Wednesday, December 9, 2020



(Image by SvetaZi)

I try never to say "never," but as Donald Trump's reign of terror comes to an ignominious end, it's unlikely that I will ever write about him again. What a massive relief. 

But some faithful Trumpers will still venerate him. I believe that Trumpers belong to the cult called Trumpism. I said cult, and I'm not the only one who has used Trump and cult in the same sentence. Dan Rather, Anthony Scaramucci, the Los Angeles Times and others have suggested the same.

What Constitutes a Cult?

Cult expert and mental health counselor Steven Hassan, who wrote the book, The Cult of Trump, defines a "destructive" cult as an authoritarian, pyramid-structured group with someone at the top who claims to have total power and total wisdom (Trump called himself the "chosen one"), and who uses deception and control of behavior, thoughts and emotions to make people loyal and obedient followers.

In a CNN interview, Hassan distinguishes a destructive cult from an ethical one by a single factor: in the ethical variety, you are free to think for yourself or to leave the group. In the destructive type like Trumpism, propaganda replaces information, and one is discouraged from thinking freely. For example,  fake news, build the wall, make America great again, lock her up, are catchy but mindless phrases devoid of any real evaluative process.

Hassan, who was a follower of Sun Myung Moon in the 1970s, likens some of Trump's actions to those of Moon, who proclaimed himself a messiah who would make America and the world great again. A characteristic of cult leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and L. Ron Hubbard is the self-designation as a savior, as Trump did at the 2016 RNC Convention:

One of Moon's techniques was to make his followers feel special and then develop the "us-versus-them" theme. Trump sometimes singled out the "them" at his rallies by pointing out someone in the audience who didn't fit in with the crowd, e.g. a reporter from the "liberal media," and these people were booed and/or summarily ejected. Like Moon, Trump craves and demands the adoration of cheering crowds.

Moon taught that American democracy is Satanic and the press is the enemy. This element of conspiracy in cults is common. Charles Manson believed that the Beatles' song "Helter Skelter" was an incitation to 
begin a race war. I'm not sure I follow the logic, but there you go.


David Koresh believed he and his group were preparing for the apocalypse. Cults have one or more conspiracies at their center. Trump has also relied heavily on conspiracies to keep his base firmly with him: the birther conspiracy, Ted Cruz's father and his supposed role in the JFK assassination, various Antifa claims, and so on. Trump also subscribed to the belief that hydroxychloroquine could cure Covid-19 and that "people" were trying to keep this a secret. Above all is the declaration that a mighty and wide conspiracy engineered Trump's loss of some seven million votes and that therefore he has actually won the election. All of this is directly or indirectly tied in with QAnon now one of the greatest conspiracy peddlers with millions of followers. Watch this engrossing short documentary about it.

The bottom line
As much as some may feel that calling Trumpism a cult goes too far, I believe there are many characteristics that qualify it for that category:
  • The Leader declares himself special or "chosen" and the only individual who can solve a problem ("I alone can fix this").
  • His followers believe everything the Leader says without questioning it ("the election was rigged").
  • The group is fueled by any number of unprovable conspiracies, e.g. QAnon, or the Covid "hoax." Anyone who disagrees is immediately ostracized, and any logic or facts presented are disregarded as fake. You cannot argue with a cult member and expect to convince them.
  • Followers simply adore their figurehead, sometimes to the point that he can whip a crowd of them into a frothing frenzy. Nothing the Leader says or does is ever wrong, and there are always ready excuses if any accusations are leveled, e.g. He didn't say that →I didn't hear him say that→He didn't mean it that way→He was joking or being sarcastic.
  • The Leader feeds off the adulation of his followers but doesn't actually care about them, e.g. Jim Jones orchestrated the mass murder-suicide of some 909 of his followers ("drinking the KoolAid") and Trump has no qualms about his adoring crowds contracting Covid.
  • The Leader uses and supports fear mongering, lies, and conspiracies to manipulate his followers, e.g. Pizzagate. You may be baffled that so many people can believe Covid-19 is a hoax as millions fall ill, but that's because you're not in a cult that blinkers your vision.

The Future
Although some believe that Trump will maintain a stranglehold on the Republican Party and continue to command substantial crowds of fans, I think it's unlikely to last. In 2021, I believe even Trumpers will be eager to put 2020 behind them and move on. Jobs must be regained, kids must get back to school, and life must be normalized. As time passes, Trump will become more and more irrelevant, and people will begin to blow him off. His tweets will become less impactful simply because he no longer holds the awesome post of the Presidency. He may not even survive on Twitter, which gave him a pass as a result of his presidential position. Younger Republicans who want to make their own mark now and in the future cannot afford to have Trump weighing them down like a millstone. None of us can. 

And with that, I end my last Trump post (I hope.)


  1. I certainly hope you're right. You know what they say about a bad penny...

    1. Yes, that's true. My hope is that most people will ignore the bad penny when it turns up.

  2. "There's a sucker born every minute."
    "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."
    Stugeon's Law...

    My Thanksgiving 'thanks' was that 2020 (and the BLOTUS in the Orange House) would very soon be dust in the rearview mirror.

  3. One man should not be able to disrupt and destroy the lives of so many millions.

  4. The quintessential analysis of TRUMP. Bravo, Kwei. I am reminded of the observation of a commentator before the Clinton-Trump election who observed, "We face the choice between a potentially bad President, and the potentially LAST President." I so wish I could recall who said that, because he hit the nail square on the head...of what some fear could be American democracy's coffin.

  5. The guy in the White House and his enablers, his staff and "advisers" and his allies in Congress, are responsible for the deaths of so many people in this country for their inaction, neglect and deliberate misdirection and anti-scientific policies on Covid-19. No way they can ever be redeemed for this.