The Red Letter commonality between MAGA and MRGA

In which we study the similarities between Make America Great Again and Make Russia Great Again

MAGA rioters attack Capitol police on January 6, 2020

We all watched the outcome of MAGA (Make America Great Again) in the United States of America. Four years of MAGA propaganda by the Trump Administration led to an insurrection against the nation by a manic mix of pro-fascist “demonstrators” claiming the 2020 election was stolen.

That was a horrific moment in American history. But the worst part of the Trump years was the support provided by the Christian evangelical community who cheered on Trump’s often lawless campaign to use the office of President as his personal stomping grounds for whatever enemies he chose to attack.  All of Trump’s vengeful behavior was dismissed as necessary because he was ostensibly acting for the “greater good” by literally carrying out the will of God. According to populist notions of Trump’s rise to power, he was the one anointed to advance the idea that the United States of America is a Christian Nation under God.

That was one of dog-whistle (or God-whistle) messages driving Make America Great Again. It carried with it the promise to ban abortion and block gay people from civil rights, two key social issues to conservative Christians tied to the anachronistic dogma of the religion when it dominated American society. And this despite its demonstrated history of supporting institutional slavery and racism in the likes of ‘Christian-based’ groups like the KKK.

MAGA’s ugly underbelly

MAGA’s ugly underbelly revealed itself during Trump’s first campaign for president as he embraced racist organizations, complimenting them as “good people.” Those groups and others coalesced into the aggressive branch of MAGA whose militias broke down barriers, attacked police, and threatened to murder the Vice President, Mike Pence, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

And while all this happened, the evangelical leadership in America either remained silent or cheered on the events while justifying Trump’s reign of terror by claiming that “God works with flawed people.”

The terrifying fact of the religious rationalization is that it is now being extended, in a brutally ironic fashion, to the leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin, during his military invasion of Ukraine. And here’s the kicker: Putin is carrying out this mission for much the same religious reasons that the American evangelical community wanted to Make America Great Again. Putin views Ukraine as a necessary iconic element in the re-establishment of a Christian-dominated Russia and for all we know, the rest of Europe. This war in Ukraine is an attack on a sovereign nation that values free and fair elections just like the United States of America and other democracies around the world. But Putin wants to install his Christo-fascist version of power over the nation’s people and its resources and call it Russia+. This is Putin’s version of MAGA. So we can legitimately brand it MRGA: Make Russia Great Again.

American Christian’s support for Putin

Conflating God with country is a favorite pastime of the Christian conservative community

Thus it is no coincidence that America’s evangelical Christian community and their conservative friends seem to support Putin. There are also whispers in the halls of End Times Theology that “this is the big one,” because religious zealots hoping for the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ to rule it all pray that this is their moment of vengeance against the heathens and humanistic believers who want to solve the world’s problems, not turn them into an excuse for Armageddon.

Even Israel can’t make up its mind what to do about Russia, because Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is himself a Jew. There are political and economic striations to consider as well, so the nation perpetually caught between Jewish and Christian interests is now stuck between the rocks of conflicting ideologies, convenient loyalties, and funding to protect its own people.

MRGA and the Taliban

But MRGA will stop for no one under Putin’s direction. His army might be exhausted by the time he overcomes Ukraine, but the people of that occupied nation will keep fighting back. The frightening truth is that if anyone else gets involved beyond sanctions, Putin has threatened nuclear retaliation, even aggression. He also took control of nuclear power plants in Ukraine, and he’s such a despot that he might just let some radiation leak to cow people to his will.

The really sinister part here is that MRGA has been cheered on by some of Trump’s high-profile fans and supporters, including Tucker Carlson at Fox News––and others. In an interview on Fox News, retired Army Colonel Douglas McGregor, who served under Donald Trump and apparently remains loyal to the cause, opined on behalf of Putin telling host Stuart Varney: “The first five days Russian forces I think frankly were too gentle. They’ve now corrected that. So, I would say another ten days this should be completely over.”

Macgregor went on to say that the war could have “ended days ago” if Zelensky had acquiesced to what Russia wanted.”

Those statements drew a rebuke from a noted Republican purist Liz Cheney: “Douglas MacGregor, nominated by Trump as ambassador to Germany; appointed by Trump as senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense, says Russian forces have been ‘too gentle’ and ‘I don’t see anything heroic’ about Zelensky,” Cheney wrote. “This is the Putin wing of the GOP.”

So we can see that the militaristic nature of the latter-day GOP willingly dismisses any notion of international principle in favor of personal opinion, purpose, and priority. It is the classic example of the “ends justifies the means” approach to gaining and retaining power.

This fealty to power when fueled by aggressive conservative and Christo-fascist instincts is devastating to the health of democracies around the world. It is also brutally ironic given the resistance in the Christian sphere to similar efforts by conservative Muslim sects to establish religious control over entire countries. The entire American occupation in Afghanistan, the “war” that lasted more than twenty years–– was driven in part by attempts to rid the country of the religiously driven motives of the Taliban, an arch-Right brand of Islam. And the United States of America failed to quell that influence.

Ugly convenience

None of this surprises us because the ugly convenience of justifying social control and even conducting wars on religious grounds is as old as civilization itself. But consider the irony: It was Jesus that resisted the legalistic control of society by the religious authorities of his day. They killed him for trying to promote a more liberal and socialistic brand of religion based on love, compassion, and a personal relationship with God. None of that was evident in the conduct of the MAGA revolution in America, whose selfish conduct resounded in the halls of Congress when thousands of fascist-minded people beat the police and raided the Capitol.

Nor is there any sign of Jesus Christ in the Russian MRGA attack on Ukraine. This is also a selfishly narcissistic and vainglorious attempt by Putin to grab respect through brute force rather than earn it by respecting international law and having the confidence to build a nation that does not depend on corruption, dirty dealings, and graft to survive. Like Trump, he’s both immensely calculating and lazy at the same time, and sure enough, Trump initially complimented Putin’s military move into Ukraine as “savvy.” God Forbid if Trump was still President. He’d probably be cheering Putin on as Ukrainians died because Trump no doubt has a chip on his shoulder toward Ukraine’s President, who stood up to his corrupt effort to bribe him into doing some political dirty work on Trump’s behalf. To Donald Trump, there is no sweeter feeling than gaining revenge, and now we can see how bad the situation would be if Trump were still in control.

Functionally, we now recognize that MAGA and MRGA are essentially the same thing, twisting religion to serve despotic needs. That is the Red Letter commonality between two equally fascist movements. It also bears strong resemblance to the motives behind the second World War. And that’s bad news for everyone in the world.

The Trumpism Spectrum explained

A HANDS-ON LOOK AT HOW WE GOT FROM THERE (2016) TO HERE (2021) UNDER THE RULE OF EX-PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

However we define Trumpism, there is no denying its existence in the United States of America. Its effects were on full display during the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol. The question we now face is whether Trumpism should be primarily defined as a political or personal condition.

The tactics used to promote Trumpism began with the political slogan Make America Great Again. Those four words symbolized the Trump campaign’s claim that the nation was in desperate need of recovery.

The MAGA slogan worked wonders with those already convinced that Donald Trump represented something “great” about America. His purported wealth and worldwide brand delivered a pre-packaged sense of competency and vision.

Yet that is not what Donald Trump ultimately wound up selling. Instead, he saw an opportunity in convincing people that the nation had abandoned them. That gave millions of already disgruntled people the idea that they had something genuine to complain about. Whether they knew the true sources of their purported misery, or whether they were justified in their self-proclaimed victimhood did not matter. Trump tapped into their anger. That was all that mattered.

To his retinue of pledged supporters, Trump added the support of the evangelical Christian community by choosing a dogmatically zealous Mike Pence as his running mate. The implicit promise in that action was banning abortion and installing some form of Christian theocracy on the nation.

Safely delivered from political criticism by his religious associations, Trump engaged with far-less-admirable brands of populists. Specifically, he offered approval to avowed racist groups as “good people” and chortled with glee as militia groups and violence-prone police threatened to bust heads as a means to maintain order.

All the while, he continued the drumbeat against illegal immigration and repeated his warlike call to ‘build the wall.” That brand of xenophobia resonated with Americans convinced that brown people were freeloaders and stealing their piece of the American pie. Others welcomed Trump’s dog-whistle racism as justification for their own terminal prejudices. Meanwhile, the wealthiest MAGA supporters happily embraced Trump’s “I’ve Got Mine” mentality because it promised a return to tax policies favoring their economic status.

As illustrated in the Trumpism Spectrum, it is easy to trace the initial migration from slogans to tribalism, and from religious legalism to populism. All these tactics were designed to cement a coalition of committed collaborators in the Make America Great Again cabal. Anyone that criticized that cabal was accused of Trump Derangement Syndrome, a supposed mental condition that caused people to act irrationally in response to the ex-President. But that invented term was itself a form of gaslighting, an attempt to make sane people feel crazy about their grip on reality.

Adding to the mix was the rising influence of conspiracy theorists including QAnon, a willfully ignorant and semi-mysterious source of insane accusations and outright lies invented by some Internet gnome lurking on the outskirts of humanity. While Trump griped and whined about the supposed lies contained in the campaign-driven Steele Dossier, he did nothing to counteract rumors that Democrats were involved in human sex trafficking or the daily piles of Right-Wing garbage pumped out by the political right, including but not limited to Fox News.

As Trump’s presidency proceeded, he relied on an increasingly aggressive mix of propaganda to cover up his many illegal activities and political graft in defiance of the emoluments clause and bans on pursuing campaign aid from foreign governments. He was impeached twice for his corruption, but excused by Republican henchman in both the Senate and the House. A few freely admitted that he’d cheated and even broken the law on several counts. But they are power-driven hypocrites and political whores of the worst kind. They are loyal to their party and traitors to our nation.

The only place that Trump’s lies and cheating seemed to catch up with him was during the Covid pandemic when it became obvious that he was both incapable and unconcerned about protecting Americans from a deadly disease. Rather that amend his ways, Trump’s authoritarian instincts drove him to evolve from a man in a perpetual state of denial of his real performance to a man recognizing his failures. Those he feared more than anything else, and in an effort to protect himself from legal and financial jeopardy, he began to plot ways to steal the election in 2020.

This was nothing new, as even before the 2016 election Trump refused to commit his approval for results if he lost. He merely expanded on this tactic in 2020, denying in advance that he could possibly lose. When he did, he launched the Big Lie that the election was “stolen” from him. This lie was invented to foment unrest among his deplorable cabal of truth-denying bigots and zealots. It also appealed to the selfishly wealthy along with the fearful politicians that stood by him through two legitimate impeachments for corruption.

But the sickest loyalty of all is the continued support for Trump even after the acts of sedition conducted by Trump supporters at his direction. The violent, multi-front riots brutalized police officers and left people dead as a result of the insurrection. In the end, Trump invented a brand of fascism that entirely suited him, as he stood watching it all transpire on television even while his violent mob sought to capture and kill the Vice President of the United States. Trump didn’t care. Like his fast-food mentality dictates, he was “having it his way.”

That’s how we got from There to Here over the last six or so years. Looking back at the progression as illustrated on the Trumpism Spectrum graphic, it is pretty clear that it will be too hard to go back through time and fix things. Instead, we need to race forward in the near term to prevent it from happening all over again in 2022 and 2024. Trumpism is a toxic brand of hate-driven politics that was used to beat the nation over the head with an American flag. Despite his ugly pleas, we owe Donald Trump nothing in the way of compassion or compensation. He has done nothing to earn either privilege nor does he deserve it. He is no longer an American in any sense of the word. He is nothing but a greedy traitor, a perpetual con man and an abusive sociopath with nothing to offer the United States of America but an end to the great experiment that launched a democracy worthy of admiration by the whole world.

But under another four years of Trump, that great experiment would cease to exist.

MAGA deserves a closer look

None of us sees behind the veil of what Trump truly values. I have spoken with people that gained an audience with the man, and his personal interactions with them were both kind and considerate. That suggests there is something more to Trump than his public persona and political style. Perhaps his supporters sense this aspect of their president. So it demands a closer look at what drives the popularity of Make America Great Again.

Trump Maga Hat

His brand of brightly-hued optimism appeals to millions of Americans eager for some sort of renewal in this country. These also tend to be people aggravated by the complexity of life as it has evolved in the American republic. Trump’s slogan Make America Great Again proposes to eliminate the complexity of life by reducing the American experiment to simple actions; cutting taxes, ending illegal immigration, stopping abortion, eliminating financial and environmental regulation and putting religion at the forefront of national policy. Does that cover pretty much of what MAGA fans want to see happen?

The Trump mantra really isn’t more complicated than that. His simplicity is his message. One could just as easily change the Trump slogan to Make Aggravation Go Away and achieve the same objectives. A big chunk of the American electorate craves simplicity. They’re sick of having to think about complex issues such as the lives of transgender people. They’re tired of hearing Spanish rather than English spoken in public places. They’re believers in old-school industries such as coal and oil because they harken to a time before the complexities of air pollution, acid rain, and climate change challenged the status quo. There must be a simpler way. Trump appeals to that manner of thinking.

But first, let’s make the aggravations go away.

MAGA redefined

Make Aggravation Go Away is a powerful message also to people whose vision of America does not require accommodation of any sort. That means Christians should not have to think about Muslim traditions or put up with people saying Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. That cultural issue alone has aggravated Christians for a decade or so, coaxed on by Fox News chryons pitching the “War On Christmas.”

Make Aggravation Go Away has roots stretching way back to the Confederate cause in which states’ rights were the big issue, but mostly that was a cloak for the right to keep slaves. Indeed, that was the cause of ‘liberty’ back then. Liberty for white Christians quoting scripture to justify selfish aims while treating people of other races as property. It’s hard to read that sentence and grasp that people once truly believed that. Yet that’s what America most needs to do. Come to grips with its own conflicted traditions.

The Civil War was fought over that aggravation. There are still some Americans that wave the Confederate flag as a sign that their aggrieved state has never been recognized.

Protestors

Tracing these historical grievances from the past to present helps to explain why protestors are now gathering to “liberate” their states from Stay At Home orders issued by their governors. Responding to the pandemic has been an aggravation, which is defined as “an intensification of a negative quality or aspect.” The threat of disease is never a joyful situation. Being encouraged or required to retreat from public life is another layer of aggravation. Those orders are being treated as an infringement on personal rights by protestors who want to Make Aggravation Go Away.

Not that simple

The problem with that belief system is that life isn’t always that simple. Trump’s eagerness to prevent any outside influence from impinging on his prized economy is what directly led to the infection rate getting a head start on the nation’s ability to respond. By trying to simplify the Coronavirus threat to a sound bite and a promise that it would “go away, like magic,” Trump put millions of people’s lives at risk, and tens of thousands have indeed died.

Trump Denial

And yet his supporters still seek to simplify the complexities of Covid-19 with even more disturbing sound bites. So desperate are some supporters to protect Trump they have projected blame for the pandemic away from Trump to a more convenient and horrifically simplied target for their ire, Dr. Anthony Fauci. The Fire Fauci meme swept across the Internet with all the resonance and credulity of the Lock Her Up chants aimed at Hillary Clinton. Again, it’s all about Making Aggravation Go Away. Fauci is an aggravation because he’s a medical professional speaking in terms of science, that complex source of often bad news that stands in direct opposition to Trump’s vacuous brand of gut-instinct optimism.

fire fauci

That’s the kind analysis. A more honest approach would be to say that Trump acted stupidly by ignoring clear warnings that a pandemic was brewing overseas and that it would not be confined to arrival just from China. Fauci accurately predicted it would arrive through other channels, yet Trump desperately tried to simplify the threat by calling it the Chinese Virus. That was a clear attempt to politicize the problem with a nationalistic, effectively racist approach to directing blame away from himself. Trump aggressively failed the leadership test of recognizing a genuine threat to our national interests. That is how he approaches every problem he faces. He fails, then bails, and finally assails. It’s all about blaming others. That’s the simplest way to avoid responsibility. But to Trump, it is an art form.

As a result of Trump’s recklessness, our national interests are now bogged in a swamp of economic doldrums wrought by the need to shut down our service economy to prevent rampant spread of the Coronavirus. That requirement has cost millions of jobs and Americans are suffering, big time. The Trump response has been cynical at best. At one point he proudly promised to send Americans what he called a “big, fat check” amounting to about $1200 for most households. And then, Trump held up the distribution of those checks to make sure his name appeared on them.

Big money goes elsewhere

Meanwhile, billions have been snarfed up big money interests all too eager to accept the graft intended for “small business.” That includes Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, whose company gladly embraced more than $800M from the stimulus program. At what point did nepotism become a complete non-issue in this country? How ironic it is that Republicans love to point fingers at the supposed graft of Hunter Biden overseas while Trump’s children blatantly leverage their proximity to the seat of power to pad their present and future interests with promises of profit?

In advance of that flush money going out, Trump promised oversight of the stimulus package to Democrats, then snatched it away after the bill was passed. Of course, his supporters love him for things like that, because it’s just another example of Making Aggravation Go Away.

After all, it was Democrats in Congress that sought to hold Trump accountable for his criminality in seeking to coerce Ukraine into announcing an investigation into his now-confirmed political rival, Joe Biden. The goal of Trump’s digging around in Ukraine was to cast aspersions on Vice President Joe Biden by framing his son Hunter as a symbol of supposed corruption on the part of that family. Those accusations were why Trump’s so-called ‘personal attorney’ Rudy Giuliani spent months mucking around in Ukraine only to turn up nothing substantial. Granted, Hunter Biden does not sound like a prize pupil when it comes to judicious use of family influence or reputation. At one point, neither George W. Bush or John F. Kennedy were paradigms of personal virtue. Even Trump could be forgiven his past transgressions if he weren’t so ardently bent on creating new ones.

Impeachment doesn’t stick

Congress ultimately impeached Trump inaccordance with massive lines of evidence pointing back to Trump’s “perfect” phone call as perfectly corrupt. But the Republican-led Senate made the aggravation go away by refusing to conduct anything approaching an actual trial with testimony and witnesses. Instead, they simply broke the oath to do that and acquitted Trump even while several in the Senate admitted that Trump had done wrong. Once that aggravation was gone, along with the Mueller Report, Trump proceeded on his merry way of mocking his critics and calling everything with which he disagrees Fake News. That’s another tactic for making aggravations go away. Call them fake, or a hoax, and Trump supporters gobble it up like candy.

We don’t even know if Trumpism will allow his removal during a normal election if such a thing exists anymore. By many reports, the Russians are still playing games in the hinterlands of the Internet, posing as Americans and creating fake news sites to pump out pro-Trump and anti-Biden propaganda to divide Americans even further.

Low information 

But it’s not the Russians that are the real problem. It is the Make Aggravation Go Away attitudes of everyday Americans caught up in the authoritarian, nearly fascist call to defeat all those who aggravate the president in any way. This worldview is further fueled by a religious culture that for decades has attacked all that contradicts its scriptural orthodoxy. As a result nearly 40% of Americans embrace the literalistic, anti-science worldview of creationism that reduces the origins of all nature and humanity to the level of a childhood bedtime story. This is the brand of low information that has turned America into a backwater swamp of anti-intellectual populism.

No wonder so many Americans want to Fire Fauci, a medical professional who embraces actual germ theory and the evolutionary insights upon which it depends. And no wonder so many Americans want to “liberate” their state from medical strictures designed to prevent the spread of a quickly evolving virus.

In fact, Coronavirus symbolizes all the complexities that Trump supporters and their evangelical partners love to hate. In many ways, it is the aggravation to end all aggravations, a perfectly unseen enemy that propagates itself through invisible droplets and forces us to wear masks. It looks and feels like the ultimate liberal conspiracy. And if you can’t shoot it with a gun or crush it like a beer can, it surely must be some sort of Democrat conspiracy to block the ideal world Trump wants to lead us to.

Just Make Aggravation Go Away. That is the dog-whistle call of those protestors toting guns, waving both Confederate and American flags and revealing the swastika instincts of depicting The Other as the ultimate irritation in life. That’s how Hitler convinced so many that the Jews were the aggravation vexing the nation. But that brand of thinking can be applied to any other label and it still works. Immigrants. Gays. Liberals. Muslims. Tree-Huggers. Mexicans. Blacks. Indians. The list goes on forever if you let it. A nation built around eliminating aggravations is not a nation, but something else entirely.

It is evil.