Already a member? Log In

God and Man and MAGA

Photo: Rich Graessle/Getty Images
Peter Hamby
December 26, 2023

I first met Tina Nguyen when we overlapped for a brief time at Vanity Fair’s The Hive—both of us were brought there, of course, by our friend and fearless Puck leader Jon Kelly. But it wasn’t until I started working more closely with Tina at Puck that I started to appreciate her deep familiarity not just with Republican politics, but also with the behind-the-curtain machinations of the conservative movement that have powered Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and the next generation of MAGA politicians and media stars. Tina simply has sources in right-wing politics that other journalists don’t, an ability to write about the conservative movement without lazy contempt, and antennae for compelling stories about Republicans that other journalists either ignore or can’t sense in the first place. 

After all, long before her time at Vanity Fair and then Puck, Tina spent much of her youth in the trenches of conservative activism—a journey through the world of reactionary politics that she has chronicled in her new book, The MAGA Diaries: My Surreal Adventures Inside the Right-Wing (And How I Got Out). At Claremont McKenna College, Tina was semi-indoctrinated in the ways of America First conservatism, attending think tank dinners and cocktail parties with the likes of Peter Thiel and John Bolton. She dated an ambitious conservative reb who would later become infamous in the Trump years. And, after college, having been recruited into the ranks of ideological journalism, she landed a gig at The Daily Caller under Tucker Carlson, at a time when conservatives were learning that anti-Obama clickbait was king.