In this installment of Weekend Conversations, PF Whalen of The Blue State Conservative and Parker Beauregard of The Last Best Hope examine the level of success achieved by President Donald J. Trump in his effort to “Make America Great Again.” At the time of our correspondence, the election results are still unclear, therefore the contents of this conversation can be considered as either a halftime analysis or a single-term evaluation.
PF: When Trump first started using the MAGA slogan when he began his campaign in June 2015, I liked it right away. The fact that so many on the Left attacked it as a “dog whistle” for racists told me Trump had indeed struck the right note, and once again confirmed my suspicion that the Left had lost their collective minds. I think it’s also fair to say that Trump has used the slogan as his guiding principle throughout his presidency thus far.
Like any presidential term, nothing is perfect, and the last four years are no exception; but I think Trump has largely succeeded in returning the country to greatness. For me, the most impactful example might be how he’s changed the mindset of so many of us. During the 2016 primaries, most Republicans were tiptoeing around various issues. Jeb Bush, for instance, was considered an early frontrunner, and his timidity was ridiculous. Trump was a bulldog, pissing off people on a daily basis, and it was refreshing.
Trump has rewritten the rules for conservatives and Republicans everywhere. It’s OK to say, “America First,” and to govern that way. It’s OK if you don’t pander to minority constituents by shifting to the left and embracing identity politics. Trump aggressively addressed border security, and his support by Hispanics increased significantly. Trump rejected the narrative from the BLM movement that America is evil, and his support among black folks almost doubled. He’s established a blueprint for Republicans for the next twenty years, we just have to hope they’ve been paying attention.
Parker: Yes – he made America great again. That’s different than saying perfectly; America will never be perfect, but we always move toward that direction. Like you mentioned, his appeal was that he didn’t kowtow every single grievance group (blacks are oppressed because of racism, Hispanics are oppressed because of xenophobia, women are oppressed because of the patriarchy, gays are oppressed by a heteronormative society, etc.). It gets old really fast. What’s amazing is that by rejecting identity politics, Trump actually earned a higher percentage of votes from all of these subgroups! And predictably, leftists are ascribing this defection to racism … by blacks and Hispanics. Isn’t this the same crowd that said blacks can’t be racist?
Trump made this country great simply by exposing these people as frauds. They never – and I mean NEVER – learn from these things. Miami (as just one example) completely rejected leftism, and instead of asking themselves if their policies might have alienated people that fled socialism/communism and instigated class warfare, the left condescendingly explained away the shift to a mix between ignorance and hate. It’s rich. And then there was AOC – oops, the Honorable Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez – who whined her way through a series of tweets, interviews, and posts about how her party didn’t let her campaign with them. After Miami, isn’t it obvious? But no; rather than wonder if leftism is being rejected, she simply says we need more of it.
Just remember the same people that think Trump is a fool are mesmerized and enthralled by people like AOC. Up is down and down is up.
PF: An aspect of the whole anti-Trump argument from the Left that I find particularly silly is their contention that Trump has diminished our standing internationally. “He’s an embarrassment,” they’ll say. The first question I always ask upon hearing that claim is, “Who cares?” Seriously. If the public opinion of America in France has dropped since Trump took office, oh well. The Left is embarrassed because of what, Trump being un-presidential? That should be the least of our worries, and it’s one of his personality traits that got him elected in the first place.
I would also argue strongly that the argument on its face is seriously flawed. Some Europeans may not like Trump because he forced NATO members to kick in their fair share of funding, but so be it. There are plenty of them, particularly in Eastern Europe, who think highly of Trump. Some Asians may not like him because of his harsh stance on China, but again… big deal. Confronting China and their corrupt international influence is undoubtedly a net positive, and most countries recognize that fact.
The entire point of the MAGA ideology is to put “America First,” and we shouldn’t expect that foreigners would embrace that philosophy. But as Trump has explained, every country should put their own nation first. It’s globalism vs. nationalism, and hopefully, Trump has permanently turned us away from globalism. Brexit was a rejection of globalism, and so was Donald Trump, and we’ll be better off if we continue on the path he has shown.
Parker: Like you, I do not care what the world leaders think, let alone a media cartel that has disgraced its profession far beyond what Trump could ever do to the presidency. It’d be funny that they think he’s ruined the presidency, even though they recently referred to him as a fat turtle on his back, and goodness knows what else the past five years, except these lies have consequences. Who demeaned what again? Maybe he should have fooled around with interns to raise their esteem of his time in the Oval Office.
You touched on the fact that his phrase – Make America Great Again – resonated with you. I think it resonated with a lot of folks. By my count, at least 71 million. Donald Trump made it ok to root for America, to take pride in being American, and to recognize that we are special again. MAGA is cheaply regarded as a callback to Jim Crow, segregation, and George Wallace. But the left intentionally misses the point. Trump isn’t focusing on the bad; he’s accentuating the good. America saved the free world in the 1940s; it stood up to the evil of communism in the 1950s and 1960s, losing 100,000 American men in Korea and Vietnam. It stood up to the Soviets and by the 1980s we had vanquished a regime that was responsible for countless wars and 100 million civilian deaths in its wake. And what did we ask for in return?
In his inaugural address in 1960, JFK said:
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
I get goosebumps reading those words. His words encapsulate what MAGA means to me: America is and means something different. Americans don’t back down. Americans rise to the occasion. Americans fight for what is worth fighting for.
PF: As “MAGA” picked up in popularity, there were many on the Left – such as Governor Andrew Cuomo – who argued that “America was never great,” choosing to be among the group of self-hating Americans focused on our historic shortcomings rather than our monumental achievements. In reality, and I’m sure President Trump would agree, we never really stopped being great. “Great” is the only way to describe a country that has long enjoyed the highest standard-of-living on the planet, is a perpetual beacon of liberty for people everywhere and has been the primary protector of freedom around the world for over a century. And all of this, in spite of dealing with characters like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez trying to tear it down at every opportunity.
The best description I’ve heard in describing America’s attitudes towards Trump is this: Trump’s opponents take him literally, but not seriously, whereas Trump’s supporters take him seriously but not literally. That sums it up pretty well, I think. America was still great in 2016, but we could have been a lot better, and that was Trump’s message. And not only was he correct, but he was also largely successful in proving it.
Four years later, our economy is again the envy of the world and poised for a return to excellence in spite of COVID-19. Two-thirds of the Supreme Court is conservative, for the most part, and should be able to keep our society aligned with the Constitution for years to come. We have stayed away from new wars abroad but have fortified our military substantially at the same time. And like you say, Trump has made it acceptable again to root for America. It will likely be years before historians look back at his presidency and give it the credit it deserves, but in my opinion, Donald J. Trump has been successful in his goal to Make America Great Again.
Parker: I couldn’t agree more. America was still great in 2016 but the armies of leftism were at the gates. I wrote an article recently about how, win, or lose, Trump saved America. It sounded a lot like an article published by our friends over at Human Events (I say friends because we have both been published there). It is not a coincidence that we borrowed a similar title format. There is a palpable – and to the left, dangerous – movement within conservative American ranks. We are inspired. Look, both you and I started blogging this summer after decades of sitting quietly on the sidelines. Others started donating to political movements for the first time. Seven million Americans rightly recognized the threat to their rights and bought firearms for the first time in 2020 (with still two months to go). The Trump presidency was markedly different than past “conservative” administrations. It gave awareness, language, purpose, and common cause to tens of millions of Americans who love this country and want the best parts of it to be preserved.
I keep coming back to this idea. Trump could walk away from politics, and public life as a whole, tomorrow, and America would still be different because of him. Too many people are either fired up, red-pilled, informed, or all of the above and will not settle for the legacy media’s lies and Democrat’s empty promises. They realize that their way of life – the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that was guaranteed to them – is under attack by mendacious, elitist scum who care only about their own power and prestige. At this point, it is more frustrating that my friends and family voted for Biden than Biden is a jackass. I expect Democrat politicians to be immoral and self-serving; I expect a lot more in terms of political IQ from my friends and family.
That gets to my final point. How do conservatives help the MAGA message transcend just the Republican convention? Kristi Noem, Nikki, Haley, Tim Scott, and Kim Klacik all spoke under the Trump banner this past August. They are as diverse and eclectic set of citizens as it gets, and they all spoke with purpose and pride. Half of the nation voted for Trump, but I daresay his message resonates with 90% of it. I truly believe the nation was toast if Hillary had won; Trump gave us hope to believe that America could still be the “shining beacon on the hill.”
We are on the right side of history. We need to show and convince others of that now.