The Cultivation of America
Teaching free people to drink Kool-aid
September 18th, 2020
As this is being written, the horribly sad news broke that the great Ruth Bader Ginsberg has died from complications of pancreatic cancer. An extraordinarily brave and determined woman, she represents the best America will be.
Now is the time to remind Republicans that eight months before the election in 2016, they announced they would not consider a nomination to the court in an election year. If their lust for power causes them to forget that stand, remind them that people have had enough of this criminal and corrupt reign of GOP power, and an attempt to ram some third-rate Nazi onto the court over the next 45 days will result in severe civil strife.
Talking with Trump supporters, one is struck by the things they believe that are patently false. The economy is not great under Trump. In fact, it didn’t grow as fast in the first three years of Trump as it did in the final three years of Obama. And the fourth year has been a catastrophe, one created by the pandemic but made far worse by the Republicans taking advantage of the crisis to steal trillions from the country. Biden isn’t a socialist. I’m a socialist, and I wish to hell he was, but he isn’t. Neither of us are communists. Wearing a mask is no more an infringement on rights than requiring shoes in a restaurant, or having to drive on the left-hand side of the road. Nobody’s coming for their guns, or making them be atheist, or forcing them into same-sex marriage.
The range of belief is from simply uninformed to utterly ridiculous. Obama isn’t a Moslem, and nor is his minister. Antifa isn’t intent on burning Oregon down. Trump isn’t one of the common men. Not unless you pronounce the first “m” like an “n”. He didn’t get rid of the deficit—he quadrupled it. YOUR taxes didn’t go down, but he wants you to give up your Social Security and Medicare to make up for the cost of the taxes lost to billionaires and corporations. Oh, yes, and COVID-19 is a real thing, and actually has killed nearly a quarter million Americans. It wasn’t made up by scientists to make Trump look bad. He did that all on his own.
Nonetheless, it doesn’t dissuade followers. One was quoted in the Guardian as saying, “It’s [the pandemic] a ploy to take away from (Trump’s) success.”
These delusions are not only impervious, but tend to strengthen when opposing points of view appear.
The delusions, constantly reinforced by the right wing disinformation bubble and Trump himself, are red-flag markers of cultic thinking. Roughly 40% of Americans have joined a cult.
While most cults are reasonably harmless, some are predatory and malicious, and all, given enough power, become very dangerous, given that they are predicated on such tenets as separation from the greater society, most often in the form of a paranoid “us versus them” worldview, replete with conspiracy theories, and mistrust of established authority, be it governmental, scientific or educational. Most have some form of bigotry backing the sense of separation. It’s not uncommon to see cultists who fervently believe that a clandestine cabal of “those people” secretly control the world through wealth and hidden power, and simultaneously believe that those very same people are intellectually and morally inferior to themselves. Nearly all powerful sects believe the existing order must be torn down and replaced with, well, something.
That “something” is almost always utopian in theory, and horrific in practice. Cults aren’t emotionally or mentally equipped to deal with dissent, and people who refuse to submit to the utopian demands of the cult are rapidly targeted for punishment, either though ostracization or more severe measure, including imprisonment and death.
In the most dangerous types of cult, the cult of personality, the goal is a utopia run by the leader. The Leader, whether it be Hitler or Jim Jones or Donald Trump, is seen as wise, generous, benevolent, and caring for his followers. Usually none of those characteristics are accurate. Such leaders are authoritarian, narcissistic, and manipulative.
While cults of personality are usually the most dangerous, they are also the most vulnerable. The leaders tend to conflate their ideas with themselves, and the ideas often don’t hold up well in the absence of the leader. The leader doesn’t usually have a good second-in-command, an item seen as a vulnerability, a reminder that the leader won’t be there forever, and a possible threat from within. Number two in cults tend to be ruthless enforcers, devoted to carrying out the leader’s will and never having any particular will of their own.
Remove the leader in a cult of personality, and the cult usually collapses in relatively short order. There are exceptions, of course. Scientology and Mormonism survived the deaths of their founders. And Christianity is sort of an oddball situation, where the leader had already been dead for some 300 years before the cult really got going and they maintain their status by assuring everyone he’ll be back any old time now.
But in nearly all cases, a cult collapses when the central figure is removed. Sometimes the ideas survive, and resurrect themselves in different forms down the road. Hitler may be dead, but after three generations, Nazism is enjoying a bit of a revival. New iterations of the People’s Temple will horrify the world every decade or so. Mao is long gone, but the Chinese government survived by turning its back on everything Mao stood for and prevailing through sheer authoritarian muscle. Stalin died, and communism used authoritarianism to cling to power for nearly 50 years, and I’ve no doubt new communist movements will arise in the future.
Toxic ideas survive, but the leaders do not.
But removing the leader does suppress his followers. If Trump loses the election, he may fight it, but his followers for the most part will have the wind taken out of their sails. The ones that threaten to fight in the event of Biden winning will find themselves on television, fighting American troops, and they won’t have the support to continue. Their families will spend generations pretending they never existed.
Trump won’t accept the election, and in the event he declares he won’t leave the White House, the government must remove him, by force if necessary, and don’t even wait for the Inauguration. Remove Trump and jail him for trial, and let Pence try to hold the government together until January. Jail Barr, too—he’s Trump’s real second in command, a vicious thug who will cheerfully commit atrocities to keep Trump ascendant. He knows without Trump, he has no future.
But Trump is the center of his cult, and without him, there is little for his followers to cling to.
If he fights the election results, take him out. Do it now. It will save the country from a brief but very painful civil war. Remember, the cult is Trump, and Trump is the cult. Defeat Trump, and you defeat the cult.