We live in interesting times, to put it mildly. The MAGA culture, in hindsight, should not have been a surprise. It was successful in large part because it created a sense of community, particularly for those who felt alienated by the pretentious condescension of conservative thought and the vindictive insanity of elitist liberalism.
The conservative responses (Never Trump, Against Trump), while well-intentioned, only empowered the movement. They were failures - mistakes even. They weren't mistakes because they were wrong in their assessment, or because Trump truly is at heart a good, decent person and a conservative. He isn't any of those things. It's just that we are in an age of adolescent thought and reactionary politics. America was having an identity crisis, not a crisis of conservative thought, which was never popular. Never Trump reminded everyone why.
That being said, many seem to like it that way. The romantic notion of a handful of small government enthusiasts against the world is a little too appealing. It's an ideology of isolation and intellectual snobbery that is in many ways unrealistic about its environment, and far too pleased with itself. Conservatives are proudly cold and distant. We don't win, but we're right.
It’s all about perception, and in the eyes of many, “NeverTrump” seemed to insist that things were fine as they were. It didn't push a single candidate. Its desperate cry of “anyone but Trump” was cringe-worthy and only fueled the everyone-is-against-Trump anger mob. It had the opposite of its intended effect. And it didn't matter. Republicans had already made conservativism unmarketable. Not to mention, the majority of people chanting for self-reliance were talking about it for other people and not themselves.
By their nature, you could say conservatives move inward. Liberals move outward. MAGA moves outward too, and they are unbound. The big MAGA cheerleaders aren't professing principles, but they don't have to be. It's not an ideology, it's a culture. MAGA is mostly about a feeling of nostalgia for a legendary America that never really existed, and a furious engagement in cultural battle, with the conservative policy wins being side effects of the larger goal of causing emotional distress to those on the left. It's not all bad. It's not all wrong. It's not conservative, but the mob has temporarily been herded into positions that have benefited conservative policy, “Gorsuch” and “tax cuts” among them.
The idea that MAGA culturalism isn't a conservative movement is certain to irk some people, many of whom have already repeatedly rejected conservatism in favor of whatever mish-mashed ideology they purport to adhere to today or claim is just on the horizon. Regardless of the goals of various MAGA enthusiasts, principled conservative ideals are not in the forefront; if they are anything, merely an afterthought. That is why the comment by the President about suspending due process during the gun control debate didn't ruffle feathers in the MAGA culture. It was largely shrugged off or tallied as another three-dimensional chess moment. (He's got them right where he wants them and so on for all eternity.) For the conservative, the alarm goes off. For the MAGA culture, it's a barely a footnote in the scriptures, and if anything, it's used to mock the conservatives who express concern.
While it's valid and satisfying to point out the hypocrisy of the left, it's good to remember that Trump represents the greatest hypocrisy of the right. That only one of these is more popular and lucrative among some right-wing media and propaganda is a fair critique. But that's not the problem. The bigger problem is there is a consistent market for it, fostered by the continuing decline of interest in critical thought.
But to solve these problems there are no ideas. Even the members of the Tru-Con brigade are bored with their own self-righteousness and have reduced themselves to making balloon animals at the lefty carnival. Nevermind that they've effectively destroyed the word “tribalism” so no one takes it seriously anymore, though everyone should because it is a problem. But like any hysterical witch hunt, it's peaked, and no one cares.
And what about the experts? The experts promised us Trump wouldn't win the nomination, even as he closed one state after another. Then some told us to vote for Clinton, promising he could not win the presidency. Difficult to blame anyone for the rejection of the individuals who lead well-meaning conservatives on a worthless crusade to stop Trump that may have ultimately contributed to his election, and then turned them into Democrats (or tried to).
It seems people have also long grown tired of the sulking conservative martyrs lashing out. There is little headway to be made for the “woe-is-me” conservative. There is certainly reason out there, but forget it all, we've got teen political cage matches to watch, to appease our adolescent desperation for validation, and look, this one's on our side - “it's different,” they proclaim.
So what happens? The application of ideological principles will become more and more selective as we become more reflexive. Reactionary, but so sure our reflexes are right. “Nobody's right but me” is the book of choice among a mess of factions trying to navigate a hopelessly devoted culture, having to swim in and out of the currents of the day, debating the merits of Trump’s porn mistress among raging gun control debates while a massive spending bill is signed into law. If only we could be running things, we said. Oh, how we used to dream of being in charge, and then came that terrible morning we woke up and realized we were.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.