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I’m Begging Democrats to Kill This ‘Ultra-MAGA’ Nonsense
It's cringe, but worse, it's stupid messaging ahead of the midterms.
We are now approximately four months from the 2022 midterms, in which basically everyone assumes the Democrats will get crushed. Their strategy at this point seems relatively set: the party will lean as hard as they can on the conservative movement’s dismantling of abortion rights in order to stem some of the horrific electoral damage currently forecasted by even the dumbest pundits. That might work. However, whatever the fuck this is almost certainly won’t:
“Ultra-MAGA”? ULTRA-MAGA? What the hell is this? What is this? What are you saying? What does this mean? Come on, man.
The term itself appears to have arisen from some insidery-mind-meld between Biden and NY Mag’s Ed Kilgore as well as a six-month research project using polling from the Center for American Progress, before catching on with both the left and the right. Does that sentence make you want to die? No? Then congratulations on your job with the Biden administration.
There are several problems with this new classification of “Ultra-MAGA,” which, fuck it, let’s just go through, because it makes me feel slightly better to believe that there’s an outside chance someone even tangentially connected to the Democratic messaging machine reads this and thinks damn man, yeah, we messed up.
The first problem is it sounds stupid as hell. That’s it! A very simple problem: the slogan sounds dumb. It’s cringe! It is not cool. “Ultra-MAGA” somehow sounds both stupid and non-threatening at the same time, while also leading into problem two, which is:
The right wing loves it. They love it! As Kilgore notes, Steve Bannon quickly jumped on the “Ultra-MAGA” bandwagon to characterize his preferred candidates, and come on, it literally just sounds like something a demented "ultra-epic-bacon” guy who loves to say “cuck” and “soyboy” would glom onto.
It makes it sound like regular MAGA isn’t bad enough. This is perhaps the stupidest part: they’re the same thing! Unless, in this context, you’re trying to draw a distinction between… regular Trump Republicans and, I dunno, more Trumpy Republicans? I don’t get it. I truly don’t get what the distinction is.
The third one here is what really sticks in my brain. I expect messaging from the Democratic party to largely conform to a campaign of extreme cringe. This is after all a party that briefly elevated some of the worst possible Katy Perry songs and at one point deluded maybe their most cutthroat and opportunistic front-bencher into performing some kind of flashmob bullshit to a Panic At the Disco song in two-thousand-nineteen. It absolutely pains me to say this but, damn man, even Pete deserved better than that.
But what “Ultra-MAGA” combines the expected amount of cringe with the Democrats far-more-fatal sin: the inability to identify what they stand for, and what they stand against. There’s an easy fix to Biden’s last tweet about Ultra-MAGA: replace the term with “conservative.” The Democrats want people to vote for them in the midterms. Every seat that any Republican — regardless of their MAGA-metric— wins in the upcoming elections puts any hope of an electoral fix to this country’s problems further out of reach. The time of bipartisanship is long done. The time of working with conservatives is done: don’t give them the wiggle room to eke out some idiotic middle ground where each candidate can decide fiddle with the MAGA dial to match whatever consultants say their particular constituency wants. Ending Roe was a project that was decades—decades—in the making, orchestrated by GOP leadership and the special interest groups they cater to every step of the way. It is also, as years of polling show, incredibly unpopular. Don’t give them an out! Don’t pin this on Trump! If you want people to vote for you, make it clear who has done them wrong, and, crucially, what you can do to fix it.
The only way something as stupid as “Ultra-MAGA” makes sense is if the second part of that sentence is lacking—if the Democrats actually don’t have an answer to the end of Roe, if they have no strategy to repair any of the structural damage the conservative movement has done to U.S. institutions. Telling voters that would be even more damaging than using consultant-borne gobbledegook to tread water in an election cycle that looks increasingly like the Democrats going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. If that’s the case—and I suspect it is—the absolute least the Democrats could do would be to get better at lying about it. Should have known they’d let us down even then.