, and that behavior they must have learned from what they were born into and witnessed among people who they deemed to be like themselves.

    That culture that makes them who they are has a name, authoritarianism. That’s the idea that society must be structured into layers with the more powerful on top of the pyramid. Like corporations are organized and the military too.

    Is that the only way that society can operate with layers of increasing authority over more and more others? Many think so, but I do not.

  20. Good for you Nancy. I too live in one of the highest % MAGA counties in NE Indiana, but since the 2020 election and pandemic I have withdrawn from all civic activities, after having done so for a good dozen years.

    I recently read where our county is now begging people to volunteer for the various commissions and boards. But they can’t fill them because so many of the locals are completely ignorant of how their county operates OR they simply don’t care. Maybe I’m being selfish but I see no reason to put myself at risk of infection from others who are likely unvaccinated against Covid. Nor do I see any benefit in my being the only member on a board who relies on facts, reason and empathy to make policy decisions, as opposed to allegiance to an unwritten dogma shared among local elected officials and the vast majority of other business and community leaders.

    From now on I’ll focus more time on several non-profits I’m involved in.

  21. Patrick – no criticism whatsoever to your post – completely understand. But, the crux of today’s accounting is right in there. The ones who ARE volunteering…

    – Are frightened and want more control over their lives, and/or…
    – Believe that their “freedom” is under attack and want to ensure that they can “do what they want to do” without any government interference, and/or
    – Seek personal power over others, and/or
    – Are intoxicated with Fox/MAGA culture and want to exercise this as their personal “brand” of life

  22. Lester Levine; I can’t think of a polite way to tell you what to do with your opinion of political yard signs. Maybe you could offer a solution to my generation of geriatric Americans living at poverty level but still supporting democracy and upholding the Constitution of the UNITED States of America as best we can with our cheap virtue signaling.

  23. Lester ignores the very real impact of those signs (which wouldn’t be used by candidates if they weren’t effective.) Those “virtue signaling” signs tell others that they are not alone. Remember the volunteer who went door to door and encountered multiple people who thought they were the “only” Democrats in their area–and were dispirited and less likely to vote as a result. Putting signs out is one effective way to combat that misperception.

  24. My comment of yesterday, that many peole vote thier anxiety, fit today’s topic well, as in “…just tickle the amygdala.”
    Bush II and TFG, both won only because of the electoral college’s slant in favor of the already powerful. Reagan won
    because of his treasonous act, going behind the then sitting president, to Iran, as well as his bigoted campaign. The EC
    needs to be deep sixed!

  25. JoAnn,

    “if you’re happy with your yard sighs, clap your hands…”

    Seriously, no offense intended. Some ideas of additional things to do:

    – Remind everyone you know, relatives, friends, neighbors to “make a plan” to vote
    – Pick a candidate running for any office, local, state or national who has a chance to win and would likely be a servant leader who puts country over party/ideology . Contact their campaign via their website/Facebook and volunteer to do something from home
    – Need some ideas for those US House candidates who fit the above? Try these: CO03 – Adam Frisch – – LAUREN BOEBERT in his sights!
    OH04 – Tamie Wilson: – JIM JORDAN in her sights!

  26. Lester; back up to my comments at 8:18. I have also reported on this blog that I am donating what I can, when I can to Destiny Wells, Tom McDermott here in IN and Stacey Abrams, Beto O’Rourke, Mark Kelly, Rafael Warnock and Tim Ryan.

    Sheila; thanks for explaining the importance of yard signs.

  27. I was the only person in my Plainfield neighborhood who had an Obama yard sign. On Halloween night I sat on the front porch because I had 5 dogs in the house. The door bells to candy would have put all of us in the grave and so I sat on the porch. You should have heard the whispers–wow, she has an Obama sign–and some would come up and whisper they are going to vote for him but didn’t want a sign in their yard for fear that their house would be targeted or burnt down to the ground.

    I had an Obama bumper sticker and I served on the town’s plan commission and some of the older men (I was the only woman serving on the commission) were genuinely worried that I was going to get shot at–my signs were to let others know that there are Democrats in Indiana and Christian Democrats–the Indy Star interviewed me when I had my posters outside when Obama came and spoke in Plainfield.

    I live in Tennessee and had my Biden/Harris signs–my house was yelled at, flipped off, still standing–but its scary. It’s gotten scarier to be honest.

  28. Elaine – thanks for reinforcing my point – no voters changed their mind by your signs; They just felt better about their planned vote.

    JoAnn – while giving money helps, giving active time, especially to “peer-to-peer” campaigning is worth much more and can also be done right from home.

  29. Talking to Lester Levine is like talking to Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Gohmert in a debate.

  30. Yes, those snappy yard signs! A nice catchy slogan, maybe, or a nice well thought out photograph. Send money, your donations are welcome! They can spend that money if they claim it is an income, and of course, they can pay those taxes by even more donated money! All the piglets are lined up at the trough, really, none of them are any different. If, the idealogs end up making it in office, they either change right after, or they’re run out of dodge! After all, who would not like to work half a year? And, maybe a few hours a day? Except of there’s something really major going down that draws a lot of attention! Then they can complain about the long days! Like that happens how much? Almost never! But, the media dutifully films that long day, and it sears indelibly into the gray matter of those zombies wishing on a Star. Really really sad!?!?!

    Empty your pockets, because the person who has that snappy yard sign asks you to. Because, that snappy yard sign is alluding to their fine upstanding statesmanship and they can fix it! Wow, if it only was that easy!

    Go through the history of just this country, how long has everyone been saying the same thing? 250 years?

    If there was fixing to be done, don’t you think it would have happened by now?

    The Germans had acquired every single ideal of their rotten Nazi regime from the United states! From eugenics, to racist segregation, Jim Crow was a very popular subject in early 1900 germany. This country can’t even enforce a law on the books making it illegal to intimidate voters! And those snappy yard signs are a good thing?!? Wow!

    How about the politicians voting in a law making it illegal for politicians to lie? And, prosecutable under the penalty of jail and fines. You know why that will never happen? Because they all lie, and they want to keep all of that money they’ve siphoned out of the pockets of senior citizens! Well, enjoy and have at it.

    By the way, Germany loved posters, political posters! They showed the Jews as ticks, or, bulbous nosed monsters! Evil, looking to take your children, eat your food, steal your money, and whatever else! So yeah, maybe they do work at identifying the cretins living next door! There are always numerous trees to bark up, unfortunately, it seems to always be the wrong one!

  31. You all…GEEZ!…you know better, I hope…is anyone cogitating on the idea that being pretty old, not entirely able, perpetually financially strapped, and who knows what other uncomfortable realities – might have an effect on one’s ability to participate in politics in a “preferred” manner.

    As a former active volunteer, I am these days having to be satisfied with donations (sadly small) and paying attention, which in the Great North also involves trying to answer surveys in a thoughtful way (surveys, a ‘modern’ manifestation of technology, plus a pain, that might make a helpful difference).

    Also, over the time I have been following this informative blog (thank you, Sheila), Joann has described her neighborhood in a way that makes me think her neighbors are bothered, perhaps even into thought, by her persistent ‘signing’. Impossible to know, but for this quickly getting older and older woman, a potential indicator of hope.

    So, a big thank you to any person who participates to the best of their ability! And, thank you for doing more than that when you can!

  32. NVL; thank you for understanding and supporting the millions of us across this country who are doing what we can. To those who believe we are not doing enough or not doing it right, we are frustrated ourselves to the point of stress at our own physical and economic limitations.


  33. JoAnn Green
    My signs on a rural county road show my choice
    Kudos to being like minded.
    And yes your wrangling with Lester is fun.

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