The MAGA Doctrine

A review of the TPUSA founder’s Trump manifesto.

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.

"Socialism cannot survive when people are free to think for themselves, and America will never be a socialist country," President Trump told cheering students at Turning Point USA’s student summit.

It was a powerful moment and one that Charlie Kirk, the founder of TPUSA, revisits in his new book, The MAGA Doctrine: The Only Ideas That Will Win the Future, as he recounts his, transformative journey in the MAGA revolution that has changed America.

No place was once as much a haven and has since become as much an enemy of the freedom to think as the college campus. Many of the country’s campuses have become miniature Marxist dictatorships overseen by the tyranny of an administrative state, by student radicals with off-campus backing, and by the mob violence that conservative speakers have encountered when trying to address students.

When Kirk notes TPUSA’s “ongoing presence on some 1,600 campuses”, of which 70% are college campuses and 30% high school campuses, it’s a tribute to the resilience of the organization’s parallel MAGA campus revolution in the face of intimidation and harassment from across the spectrum.

Charlie Kirk has built the fastest growing youth movement in America in under a decade by embracing an aggressive activism that has made TPUSA a natural partner for President Trump. Both Kirk and Trump have been unafraid to move fast and break the usual conventional wisdom about how to get things done, whether in the country as a whole or on its college campuses.

The MAGA Doctrine’s focus is not on the challenges that Kirk has encountered while running a nationwide conservative student organization, but on the ways in which President Trump’s MAGA message have served as an inspiration for the movement. The MAGA Doctrine is a manifesto of sorts, a distillation of the action items that propelled Trump to the White House into a set of principles.

“Trump usually operates on what might be called instincts rather than detailed manifestos,” Kirk notes.

And while Kirk, harnessing the energy of his popular Twitter account often opts to fill it with his trademark bullet point details that convey Trump’s transformative effects on the economy or the Democrat malaise of the inner cities, The MAGA Doctrine is less a manifesto than an exploration of the practical philosophy and the real world applications of the little slogan on all the big red hats.

From the economy to the energy sector, from judicial appointments to the tech sector, and, above all else, the usual politics, Kirk lays out the transformative effects of Trump and his MAGA doctrine, listing the accomplishments of the last few years, and the ambitious possibilities of a MAGA future.

Kirk and TPUSA’s challenge, like that of other conservative campus groups, is distilling conservative ideas into something sharp and pointed that can penetrate into the educational echo chambers of campuses where students are excepted to adopt the worldview of a radical philosophy from the moment that they first set foot on the quad. And that’s what he tries to do with the Tao of Trump in The MAGA Doctrine.

"The MAGA Doctrine is looking out for the little guy," he writes. It means, "trusting more of the world to solve their own problems", it "leads to tangible results for people who have to live with those results", and it "aims for fairness and the rule of law, rather than pitting one stratum against another."

Most students have encountered MAGA as a slogan. They’ve been told that it’s hateful. On some campuses it’s even been treated like a hate crime. The MAGA Doctrine demystifies MAGA. It makes the case to students that it’s about fairness, not hate, that it also seeks justice, but governed by freedom and individualism, and that it’s transformative, but that its transformation is based on the rule of law.

“It’s not that those of us on Team Trump long to be rude. It’s not that we look down on any subsets of American society. All individuals are created equal—but not all cultures and ideas are equal, and we need to be able to compare and contrast intelligently. Yet the left, with its warped and doctrinaire version of equality, really wants to replace the Founding ideas of striving, competition, and individual excellence with mediocrity, enforced mediocrity if necessary," he writes in one impassioned paragraph.

But, more succinctly, he argues that MAGA is “a can-do approach to national governance.”

MAGA is not an abstract philosophy: it’s a set of attitudes. The ultimate goal of MAGA is not a recursive discussion of the reasons for its existence, but a practical approach to discarding unnecessary political, social, and procedural rules, cutting through the red tape, and actually getting the job done.

For a change.

That’s not what Americans have come to expect of their politics or their government. And that’s a huge part of President Trump’s appeal to the nation: whether on the campaign trail or in the White House.

And The MAGA Doctrine is in its own way a can-do approach to defining what MAGA is and isn’t.

Kirk’s own MAGA journey began early. “Way back in 2011, I tweeted to him, ‘Run Trump Run! Your country needs you!’” Kirk writes. “I guess you could say I was MAGA before it was cool. I was thrilled eight years later when, as president, Donald Trump said, ‘I want to thank Charlie. He’s an incredible guy. His spirit, his love of this country. He’s done an amazing job.’”

And before that an encounter with an anti-American sixth-grade teacher taught him to think for himself.

"Through thinkers like Friedman and Sowell, I came to understand my own instinctual defense of America better. I wasn't trying to defend bad, dysfunctional aspects of the country. I was defending our capacity for constant, inspiring improvements," he writes.

Friedman and Sowell served as his connection to a generation that had survived the horrors of communism and fascism. And they enabled him to resist the radical brainwashing of his peers. As Turning Point USA continues to expand across campuses, it has met with some of the same hostility and opposition as MAGA, from communists and fascists, who lack any respect for America’s heritage.

"Some Generation Z trolls would like to revive socialism with a hip new face like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and some on the other side of the political divide would like to revive fascism, but treat it like a big inside (and online) joke this time,” Kirk writes.

But Kirk’s grounding in conservative principles through his parents and thinkers like Friedman and Sowell imbued him with a respect for the nation’s heritage and allowed him to see MAGA not as a destructive force sweeping everything away, but as a combination of "economics, constitutional law, culture, and individual integrity" restoring "the greatest formula for success humanity has yet devised."

"I worry about what will become of this country if Trump is ousted in the 2020 election or even before that," Kirk writes. "However, the MAGA Doctrine is larger than one man, however large he lives."

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Photo by Gage Skidmore