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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Saturday, July 8, 2023

MAGA: Rage, Fun, and Community

Our book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection.  Some Republican leaders -- and a measurable number of rank-and-file voters -- are open to violent rebellioncoups, and secession.  Trump posted a picture of himself holding a baseball bat, right next to a picture of DA Bragg.

They think it's fun.

David French notes a little-discussed aspect of MAGA fans:
 For them, the MAGA community is kind and welcoming. For them, supporting Trump is fun. Moreover, the MAGA movement is heavily clustered in the South, and Southerners see themselves as the nicest people in America. It feels false to them to be called “mean” or “cruel.” Cruel? No chance. In their minds, they’re the same people they’ve always been — it’s just that they finally understand how bad you are. And by “you,” again, they often mean the caricatures of people they’ve never met.

In fact, they often don’t even know about the excesses of the Trump movement. Many of them will never know that their progressive neighbors have faced threats and intimidation. And even when they do see the movement at its worst, they can’t quite believe it. So Jan. 6 was a false flag. Or it was a “fedsurrection.” It couldn’t have really been a violent attempt to overthrow the elected government, because they know these people, or people like them, and they’re mostly good folks. It had to be a mistake, or an exaggeration, or a trick or a few bad apples. The real crime was the stolen election.

It’s the combination of anger and joy that makes the MAGA enthusiasm so hard to break but also limits its breadth. If you’re part of the movement’s ever-widening circle of enemies, Trump holds no appeal for you. You experience his movement as an attack on your life, your choices, your home and even your identity. If you’re part of the core MAGA community, however, not even the ruthlessly efficient Ron DeSantis can come close to replicating the true Trump experience. Again, the boat parade is a perfect example. It’s one part Battle for the Future of Civilization and one part booze cruise.

The battle and the booze cruise both give MAGA devotees a sense of belonging. They see a country that’s changing around them and they are uncertain about their place in it. But they know they have a place at a Trump rally, surrounded by others — overwhelmingly white, many evangelical — who feel the same way they do.

Evangelicals are a particularly illustrative case. About half of self-identified evangelicals now attend church monthly or less often. They have religious zeal, but they lack religious community. So they find their band of brothers and sisters in the Trump movement. Even among actual churchgoing evangelicals, political alignment is often so important that it’s hard to feel a true sense of belonging unless you’re ideologically united with the people in the pews around you.