Jonathan Kraut | Comparing MAGA-ism vs. McCarthyism


Polls continue to reflect that Donald Trump generally holds about a 36% favorable rating from a segment of voting Americans. These are the same 36% that favor anything Trump and discount any attack on his statements or actions.

It is clear these folks will not let go, no matter how absurd, vile, or unsound Trump behaves.

I recently wrote that many of Trump’s positions verge on fascism. This approach is pitting “us,” the people who belong here, versus the “invaders” who bring danger and devastation to an otherwise pure nation. Fascist thinking agrees that outsiders and the unworthy are taking away power, resources, and control from a group who is divinely entitled to rule.  

I remember the tail end of the McCarthy era and the turmoil it created. I predict that those 36% die-hard Trump supporters are going to one day experience regret, disappointment, and even shame from being part of the MAGA movement. 

Wikipedia depicts McCarthyism as “the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence. The term refers to U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy and has its origins in the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare, lasting from the late 1940s through the 1950s.”

When Americans finally realized Joe McCarthy’s claims were fear-based lies, shame spread throughout conservatives and the GOP. 

I recall my grandmother in the early 1960s once saying in a family discussion about politics, “I may have astigmatism and rheumatism, but more importantly I never had McCarthyism.” 

According to Trump, anyone against him is what stands in the way of “Making America Great Again.”

MAGA-ism is the buy-in to Trump’s view that you can’t believe anyone else but him. Trump’s position is that his political wars with allies are justified and his perpetual ad hominem attacks of his critics are appropriate. Recall that Trump calls to “throw them out” relating to those he doesn’t like and who disagree with him. 

MAGA-ism seems to have morphed from a worthy endeavor to follow traditional conservative notions. These ideals include reforming our immigration laws, paying down the national debt, opening the door for local prosperity, and exerting positive economic influence around the world. It is clear that Trump has hijacked these noble ideals into whatever he decides our ideals should be and the MAGA crowd follow his every command.

Let’s do a side-by-side comparison of both political eras.

A common enemy threatening the nation: McCarthyism, it is communism. MAGA-ism, it is illegal immigration and the liberals.

Allegations that are unproven or untrue nevertheless yet have a large popular following: McCarthyism, anyone Joe McCarthy accuses as a communist is the enemy. MAGA-ism,  anyone Trump accuses as hating this country is the enemy.

Full authority for the defender of our nation from the enemy: McCarthyism, anyone criticizing Sen. McCarthy was attacking our freedom and sided with the subversives and communists. MAGA-ism, anyone criticizing President Trump is attacking our freedom and sides with illegal immigrants and the Democrats.

The abhorrence of due process: McCarthyism, anyone not willing to move ahead quickly and rather wanting for a fair but time-consuming review process is in fact aiding subversive and communist agents. MAGA-ism, anyone not willing to move ahead quickly and rather asking a fair but time-consuming review is in fact aiding those who hate our country and the Democrats.

Painting the opposition party as un-American and unpatriotic: McCarthyism, the Democratic Party, because they were not willing to be full-heartedly against any form of socialism or communism, was attacking our freedom and our way of life. MAGA-ism, the Democratic Party, because they are not willing to be full-heartedly against any form of the “us against them” mindset, is attacking our freedom and our way of life.

The frothy hatred of the “invaders and the unworthy” one day will dissipate. As the MAGA movement fades from influence, Trump supporters will realize their patriotism actually dragged them down a path of ignorance and immaturity. 

I recall how Republicans felt when the outrageous and untrue allegations made by Joe McCarthy were finally exposed. There will be a time looking back when it is clear Trump’s MAGA poison was slowly killing us all.

One day that 36% will know that Trump’s unorthodox conduct was motivated by narcissism and not patriotism, by selfish interest not national interest, and by creating dissent not solutions. 

But it is not too late. Almost any Republican rival for the presidential nomination would be very welcomed right now.

Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations firm, is the CFO private security firm, is the COO of an Acting Conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations. “Democratic Voices” appears   Tuesdays and rotates among several local Democrats.

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