Opinion: Why the MAGA Cult Votes for Trump and Against Its Own Interest

Photo Illustration by Erin O'Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Erin O'Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

Listen to this full episode of The New Abnormal on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, and Stitcher.

Professor Stephen J. Ducat, author of the Substack Minding Politics, joins The New Abnormal podcast to talk about how critical group identification is in the MAGA belief system, which he explores in his new book Hatreds We Love: The Psychology of Political Tribalism in Post-Truth America.

Ducat tells The New Abnormal’s co-host Andy Levy that he was compelled to write the book so he could better understand why people voted against their own self-interest and elected Donald Trump in 2016.

“I was just plagued as a professor, a writer, a thinker, a psychoanalyst, how it was that people could act against their own material self-interest and then it kind of dawned on me watching Donald Trump and watching the delirious adoration with which he was greeted. It just occurred to me that there is this drive that is in some ways so powerful that people will kill and die for it, which is to preserve our status in the group,” he said.

“Epistemology is about truth, but the post-truth moment that we are part of and that is characteristic of the MAGA cult, and I might add Putin’s Russia, is that you can’t really know what’s true. That experts can’t be trusted. That facts can’t be disentangled from fiction. And that ultimately the only thing that you can hang onto is what the leader says. That the leader tells us what is really true and he or she defines reality.”

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“I looked at Trump and I saw a charmless moron who didn’t understand the world and who was kind of a treasonous con man. Yet that’s not how half the country saw him,” Ducat said. “Understanding the tribe and understanding right-wing tribes means understanding an autocratic leader because right-wing tribalism is so much tied in with the role of an authoritarian or autocratic leader. So the very things that you and I might find repellent his corruption, for example, is part of what his followers adore about him, because his brand is impunity. You know, the fact that he’s been openly corrupt, he’s a liar, racist, sadistic, and has never until relatively recently been held to account or pay a significant price and it still remains to be determined if that is actually gonna happen. Those qualities of impunity, his followers find powerfully seductive and admirable.”

Listen to this full episode of The New Abnormal on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, and Stitcher.

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