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What Will Happen to the MAGA Brand?

Last night I watched a great Gene Hackman movie, Mississippi Burning, about the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964. I remember when the case was solved because coincidentally I knew Mickey Schwerner’s mother and one of my cousins had also spent that summer registering blacks to vote in several Southern states.

That murder took place sixty years ago and it is simply impossible to imagine such an event occurring again. Even with all the talk about how Trump and MAGA represent a ‘threat’ to democracy, even with all the concerns about the violence that will erupt if Trump gets sent to jail, even with crazy morons like Marjorie Taylor Greene going on and on about another ‘civil war,’ this country is in a much different place when than it was in the 1960’s when we talk or think about race.

Am I saying there’s no racism around? No. Am I saying that even in my state of Massachusetts, which was the ‘abolitionist’ state, that I don’t occasionally see some jerkoff driving around in his truck with a Confederate flag fluttering in the breeze? Nope. Am I saying that human beings aren’t capable of expressing and behaving themselves in nasty, hurtful and hateful ways? No sir.

What I am saying, or am about to say, is that at some point Trump and his MAGA bullshit will begin to fade and then disappear, because that’s what happens to every brand in the marketplace, whether it’s a brand name like Harley Davidson which is still going strong but not at all like it once was, or a brand name such as ‘I Like Ike,’ which hasn’t been mentioned by anyone for more than sixty years.

I was twelve years old when Eisenhower clobbered Stevenson with a margin of some – ready? – sixteen points. The only Presidential election in my lifetime where the winner beat the loser by a wider margin than Ike beat Stevenson in 1956 was when Nixon beat McGovern by 23 points in 1972. And I remember walking down a Manhattan street in 1956 and it seemed like just about everyone was wearing an ‘I Like Ike’ button on their dress or their shirt.

The fact that the GOP primary contest right now seems to be a contest over who will ultimately own the MAGA brand, is only a function of the fact that primary elections are always more focused on the hard-core voters who become less important when everyone goes to the polls.

You can see how the direction of the GOP will begin to shift by following what happens in the House when the battle over a spending freeze versus a government shutdown begins to heat up next week. The so-called ‘freedom caucus’ can rant and rave all it wants about forcing major cuts in certain (read: liberal) government programs, but if all they want is an investigation into lapses in border security, as Grandpa would say, ‘a be gezunt’ (read: big deal.)

If Trump isn’t the 2024 GOP candidate, or even if he is, nobody’s going to give one rat’s damn about MAGA after 2028. Now maybe the next guy or gal who ends up being the headliner for the GOP will come up with a brand which is even more vulgar, more racist, and more stupid than MAGA, but I have my doubts.

And the reason I don’t see the United States becoming a permanent harbor for Christian Nationalism, or right-wing populism, or any other sloganeering which crawls out from under a rock, is because there’s no political rhetoric which can prevent human beings from choosing what they want to believe, and the fact that a movie like Mississippi Burning couldn’t be made about something which happened last year, is proof positive that things in this country have changed.

And when things change, which they always do, you can’t go back to the way things ‘used to be,’ no matter how inviting such a phrase sounds.

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