By Danny R. Johnson – Political News Editor
It has been a difficult and disorienting four weeks in the MAGA world. The extremism, aggression, and lack of restraint in the MAGA world are spreading.
On March 30, a Manhattan grand jury indicted former President Donald Trump for his alleged role in participating in a scheme to cover up potential sex scandals during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump is the nation’s first former president to face criminal charges, and more severe charges may follow.
Last week, Fox News, the highest-rated and most influential cable news network in America, agreed to pay more than three-quarters of a billion dollars to resolve a defamation suit filed by Dominion Voting Systems over the network’s promotion of deranged conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. According to The Washington Post, it was the largest publicly disclosed monetary settlement ever in an American defamation action. There are more, and potentially more expensive, lawsuits pending.
And on Monday, Fox abruptly cut ties with its biggest prime-time star, Tucker Carlson, one of the most mendacious and poisonous figures in the history of American television.
“I’m shocked. I am surprised,” Donald Trump told Newsmax’s Greg Kelly. “I think Tucker’s been terrific,” the former president added. “He’s been terrific to me over the last year or so.” Other key figures on the MAGA right, like Donald Trump Jr., described the network’s decision as “mind-blowing” and called Carlson “an actual thought leader in conservatism” and a “once-in-a-generation type talent.”
Republican Senator J. D. Vance, in a text message to The New York Times, said, “Tucker is a giant and the most powerful voice against idiotic wars and an economy that placed plutocrats over workers. This is a huge loss for a conservative movement that hopes to be worthy of its voters.” Representative Matt Gaetz, a MAGA star, lavished praise on Carlson during an appearance on Newsmax. And Megyn Kelly, a former Fox News host, said it was a “sad day for Fox News” but a “great day for Tucker,” because he no longer had to “answer to a corporate power.”
What used to rule the day on the American right was “owning the libs.” But now they own one another.
Some of us have spent the better part of eight years warning about the incalculable damage that would be done to the United States, to its politics and culture, and to the Christian witness by those who embraced a Trumpian ethic defined by cruelty, lawlessness, the shattering of norms and traditional boundaries, and an eagerness to annihilate truth and trust in institutions. Those warnings have been validated, and those concerns have been vindicated. What happened on January 6 was not an anomaly but an apotheosis.
This movement, which has taken such delight in aiming its nihilistic arrows at the Democratic Party and the Republican establishment, at media outlets and scientists, is devouring itself.
It is an ancient lesson: Those whose passions are inflamed—and Trump supporters are nothing if not perennially inflamed—are drawn to destruction. “Rage and frenzy will pull down in more than half an hour than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years,” the 18th-century conservative leader and philosopher Edmund Burke warned.
Lack of restraint is the essence of the Trump movement. Shattering guardrails is what they find thrilling. But MAGA adherents forget that those guardrails protect others and us from excess, self-indulgence, and self-harm. There is a reason that temperance—self-mastery, the capacity to moderate inordinate desires, the balance that produces internal harmony—is one of the four cardinal virtues.
MAGA world’s extremism, aggression, and lack of restraint are spreading rather than receding. They are becoming more rather than less indiscriminate. Those who are part of that movement, and certainly those who lead it, function as if they are invincible as if the rules do not apply to them as if they can say anything and get away with anything. That has certainly been true of Trump, and it is often true of those who have patterned themselves after Trump, which is to say, the entire Republican Party.
But it goes even beyond this. MAGA world directs its ridicule at those who exercise temperance, embrace restraint, and ask themselves what they should do rather than what they can get away with. Those who reject the ethic of Thrasymachus—the cynical Sophist in Plato’s Republic who believes might make right and injustice is better than justice—are dismissed as weak and delicate. The residents of the MAGA world not only relish discarding guardrails; they scorn those who abide by them.
The priority for those who love our country is to contain the wreckage and defeat the MAGA movement. We are still in mid-drama, so that day is a way off. But it will come. Because, in the end, those who live without limits are destroyed by them.