The fear behind the MAGA movement Skip to content

The fear behind the MAGA movement

When you’re scared, you try to hide it by attacking someone weaker.

2 min read

Many, if not most, MAGA Republicans see themselves as badasses who are ever-owning wimpy libs.

But the MAGA holy war against anybody who's not white, straight, Christian of the Jesus-loves-me-but-He-can’t-stand-you persuasion, and Trumpian till the last dog dies, is rooted in “desperate fear,” according to author and retired Morehead State University historian John Hennen.

Of late, the MAGAs, perhaps most conspicuously Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have been demonizing LGBTQ Americans, notably trans folks, making them out to be a dire threat to our democracy. (DeSantis evidently thinks he can win the GOP presidential nod next year by out-Trumping Trump.) But history is plain that democracies are toppled by well-armed invaders. It wasn't gun-toting and tank-driving LGBTQ Frenchmen and Frenchwomen who crushed the French republic in 1940. It was Hitler’s goose-stepping Nazi army. Ditto for democracies including the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Norway.

DeSantis has plenty of political company beyond his MAGA-majority Sunshine State legislature. LGBTQ-baiting is common everywhere there’s a GOP governor or a Republican run statehouse, or both. Republicans in the Kentucky General Assembly are falling all over themselves to burnish their MAGA creds, thereby scoring points with the faithful back home, by pushing anti-trans bills.

The MAGA nation is terrified “of a changing world, one in which more people are starting to recognize that any claim to universal ‘values’ by one group or another — such as obsessive Christian white nationalists — is a sham.”

Hennen doesn’t pull punches: “This is the flip side of social media’s gift to the Right, which allows nutcases to get mass audiences and cross-fertilize their fearful hatred, thereby making them feel ‘empowered’ – one of my least favorite words, but appropriate here.”

At the same time, he added, social media has also partly provided a voice and a sense of solidarity for “marginalized, isolated, hated groups like trans-, non-binary folks.” MAGA authoritarians, nearly all of them white, are petrified of ultimately being outnumbered by “others,” notably persons of color.

But MAGAs “have, by a sort of mob mentality, agreed to pick off the smallest and easiest targets to destroy,” Hennen said. “Authoritarians ... peel off the most despised or misunderstood and try to break their potential solidarity with other, more numerous targets — Blacks, Browns, Asians, Jews, leftists, ‘intellectuals’ (defined as anyone who thinks or reads) — etcetera, which have more numbers."

Hennen is not optimistic about the future with the MAGAs continuing to sail, flank speed, toward the far shores of what’s been aptly called Christofascism. He speculates that MAGA-controlled state legislatures may ultimately order LGBTQ persons “to register as sex offenders, starting with trans people.” He predicts that “lunatic lawmakers will be floating that one in their club meetings before long, if they aren’t already.”

As a warning to us today to stand with our gay and trans neighbors, he cited anti-Nazi Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous and oft-quoted warning against Hitler and the Nazis:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


Print Friendly and PDF

Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY