When the history of the Trump era is finally written, those who will have lost the most will not be immigrants, or the “enemy-of-the-state” media, or liberal elites, or Democrats, or objectified women, or even the Republican Party, it will be those who were his most fervent supporters: the MAGA hatters. These are the folks who lose the most when the Affordable Care Act is gutted, opioids are distributed like M&Ms, school funding is eviscerated and teachers migrate to urban areas, fracking and industrial waste ruins water supplies, middle-class take-home pay falls to subsidize tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals, infrastructure projects (especially broadband) never advance beyond rhetoric, and plentiful guns become the weapon-of-choice to settle family feuds and end the hopelessness of the forlorn—the so-called deaths of despair. In this age of deceit, Trump’s swindle of white, mostly rural, Christian, MAGAs will amount to one of the greatest cons ever perpetrated on a group of citizens in American history.
His trick? Making sure MAGAs remain fearful of, and enraged at, all the wrong things: collectively Trump’s stalking horses. Mexican “rapists,” all people of color, immigrant families, working women, all non-FOX media, Democrats, sanctuary cities, and virtually everyone and everything beyond the borders of the Unites States—especially Muslims. Trump’s next ghost-written book should be titled, The Art of the Con. Deflection, distraction, dishonesty, and his ultimate goal: disorientation, are easily achieved in the stew of fear and anger that he and FOX news work tirelessly to foment among MAGAs. His relentless campaign that utilizes Twitter, FOX, and revivalist-styled stadium rallies have one target: MAGAs. Fear begets anger, which begets more fear and anger such that the spiral of disorientation is assured. The result: a disorientation so extreme that its victims can no longer discern truth from lies and, ultimately, right from wrong; they become so disoriented as to approach the clinical definition of mental illness. More specifically, MAGAs suffer from Trump-induced psychosis: a severe mental disorientation in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality, which is exactly what Trump must maintain to keep his fascist fantasies alive and, moreover, Trumplican congressmen and senators in line.
Emerging studies now show the reality of Trump’s stewardship of white rural America. Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland, by, Jonathan Metzl (Basic Books, 2019), reveals the extraordinary costs inflicted on white America by Trump and the Trumplican Party. Metzl studies public health and the “intersecting histories of race and health in Southern and midwestern states.” He observed an array of conservative political movements like “starving government funding, dismantling social programs, and allowing the free flow of most types of firearms” that originated with the Tea Party, funded by the Koch brothers, legislated by the Freedom Caucus and given voice (particularly to the alt-right) by online outlets like Breitbart. The effects on “state agendas, national GOP platforms, and, ultimately, policies of the Trump administration” resulted in what he calls “backlash governance.”
Metzl further found that the principal appeal to garner support from the folks who now proudly wear MAGA hats was simple, but intoxicatingly powerful: white racial resentment. White backlash politics gave MAGAs “the sensation of winning, particularly by upending the gains of minorities and liberals; yet the victories came at a steep cost.” Specifically, rapidly increasing rates of white death. The numbers are disturbing. For example, in Missouri as gun laws were liberalized at the insistence of the NRA, gun deaths spiked among white people and, incidentally, not among African Americans. He concludes that “lax gun laws ultimately cost the state roughly $273 million in lost work between 2008 and 2015 and … the loss of over 10,506 years of productive white male life.” In Tennessee their refusal to expand Medicaid “cost every single white resident of the state 14.1 days of life.” In Kansas, the Tea Party economic experiment of slashing state education budgets resulted in a sudden rise in high school dropout rates that correlates with an average reduction in life expectancy of 9 years. In all, in Kansas, in just four years: “6,195.51 lost white life years.” MAGAs are, quite literally, dying for Trump and the Trumplicans at rates much higher than other demographic groups, including African Americans and Hispanics. Trump claims he is the only one who can save them and yet, his policies are actually killing them. Some savior.
It is difficult to predict if saving MAGAs from Trump and the Trumplicans is even possible. When one observes the rage in their eyes, directed at all the wrong targets, changing their minds about Trump may be impossible. Like trying to convince an addict they will feel better once they take the needle out of their arm, white racial resentment feels too damn good in the moment to be convinced that the rush, however transient, is supporting politicians and policies that are actually killing them. For MAGAs, such data, such intelligence, likely emanates from the deep state boogeyman they have been taught to fear by Trump and FOX News. To them, the underlying fear of being displaced from their historical position in social, political, and economic order by persons of color, women, and those who praise a god (or no god) unlike their own, is terrifying and, apparently, worth dying for. We can only hope that other voices—maybe even a Democratic candidate for president—will be able to reach enough of them with arguments and policies that might provide them a better path to a better life before they die from Trumpism. If you believe in prayer, send a special one to a MAGA in your life; that they may see the proverbial light before they are buried, MAGA hat in-hand.