Books

The MAGA Doctrine

A work of brown-nosing masquerading as a field guide to Trumpism

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Charlie Kirk, the founder of the conservative college group Turning Point USA, has written The MAGA Doctrine, a work of exquisite flattery and brown-nosing masquerading as a field guide to Trumpism.

"There is a set of principles, however roughly hewn, behind the president's vision of national renewal," Kirk assures readers, "one that is both familiar and eternally in need of clear, firm restatement."

The goal of every MAGA-grapher is to impose detail and order on this chainsaw sculpture of an ideology. Unfortunately, The MAGA Doctrine is not a work of rigorous analysis. The cover features a photo of Trump hugging an American flag, and lest anyone doubt his fealty, Kirk both dedicates the book to Trump and thanks him in the acknowledgments. Kirk manages to contain himself for just 20 pages before writing: "If the establishment senses in our times something akin to Ancient Rome, I suggest they look to a figure very different from Nero for Trump comparisons. They should look a century earlier, to the influential orator Cicero."

Kirk's points, such as they are, tend to be either so obvious that they're unremarkable or so wrong that they're bizarre. He insists, for example, that Trump is a staunch small-government and free market conservative, tariffs and deficit spending be damned. (A cynic might wonder whether Kirk is redefining Trumpism to undercut nationalist conservatives, some of whom have heckled him at speaking gigs.)

The MAGA Doctrine has the substance and style of a hastily written book report. But seen as a shameless attempt to ingratiate the author to the president and his cult of personality, it may just be a perfect encapsulation of the current conservative movement.

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  1. To paraphrase a recent Reason article title, “Ciaramella Should Forget The MAGA Doctrine. America Has a Pandemic To Handle.”

  2. This is not the first book nor the last book to attempt to write a conservative frame work for Trumpism. Trumpsim is old fashion populism and has no logical connection with most mainstream political philosophies, liberal, conservative, libertarian. Trumpism is just a hodge podge of what will work for the moment. That get you by until times like now when you need a anchored philosophy to work from.

    1. So what’s Europe’s excuse?

      1. About your screen name

        Is that pro-white privilege or anti-white privilege ?

    2. Your citation fell off moderation4ever.

      It would be interesting for you to support how you think Trump does NOT operate from mainstream political philosophies.

      1. Trump does not have a philosophy he is reactive. His operating philosophy can best be described by throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. As for references look at his reaction to the coronavirus. He started out by ignoring it until he couldn’t. Then he called it a hoax until the stock market started falling. Then he appointed Pence to lead the response (not a bad idea). But a few days later he out in front. He say it time to go back to work and then a few day later its wait. What was yesterdays response, now Jared taking charge of something. There is no philosophy here no ideas, this is a drowning man flailing in the water.

        1. Excellent way to back up your original comment. But, I’m sure LC1789 will throw a life preserver to the drowning man who has put so many holes in this life raft we call America.

          1. Poor unreason. No citations, just sock trolls pile ons. Sad.

            1. Bernie Bros in action. Or is that Bernie Hoes? Oh well.

        2. Trump is not any more reactive than any other politician. His wars on trade and immigration are only reactive in the big long-term sense. He was quite clear about them before the election. In some ways, he is as much the most transparent administration in history as Obama was the least.

          In other ways, as with all politicians, he is incredibly reactive, as evidenced by his inconsistent tweet storms.

          1. He has also placed a travel ban to protect us from the coronavirus. I too am a libertarian but we have to remember the foe we are up against are not fellow human beings but a biological agent. I’ll even go so far as to label it a “designer disease” from China. This is a lesson on both globalism and why it sucks and strategically it is not a good idea to depend on a country that hates you for your medical needs.

        3. But that’s pretty much everybody’s reaction to a new threat. First you tend to be skeptical of it, then as you learn more, you keep changing your mind about what to do, because the new facts keep changing the odds. Trump’s no different from anybody else in this. Would a doctrinaire be better?

          I agree with you, though, that Trump is a mostly populist with little ideology. Most Americans have little in the way of ideology; ideology seems to be more a thing of the rest of the world. However, he threw in his lot with people who were more libertarian than people in government have tended to be in the USA or elsewhere in a long time. That makes him probably the best president of my lifetime. He doesn’t have the right big ideas, he has an absence of them, which is usually a good thing, and he has more common sense than most.

          1. Robert, I think you are similar to Mr. Kirk in trying to rationalize President Trump. You are trying to make the case for Trump being more libertarian than other Presidents. I don’t agree. Most of his deregulation is not philosophical but rather designed to help friend or supporter. There are plenty of regulations he never choose to touch. His first AG was drug warrior Jeff Sessions and there is little to suggest Bill Barr is better. And there is nothing libertarian about his foreign policy or trade policies. In an October 2012 article Reason magazine suggested President Obama was libertarian leaning. You are trying to make the same case for Trump.

            1. So that’s a solid no on any cites?

              As far as his AG’s, the fact that Sessions would have loved to go hog wild on legal pot, but Trump wouldn’t let him, was very libertarian. Much better on it than your Chocolate Jesus was.

              How many of his friends and supporters benefited from the criminal justice reform he pushed?

              Does he have a lot of friends or supporters that benefit from EPA regulations being reduced? If so, that would be an excellent chance for you to show you even know how to cite something.

        4. Are you Mitt Romney? The only reason I asked is because I smell bitterness.

      2. It would be even more interesting to see your own citations supporting the idea that Trump DOES operate from mainstream political philosophies. But you’ve never been big on following through.

        1. You dorks at unreason make the ridiculous claims. Back it up with cites that are not other ridiculous unreason articles.

      3. Interesting that you use “philosophies” (plural). That’s exactly the point. He has a whole bunch of ideas and policies that don’t fit together cohesively, and when he changes his mind on a topic (which is not necessarily a bad thing) he doesn’t attempt to articulate why his policy changed. In 2016 he thought interest rates were too low; shortly after he was complaining they were too high. He loves eminent domain, thus putting himself as far from libertarian philosophy as is possible. He has proposed reforming libel laws and regulating the media, so he’s not big on the 1st amendment. You may recall he has considered gun control several times. He lost interest in N Korea policy when he realized it might jut be trickier than he thought. Who even knows what his position is on healthcare. As for China he’s pretty schizophrenic: one recent press conference he both blamed them for the coronavirus and said they weren’t to blame (and he has publicly praised President Xi for his honesty as well as criticizing him for secrecy and lies).

        Of course, it’s very easy to defend him by dismissing these as just musings or hypotheticals. Which is part of his genius: he articulates both sides of an argument so people think he agrees with them.

        He has almost certainly never read a book on political philosophy, as it’s well known he doesn’t like reading things that are more than a couple of pages. So any overlap with mainstream political philosophies is likely coincidental.

        But you’re right, he does operate from mainstream policies: almost all of them, in fact.

  3. First Chocolate Jesus and now Orange Jesus. Next, Rocky Road Jesus and Sour Apple Jesus.

    1. What about vegan Jesus and gluten-free Jesus?

      1. We are past due for GMO Jesus – Khaaan!

  4. it may just be a perfect encapsulation of the current conservative movement

    Would this be the same conservative movement that endorsed Bush and Dole and McCain and Romney and Arlen Spector? There is no such thing as a “MAGA Doctrine”, no underlying set of principles to Trumpism, no more than there are any set of un-compromisable principles underlying “conservatism”. Trump has never warped anybody’s principles, he’s just exposed them. If you’re going to announce right up front that you’re willing to accept half a loaf, guess where our negotiating positions are going to begin?

    “Do not let us mistake necessary evils for good.” – C.S. Lewis

  5. Unfortunately, The MAGA Doctrine is not a work of rigorous analysis. The cover features a photo of Trump hugging an American flag, and lest anyone doubt his fealty, Kirk both dedicates the book to Trump and thanks him in the acknowledgments.

    I’m sure that is all there to the book, if C.J. says so. That would make sense because books written by Lefties are not well supported either. Just look at the garbage that unreason staff write to not sell in the book market.

    What count as good books anymore, I would not even wipe my ass with if I happen to run out of T.P. in 2 years.

    1. Better stock up on TP. Could be a shortage.

  6. The MAGA Doctrine is not a work of rigorous analysis.

    Not producing rigorous analysis is something Reason writers are experts at.

    1. +1000000

  7. After reading C.J. Ciaramella’s article I had to re-check my address box. I thought I had been re-directed to the New York Times instead.

  8. Good enough for Trumpkins. I propose that the media report when books and speeches are ghostwritten. Bob Barr’s book was ghostwritten, for instance, and that wasn’t reported until the author, Bovard, sued Barr for not paying him. Ron Paul’s newsletters were ghostwritten, which constitutes fraud since he sold them as His own writings. Aren’t libertarians against fraud?

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