Are MAGA Republicans 'conservatives'?

Defining the true nature of the GOP amid Trump's authoritarianism

Are MAGA Republicans 'conservatives'?

Is “conservative” the right word to describe Trump’s Republican Party?

In response to recent posts, some FrameLab readers have rejected the use of the term to describe today’s GOP. Some say a stronger word, like “fascist,” better describes the MAGA cult. Others prefer “reactionary” or “regressive” or “authoritarian.”

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These arguments make sense. Under Trump, the Republican Party has broken most political norms and clearly entered an extreme phase. Trump’s popularity with the party’s base, which only seems to rise in proportion to the number of indictments he faces, reveals that democracy is no longer considered essential to a large number of Republican voters. They would apparently be fine living in a nation where the loser of the presidential election was able to remain in power through lies and force. In fact, they would prefer it.

The term “conservative” has traditionally signified a political ideology that seeks “to preserve, to keep intact, to guard.” This meant retaining traditional hierarchies, systems and prejudices as the main order in society. In this way, the Republican interest in overthrowing American democracy could seem anti-conservative, since it aims to throw out our cherished system of democratic governance in favor of an unelected authoritarian.

Yet we must consider the underlying reasons why Republican voters are ready to destroy our democracy. They clearly see democracy as a hindrance to their ability to force their version of morality on the nation. They see a future in which it will become impossible to maintain power because the majority of voters does not agree with them. They view truth as a negotiable concept that bends to suit their political goals. And so, in order to preserve their power and maintain traditional hierarchies, they are willing to become enemies of democracy and impose the tyranny of minority rule. A willingness to overthrow American democracy would seem the opposite of conservation to some. But they are attempting to conserve something – their power and their version of morality. They just aren’t trying to conserve American freedom as expressed through democracy.

“The word conservative is not necessarily about conserving anything. It is about strict father morality.” – “Don’t Think of An Elephant,” 2004.

In this sense, they remain do conservatives. Today’s MAGA Republican Party is the productive of conservatism, and it seems like it would be a mistake to let the conservative ideology off the hook for today’s situation. In some ways, this was always the logical endpoint for conservatism. The threat has been rising for decades, even if most people did not want to accept or admit it.

We will be writing more in-depth on this subject but wanted to give FrameLab readers a chance to weigh in. What do you think the MAGA Republican cult should be called, if not conservative? Does their evolution toward authoritarianism and autocracy require a new label altogether, or simply a modification? Please reply in the comments and let us know what you think.

George and Gil

January 6, 2021: Protesters seen all over Capitol building where pro-Trump supporters riot and breached the Capitol/Shutterstock

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