A Guided Tour of MAGA Country in ‘The Storm Is Here’

Lee Polevoi

 

The Storm is Here: An American Crucible

By Luke Mogelson

Penguin

360 pages

 

Luke Mogelson was living in Paris in April 2020, when, as he recounts in The Storm is Here, “It started in Michigan.” There, anti-lockdown protestors swarmed the state capitol, demanding relief from what they saw as “draconian” Covid-19 prevention methods, such as wearing masks.

 

Seeing how much this menacing protest resembles the January 6th insurrection in Washington D.C., it certainly seems like the start of danger brewing.

 

Of the many so far unaccounted-for crimes of his administration, few are as pernicious as the way Donald Trump and his corrupt ilk have warped reality and called basic truths into question. Whether Trump caused the right-wing wave or expertly rode it, his shamelessness and grifter tendencies have diminished the office of the presidency. He also hastened the collapse of civility and any impulse among his followers to cooperate with so-called “enemies of the state” (that is, anyone who disagrees with him).

All this pales against the attempted coup d’état of January 6. And here is where The Storm is Here offers valuable boots-on-the-ground reportage of what happened that day, and in the tumultuous year preceding it.

 

Mogelson, a veteran New Yorker writer, returned to the U.S. in May 2020 and began reporting on MAGA activity (and protests against MAGA) across the U.S. In this way, bringing together different moments of our recent, troubled past, he offers fresh insights and details only possible from being on the front lines.

 

For example, at the riots exploding in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd, he writes about a Black Lives Matter protestor’s confrontation with the police:

“Bringing out a Sharpie from her bag of supplies, she started writing the phone number for a local bail fund on people’s arms. A young officer trained his gun on her and held it there … The scene is seared in my memory. Half-hidden behind his body armor and his helmet and his face visor, the young officer is almost not a person—almost a generic uniform, another badge. But as he points the gun at Simone, there is also something definitely human in his posture and his eyes. What makes him so frightening is that he is so frightened.”

Embedded among civilian militias like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, Mogelson crafts arresting portraits of individuals falling under the sway of Trump and his cohorts. And while he and the rest of us couldn’t have anticipated January 6th in all its gory details, it’s not surprising that he finds himself caught up in the crowd’s violent assault on the Capitol:

“Seconds later, the entrance gave. The officers caught in the breach fought desperately to fend off the mob while more Trump supporters attacked them from behind. One man repeatedly whacked an officer on the head with a length of plastic conduit wrapped in an American flag. Besieged from the front and the rear, the police could do little other than attempt to stay on their feet while using their bodies as obstacles to slow the stampede.”

 

In The Storm is Here, we meet men and women who are furious with the federal government, with the decline in our quality of life, and with “elites” on both coasts who—in their view—do all they can to keep people down. In this respect, Mogelson’s reportage is especially significant, giving a voice to MAGA protestors, including some of the most violent among them.

 

Many other books analyze the causes and repercussions of right-wing extremism. Luke Mogelson takes us into the middle of it and gives it a human face. The results aren’t pretty.

 

Author Bio:

Lee Polevoi, Highbrow Magazine’s chief book critic, is the author of The Confessions of Gabriel Ash, forthcoming in 2023.

 

For Highbrow Magazine

 

Image Sources:

--TaptheForwardAssist (Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

--DonkeyHote (Flickr, Creative Commons)

--Penguin

 

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