The 2024 Republican primary is already ugly. Because any candidate who wants to win needs the full support of Trump’s MAGA base of voters. Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are currently competing to win the hearts and minds of MAGA voters and at this point, both DeSantis and Trump probably see the primary as a two-man race to the nomination. DeSantis hasn’t yet announced a run, but right now, it seems inevitable that he will. To win, DeSantis must convince the Trump faithful, voters have been described as a cult multiple times, that he’s more MAGA than the guy who came up with the slogan.
It’s not as simple as running to the Right of Trump. MAGA voters are out for blood. MAGA voters don’t believe in democracy and crave an authoritarian government that will punish their enemies. The only policies MAGA voters care about are directly tied to the culture wars, and often those policies are intended only to beat down vulnerable populations. To win the nomination over Trump, DeSantis needs to prove that he’s crueler and more hateful than Trump. Being a homophobic white male supremacist isn’t enough. DeSantis needs to prove that he’s ready, willing, and able to cause more harm to vulnerable people and communities. And Trump isn’t going to give up his current crown without a fight.
This week both DeSantis and Trump made moves to show MAGA voters what they’re made of. DeSantis continued his attacks on education by having Florida’s education department reject a new high school Advanced Placement course, African American Studies. DeSantis also announced plans to block diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at Florida state colleges. As a sitting governor, DeSantis is able to play political football with the education of every child and college student who attends public schools and colleges in Florida. Students and educators are canon fodder on DeSantis’ road to the White House, but again that’s what MAGA voters want to see in their next President.
Donald Trump doesn’t have the benefit of holding office at the moment. Since Trump doesn’t have constituents to harm, his moves have to involve more political theater and showmanship. This week Trump posted a video announcing that should he be reelected, he’ll propose Federal legislationdesigned to roll back the rights of Americans who identify as Transgender. In the video, Trump says that “The left-wing gender insanity being pushed on our children is an act of child abuse.” Trump said.
Trump’s speech contained a number of policy proposals that would guarantee that trans minors have little recourse available for gender dysphoria, and appears aimed at creating a chilling effect where hospitals providing gender-affirming care or teachers supporting struggling trans students might fear an investigation from a Trump Department of Justice — or the loss of federal funding.
The former president proposed a potentially significant expansion of federal control of teachers in the form of a “new credentialing body” which “will promote positive education about the nuclear family” and “the roles of mothers and fathers.” He also promised an end to Biden administration policies, and the policies of several states, that allow people to select an “X” gender marker on identification documents…
There’s no ambiguity here. Trump’s proposals make it abundantly clear he’s out to harm Trans Americans, their families, medical providers who offer gender-affirming care, and educators who treat trans students and their families with dignity and respect. It’s also worth noting that Trump isn’t doing the usual leave it for the states to decide tack that Right-Wingers tend to take. This is national legislation intended to interfere with every parent in America’s right to raise their children and every child’s right to exist as their authentic selves.
DeSantis and Trump’s war to win over MAGA Voters is both necessary for them to win the Republican primary and a terrible general election strategy. Republicans keep doubling down on the culture wars, and they’ve essentially lost every election since 2016. Since I don’t know what the world looks like in 2024, I can’t definitively say they’ll lose yet again, but as of right now, I don’t see how this strategy changes any minds or brings any of the new voters the GOP nominee needs to win the White House.
But we can’t write off the culture wars or how Republicans wage them. As I wrote last year, the GOP incites violence. The rhetoric from Trump, DeSantis, and the rest of the Republican party puts us all in danger, especially trans children, their families, and their support systems. I worry that the less likely Republicans are to win elections, the more violent MAGA as a movement will become.
The rhetoric also has an immediate effect on the public. Bills to restrict access to gender-affirming medical care have been introduced in 21 states. Bills to restrict the teaching of critical race theory and/or how teachers can talk about race in the classroom have been introduced in 44 states. And this week the College Board, the organization that administers Advanced Placement classes, watered down the curriculum for the African America Studies course for every student in America as a response to pressure from DeSantis in Florida.
It’s vital that we, as progressives, support those targeted by Trump, DeSantis, and the GOP. Showing up when people are in danger and calling out the media when it attempts to mainstream MAGA’s extremism. Especially since so much of the Right’s hate is directed at children or will negatively impact their education. Elected officials in blue states should also push back, and as Greg Sargent points out in his column, several blue state governors are already doing this. We can’t allow the GOP’s race to the bottom to hijack American life any more than it already has.
This is an excerpt from the newsletter Ctrl Alt-Right Delete. It was republished with the author’s permission. Subscribe HERE.