On Monday, Joe Biden made a speech at the White House about inflation and the economy. It was as unremarkable as you could expect; the president tried to take credit for some of the bright spots in the economic picture and shifted blame for what’s not going well onto others.
Biden’s solutions included typical Democrat proposals like investments in “clean energy” and “asking large corporations and the wealthiest Americans to not engage in price gouging and to pay their fair share in taxes.”
The biggest takeaway from the speech was a phrase he used to contrast his, umm, ideas with those of the Republicans. He issued an attack on what he called “the ultra-MAGA plan put forward by congressional Republicans.” He said that this “ultra-MAGA plan” would raise taxes on people making less than $100,000 a year and target “sacred programs Americans count on like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid” while giving tax breaks to rich people and corporations. In other words, typical left-wing rhetoric.
But it’s the “ultra-MAGA” characterization that drew the most attention. Donald Trump has embraced it, as have some of his supporters. At the same time, the memes have begun, and the insult has made some wonder if it will come back to haunt Biden.
Now-former White House spokesperson Jen Psaki doesn’t think so. Psaki, who left her position at the end of the week, said that ” the President is not afraid to call out what he sees as extreme positions that are out of line with where the American people stand.”
The Washington Examiner reports that, although Psaki also characterized the “ultra-MAGA” insult as “the president’s phrase,” improvised to “a little extra pop,” the phrase is actually the result of six months of research.
“For six months, Democratic messaging guru Anita Dunn and the Center for American Progress Action Fund oversaw an effort to discern Republicans’ weak spot, according to the Washington Post,” writes Katherine Doyle at the Examiner. “Dunn, a longtime Biden adviser, returned in May to the White House in a senior adviser role — the third time since the start of the president’s term.”
Ashley Parker delves into more detail at the Washington Post.
“’All of that extremism gets captured in that brand,’ said Navin Nayak, president and executive director of CAP Action Fund, as Parker reports. “’We are not trying to create a new word. This is how they define themselves.’”
“Nayak also said ‘MAGA’ is a versatile epithet, allowing Biden and the Democrats to convey the same message whether they are talking about the economy, climate change or abortion,” Parker continues.
Six months to come up with the brilliant strategy of adding “ultra” to an acronym that has been around since the 2016 election. Genius!
— bartleby (@ElderBartleby) May 13, 2022
Will this tactic prove effective? People still slam Barack Obama for talking about conservatives who “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” And people still make fun of Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” characterization of Trump supporters.
Over at NPR, Tamara Keith referred to “ultra-MAGA” as “an effort to appeal to independent voters who Biden is struggling with right now,” but even she’s not sure it will work.
“White House officials say that we will be hearing a lot more of this, but it isn’t entirely clear whether this slogan is going to stick or whether it will work to persuade voters,” she added.
It remains to be seen if “ultra-MAGA” will become an effective strategy or just another way to make fun of Joe Biden and his hapless administration. I can’t help but think that the latter will be what sticks.