Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

The rise of MAGA and political extremism

Courtesy Creative Commons

I’ve become fearful of red baseball caps. 

It’s an involuntary reaction—I literally do a double-take. I analyze the design—is that white text on the front? Could it possibly say the four dreaded words—Make America Great Again”—that have inspired so much hate across the country?

Living in southern Texas, I’ve seen every kind of MAGA merchandise there can possibly be. We all know the hats and yard signs, but I’ve washed “Let’s Go Brandon!” golf carts, seen Ford F150s with Confederate flags doing donuts in my high school parking lot, and I’ve even seen Donald Trump’s face tattooed on someone’s bicep. 

MAGA dictates that the U.S. had a period of glory and has since fallen into disarray. It was originally coined by former President Ronald Reagan in his 1980 presidential campaign and has since been used by Trump in his political endeavors since 2012. MAGA has been Trump’s campaign tagline as well as a nickname and near cult-like belief system for a subgroup of his voters. Previous strong-willed presidential personalities have inspired devoted fan bases—John F. Kennedy, Reagan, Barack Obama. But in a time of heightened political extremism and polarization, the MAGA platform and energy continue to prove itself as dangerous and detrimental to our democracy. 

As the 2024 presidential election looms nearer, it’s becoming more apparent that we’re likely facing a Joe Biden v. Trump rematch. America is stuck in a time loop, doomed to repeat itself as old men banter on a stage while their fans cheer on like they’re at the Superbowl. A rematch against Biden and Trump, who will be ages 81 and 78 on Election Day, respectively, shows that while American politicians pride themselves on progressing into a new era of democracy, we’re still stuck with elites and political players who don’t represent the majority.

In a 2016 interview with CNN, Trump said America was “great” during the turn of the 20th century and in the post-World War II era, and his MAGA platform would revert the U.S. to these former periods of “glory.” The late 1800s was a period marked by American colonialism and imperial power; the U.S. exerted control over Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines during this era, with policies such as Theodore Roosevelt’s “Big Stick” diplomacy that sought to assert dominance over other world powers. 

U.S. colonization was not justified or warranted, and often created crises and lasting negative consequences within the territories. For example, Hawaii faces serious problems in housing affordability and homelessness as land-grabbers push out the native people. While the U.S. is not necessarily an active colonial power, it continues to contend for a dominant position in global politics and often evades consequences for atrocities in the name of peace. For example, only 11 low-ranking soldiers faced criminal actions for torturing and abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib in 2004. It is as if the U.S. holds itself to a different standard when it comes to human rights violations. 

When talking about the post-World War II era, Trump said “we were not pushed around, we were respected by everybody, we had just won a war, we were pretty much doing what we had to do” in a 2016 interview with The New York Times. He fails to mention the fact that, following the war, Black soldiers returned home to segregation and Jim Crow laws in the South. 

Instead of working on reforming the Republican party, MAGA has consistently alienated itself against liberals and moderate conservatives. The extreme, disrespectful platform has turned politics into a joke. And it’s not funny. 

Let’s flashback to Jan. 6, 2021. Trump held a rally near the White House to encourage his supporters to protest Biden’s “rigged” election. He then told protesters that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” This prompted over 2,000 protesters to storm the Capitol, looting and vandalizing the building in hopes of overturning the election—completely undermining the basis of our democracy. Ideally, such a blatant act of violence and rebellion such as this would denounce MAGA’s credibility and that the so-called “president of law and order” wouldn’t cast the attempted insurrection as “a beautiful day.” One might hope Americans are democratic enough to not vote for a man with 91 federal charges across four criminal cases. 

As a young woman, it is difficult to comprehend the idea that a convicted sexual abuser can win an election in our progressive country. Many people have told me that you just have to pick “the lesser of two evils” when voting for a president. Why should it come to that? It’s up to the voters to pick our options, and yet the voters decide Trump. 

Political polarization is on the rise. According to a 2023 Pew Research study, just around 36 percent of Americans have a positive outlook on the Republican party, compared to 66 percent in 1994. The conspiracy theories, violence, and hatred pouring from MAGA supporters are pushing Democrats farther left and absolving the illusion of a middle ground. Emerson College Polling found that, as of January 2024, Trump leads Biden in polls for the 2024 election. If Trump is elected, I can picture an overwhelming rise in MAGA extremism, hate, and nationalism. If Biden is elected, I can also picture an overwhelming rise in MAGA extremism, hate, and nationalism. They’re proven sore losers. 

MAGA is proof that idolizing political candidates pushes this country apart. Political polarization makes it difficult to maintain any kind of conversation or discourse about politics, resulting in a monotonous and futile attempt at productive democracy. Regardless of their political affiliation, a U.S. president should represent and serve all Americans. The U.S. government has been deemed a “flawed democracy” by the World Population Review, and it doesn’t help matters that barely two-thirds of the American electorate are making it to the polls (2020). In order to steer this country into a progressive era, citizens need to vote against extremism and hate. 

Someone like Trump, who encourages MAGA conspiracies with false, racist, and anti-journalist rhetoric, poses a serious threat to democracy and our nation. As his Democratic challenger, Biden faces obstacles with likability, age, and policy, and may not have the strength to defeat Trump a second time. As Nov. 5 looms closer, so does the dark fear that a criminal and conspirator will be seated in the Oval Office, pushing U.S. politics further into chaos and polarization.

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About the Contributor
Emma Siebold
Emma Siebold, Staff Writer
Emma Siebold (she/her) is a first-year journalism major/political communications minor from Spring Branch, Texas. She is also an associate producer for WEBN-TV and editorial assistant at Emerson Today. Outside of the newsroom, Emma enjoys training with the Dashing Whippets running team, listening to folk music, and obsessing over Marvel movies.

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