The Myth of the MAGA Republican
OPINION: Instead of disparaging the racist, violent threat to American democracy as "MAGA forces," maybe Biden could've used a better term: “Republicans.”
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio
On Thursday, our heroic President Joe Biden stood up against the forces of evil.
In a primetime speech that could have easily been produced by Marvel Studios, Biden echoed the sentiments of pundits, politicos and cable news presenters who believe the 2024 presidential election will determine the fate of the American empire. As we tend to do with most complex conversations, the content creators responsible for manufacturing the political narrative have condensed politics down to an uncomplicated, easily digestible comic book version that calls upon the American public to unite against the forces of evil.
“Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal,” President Biden said from Philadelphia. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic….Now, I want to be very clear, very clear up front. Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology. I know, because I’ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans.”
Who the hell was he talking about?
According to Biden, there are good Republicans and bad Republicans and we just need to stop the bad ones. Apparently, in the Biden cinematic universe, there are some Republicans who don’t use racism, conspiracy theories and blatant lies to gain and maintain power. I’m not saying that they don’t exist, but it’s easier to believe that Herschel Walker is a microbiologist with a Ph.D. from the Hogwarts School of Fine Arts than it is to believe that the “majority of Republicans” are different from Donald Trump. I’ve seen Herschel Walker dance, but I’ve never seen a Republican who hasn’t embraced an “extreme ideology.”
We know the bad Republicans.
Led by nefarious billionaire Donald Trump, the wicked Ultra MAGA posse (which would have been a great name for a 1980s breakdancing crew) has incited insurrection, inspired right-wing extremism and sought to invalidate the electoral process. This Injustice League includes Josh “the Insurrection Fist” Hawley, the “Queen of QAnon” Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ron “Don’t Say Gay” DeSantis. Unlike Liz Cheney’s group of (relative) do-gooders, they don’t respect the law, the office of the president or the American people.
Maybe Biden was talking about “Republicans in Name Only.” GOP Avengers like Cheney, Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and former S.C. Governor Nikki Haley have been fashioned as superheroes fighting against a cabal of evil supervillains intent on destroying the fabric of the republic. While everyone doesn’t agree with the political ideology championed by the “mainstream” wing of the Republican Party, even some Democrats have invested in the mythology that this league of extraordinary Republicans will help us defeat the evil force known as Ultra MAGA.
Or maybe he was talking about Liz Cheney. She is one of the good ones.
Hailed (or vilified, depending on one’s perspective) as a “Never Trumper,” the Jan. 6 Superwoman reviles Donald Trump. Of course, Cheney voted for Donald Trump’s political position nearly 93 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. Like other so-called “bad” members of their party, she voted against the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act—the bill that would have protected the provisions in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Cheney also hailed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and give state legislatures the authority over women’s reproductive rights. She has never fought to protect non-white citizens, women’s rights or democracy. Lauding Liz Cheney’s relentless pursuit of those responsible for the attempted insurrection on Jan. 6 is like praising a cab driver for not steering the taxi into a wall—it’s her job. However, Cheney’s willingness to simply fulfill her constitutionally sworn duties has created the illusion that she is a valiant protagonist engaged in an existential battle against a sinister adversary—the “bad Republicans.”
As exciting and understandable as this story may sound, the plot is entirely fictional.
If so-called “good Republicans” exist, why hasn’t Romney or one of his fellow GOP patriots broken their party’s filibuster and joined the effort to protect voting rights? He may have voted to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial, but Romney stood with “bad” counterparts to block gun reform, police reform and an infrastructure bill that would have addressed economic inequality. And why was he crying? Heroes don’t cry! Batman doesn’t even have tear ducts!
Whether they use a feces-smearing violent mob or voter suppression tactics to subvert an election, the result is the same. What’s the difference between racial gerrymandering and calling up state legislators to undermine the vote count? Is there a difference between disenfranchising Black voters after the election than before? A conspiracy theory about 2,000 mules is no different than the one about Black Panthers at the polls. Why haven’t these guardians of the political galaxy refused to participate in their party’s effort to suppress votes, attack LGBTQIA rights or eliminate Black history?
While the two factions of the GOP may differ in decorum and the volume of their dog whistles, neither side has reservations about weaponizing religious fanaticism, right-wing extremism and voter suppression to maintain the status quo. The “good Republicans” still want to build a border wall. They still deny climate change. They still want to control women’s bodies, restrict access to polls and suppress political dissent. Their desire to preserve democracy is as fictional as their fabricated storyline.
It is inarguable that the Trump wing of the Republican Party imperils what people who are immune to inequality, disenfranchisement and gerrymandering blithely refer to as “American democracy.” But making a distinction between the intraparty ideologies of the GOP is dangerous and reductive. Painting one Republican bloc as “good” obscures the fact that Romney, Cheney, the members of the Lincoln Project and other lifelong party loyalists helped build the death ray that is now pointed at the American republic.
They created Donald Trump. They gave him his power.
When it comes to policy and governing—there is no difference between the MAGA forces and the regular Dollar Tree GOP. Their goals are the same. Perhaps their only Republican superpower is their ability to manufacture villains out of thin air. Even when they are forced to distance themselves from their fellow Republicans in order to maintain the party’s cloak of invincibility, they’ve already suppressed enough votes, disenfranchised enough felons and gerrymandered enough districts to maintain their strength.
Maybe the most fantastic part of Joe Bidens heroic speech to save American democracy lies in this unbelievable premise:
America is a democracy.
Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in 2022.
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