Biden's new enemy: "Ultra-MAGA Republicans"

From the producers of “Putin price hike” comes a groundbreaking new catchphrase that’s destined to turn the 2022 midterms on their head.

Seriously, though, they must have focus-grouped this term to the gills to have the president suddenly go all-in on it the way he did today. I … guess it works on some people?

I’d be surprised if most Americans even understand what’s being said when the term “ultra-MAGA” is used. One would hope after six years of Trump wearing his “Make America Great Again” hat that they could piece it together if they saw the phrase written down. But if you don’t follow political news, where the phrase “MAGA” is commonly used, you must be lost listening to Biden here. “Honey, what is he saying? ‘Ultra-maggot’ Republicans? He’s calling them maggots?”

There is no “congressional Republican” plan. Congressional Republicans have purposely avoided putting out any midterm agenda in order to deny Biden the opportunity to go on offense. Rick Scott put out a plan in his individual capacity as a senator, however, and some members of the party have said encouraging things about it. So Biden’s now treating the dicier elements of Scott’s plan as the “congressional Republican” plan even though Mitch McConnell went out of his way in March to say that Scott doesn’t speak for the caucus.

Anyway, Biden liked the phrase so much that he came back to it later:

You’re literally the only person who didn’t expect the “Ultra-MAGAs” to control the party after you got elected, Joe. Everyone, including righty Never Trumpers like me, warned that you were kidding yourself when you speculated that Republicans would have an “epiphany” once Trump was out of office. To the extent they had an epiphany, the epiphany was that trying to overturn a national election should be no bar to continuing to lead a major political party.

Jen Psaki was asked about Biden’s new favorite neologism today and couldn’t suppress a grin at its goofiness:

There are three counterproductive aspects to the new buzzword. One: It has strong “deplorables” energy, obviously. It’s almost tailor-made to be adapted by Republicans as a badge of honor. No doubt the “Ultra-MAGA” merchandise is already being printed for sale outside Trump’s next rally.

Two: If the goal is to tie the broader GOP to a chronically unpopular figure like Trump, why reach for an inside-baseball political-junkie term like “MAGA”? Why not say “Trump Republicans” or “Trumpist Republicans”? Or, if you want to play hardball, “insurrection Republicans” or “January 6 Republicans”? Taken at face value, the term “Ultra-MAGA” simply means “fervently committed to making America great again.” It’s not a devastating burn.

Three: The way Biden and Psaki are using the term renders it almost meaningless. Rick Scott wanting to impose some sort of income tax on people who pay none is much more reminiscent of classic Republicanism than “Ultra-MAGA Republicanism.” The MAGAs are populists and eager to reposition the party as champions of the working class; if anything, they should be more reluctant to support a “makers and takers” view of taxation that characterized Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. There’s nothing “Ultra-MAGA” about wanting to overturn Roe either. That’s been GOP orthodoxy since the days when Trump was a young Democrat chatting up models at New York nightclubs.

When I think “Ultra-MAGA,” I think of Trump fans who have taken their hobbyhorses, especially culture-war hobbyhorses, to the point of crankery. The election was rigged, the vaccines are bogus, Antifa did the insurrection, Trump should be immediately reinstalled as president. “Ultra-MAGA” isn’t GOP S.O.P. It’s not Rick Scott. It’s Marjorie Taylor Greene babbling about Nancy Pelosi’s “Gazpacho police.” It’s the inmates running the asylum. You can dislike Rick Scott and his plan, but he’s not an inmate.

Reporters called Psaki out on that too:

You want to see “Ultra-MAGA Republicanism” in action? Here you go:

Near the beginning of Donald Trump’s time in office, the then-president had a pressing question for his national-security aides and administration officials: Does China have the secret technology — a weapon, even — to create large, man-made hurricanes and then launch them at the United States? And if so, would this constitute an act of war by a foreign power, and could the U.S. retaliate militarily? Then-President Trump repeatedly asked about this, according to two former senior administration officials and a third person briefed on the matter.

“It was almost too stupid for words,” said a former Trump official intimately familiar with the then-sitting president’s inquiry. “I did not get the sense he was joking at all.”…

“I was present [once] when he asked if China ‘made’ hurricanes to send to us,” said the other former senior official. Trump “wanted to know if the technology existed. One guy in the room responded, ‘Not to the best of my knowledge, sir.’ I kept it together until I got back to my office… I do not know where the [then-]president would have heard about that… He was asking about it around the time, maybe a little before, he asked people about nuking hurricanes.”

If you’re worried about Chinese “hurricane guns,” you might be an Ultra-MAGA Republican. Rick Scott, who had lots of experience with hurricanes as governor of Florida, isn’t worried.

I assume Psaki would say to all this, “Right, but that’s the point. We want to tar the more mainstream Republicans with the excesses of the cranks.” Okay, but by associating a mainstream position like overturning Roe with being “Ultra-MAGA,” you risk convincing people that the cranks aren’t really all that excessive. If ordinary conservative thought qualifies as “Ultra-MAGA” then there’s no real stigma attached to the phrase. So why use it?

I’ll leave you with Pelosi encouraging mainstream Republicans to take back the party from the Ultra-MAGAs. Although, mercifully, she doesn’t use that term.