I grew up in a cult. I spent much of my adult life in a cult. My family is still in the cult I grew up in. So, I write from some experience. I have asked myself if my particular experiences have colored my perceptions or led my thinking astray on the subject I am writing about here, and I’m certain that I have a bias shaped by those experiences, but I also think I am in a good position as a former cult member to recognize cult thinking, cult indoctrination, propaganda techniques, and psychological manipulation in action. I don’t see them often but when I do, I recognize them immediately. People under the influence of a cult are unable to see it, but once you know what to look for, it’s not difficult. As the current American political race has progressed, it has become more and more clear to me that what we are witnessing is the rise of a cult leader and I’m seeing people I know and love fall under the sway of this leader, and I want to take a moment, pull back the curtain, and talk about what is happening with one Mr. Donald Trump.
The American political system has always been a battle between two major parties and a few minor ones vying for scraps around the edges. Politicians from the Democratic and Republican party have been more or less charismatic, more or less powerful, more of less corrupt, and this is normal. Politics as usual. The last couple of decades have seen the rise of an organized propaganda machine for the Republican party, built on a combination of radio talk shows, web sites, and the sun around which it all orbits: Fox News. There is Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Alex Jones, Sarah Palin, etc., etc…. the list of major right-wing celebrities is long. Of course there are left-wing political entertainment celebs as well, (Bill Maher, Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart) but the list is much shorter. There is a perfectly good reason for this. The majority of Americans currently identify as left-wing or center-left in their political positions. Propaganda is intended to sway people into a particular belief system. You don’t need to use it if most of the people already believe.
That is not the only reason, however. The fact is that the left-wing of American politics is a fairly diverse place, ideologically and culturally. The right is a predominantly white, Christian, narrowly defined perspective, and the left is a little more anarchic. Propaganda on behalf of diversity, free thought, and multiculturalism is basically an oxymoron. If you were to use a religious analogy, the political right is more like the fundamentalist Baptists and the political left is more like Unitarian Universalism. Centralized message control is a feature of authoritarian, fundamentalist, systems, not free flowing, diverse systems. So, mostly, the rise of the propaganda network has happened on the right.
A clarification in terms might be a good idea here. The word “propaganda” is important to understand. Propaganda is NOT a message. Propaganda is a technique. It is a way of communicating that is designed to short-circuit critical thought and instill messages at an emotional level. To bypass the intellect and go straight for the gut. Propaganda can promote a political, religious, corporate or personal message. It consists of a collection of manipulative communication techniques that, when used effectively, can make a person buy a product they can’t afford, hate a person they do not know, believe a false claim, stick with a company that mistreats them, even kill others or themselves.
When I refer to the rise of a propaganda network in right-wing media outlets, I do not mean to say that conservative political principles or ideas are propaganda, I mean to say that several propaganda communication techniques have become commonplace. In his book “A Chronology and Glossary of Propaganda in the United States” author Richard Alan Nelson defines propaganda as:
“a systematic form of purposeful persuasion that attempts to influence the emotions, attitudes, opinions, and actions of specified target audiences for ideological, political or commercial purposes through the controlled transmission of one-sided messages (which may or may not be factual) via mass and direct media channels. A propaganda organization employs propagandists who engage in propagandism—the applied creation and distribution of such forms of persuasion.”
For many years, Americans got most of their news from network television programs on ABC, NBC, and CBS, which strove for neutral and balanced reportage. Then cable news became big business and Australian mogul Rupert Murdock decided there was money in a less neutral approach, Fox News was born, and now we are living in a world that has been influenced by this right-wing media propaganda machine for a couple of decades. The effects this has had on our politics, our culture, and our standing in the world are a very interesting topic on their own, but I want to focus on one in particular. The groundwork has been laid for the rise of a cult leader.
See, the odd thing about the propaganda network that has been operating so successfully (making lots of people very rich) has been that it hasn’t operated on behalf of any one individual. Unlike some propaganda which often seeks to empower and glorify one specific leader, the right-wing media sphere has operated more or less as a platform to disseminate ideas that help rich people stay rich. The oil and coal industries spread misinformation about climate change so that people will keep burning fossil fuels, religious leaders keep the contributions coming in by connecting American exceptionalism, guns, and scripture in a way that may not make a lot of sense, but let’s them buy new jets, and each individual Beck or Hannity or Palin sells their new books. It’s a market. It operates on fear, uncertainty, and emotional (not rational) thought. But until now, it has been nearly impossible to point to any one person and say that they had risen to the level of a leader of their own cult. Maybe Alex Jones, maybe Glenn Beck, almost certainly those two qualify, but their influence has been more limited.
But now we have Trump.
In the book “Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion” (Pratkanis, Aronson, 1991) there is a chapter entitled “How to Become a Cult Leader” and I know of no better read on the subject of what Donald Trump has done, even though it was written 25 years ago. The chapter begins with a brief discussion of a well-known religious cult, the cult of the Reverend Jim Jones. His followers in Guyana at a location known as Jonestown, were induced to commit mass suicide by drinking cyanide laced Kool-Aid because they were convinced they were going to be attacked and killed by the American government. 914 people, many of them children, believed him and died. The authors go on to describe other seemingly bizarre cult behaviors but then they say this:
“Although they may seem mysterious, the persuasion tactics of cults are nothing more or less than the same basic propaganda tactics that we have seen throughout this book. Cults simply use these techniques in a much more systematic and complete manner than we are accustomed to. Simply because the end result is dramatic and bizarre does not require that the means to get there be mystifying. Indeed, in case any of you would like to be a cult leader, we can list seven mundane but nonetheless “proven-effective” tactics for creating and maintaining a cult.”
Here is the list of proven effective tactics:
- Create your own social reality
- Create an in-group and an out-group (aka “a granfalloon”)
- Create commitment through dissonance reduction
- People become more and more committed by taking gradual steps. For example, a religion may gain a convert by an initially attractive message delivered by a charismatic leader, followed by a small donation, which then escalates to a tithe, then perhaps changes in social ties, dress, language, until eventually the convert is so committed to the cult that they will do almost anything asked and believe almost anything the leader says. This is how Jim Jones got 914 people to kill themselves. It is a gradual spiral of commitment.
- Establish the leader’s credibility and attractiveness
- Send members out to proselytize the unredeemed
- Distract members from thinking “undesirable” thoughts
- Fixate member’s visions on a phantom
Not all cult leaders use all of these tactics to the same degree, but there is a strong tendency to use a combination of these techniques. As I mentioned earlier, I was in a religion that I, and most sociologists, consider to be a cult, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. To a large degree, the Witnesses use all of these tactics. They have a closed social system that strongly encourages all information and thinking to be filtered by or delivered through the Watchtower Society. They view themselves as having The Truth and everybody else as being “The World”. Item 3 takes a little more explaining but the process of gradual commitment is what every Witness is trained to do when they go door to door. The Watchtower Society discusses their founder and current leadership using scriptures and glowing prose. Witnesses are famous for preaching and door knocking. Witnesses are discouraged from free thought and finally, Witnesses are constantly told to focus on Armageddon and the end of the world.
Some cults are very extreme and happen very fast. The Nazi Party, Scientology, and Jonestown are good examples. Sometimes religions or movements morph into cults over time, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which started as a relatively normal bible study group. The point is, cult organizations follow certain patterns and you can see them happening right now in the Trump campaign and this is something new. We have had an affiliated group of propagandists, spreading fear and conspiracy in order to make money or defend moneyed interests, but to see one individual take such a prominent role and start to use these tactics seems new to me.
First, item: Create your own social reality. This first step towards cultdom involves restricting information flow and the groundwork has been laid not by Trump, but by Fox News and their affiliates. Some cults practice information control through geographical isolation, with members forced to live on a “compound” and cut off from the outside world, but that is hardly the easiest way to have a large scale cult. Age of Propaganda says “it is much more practical to teach members self censorship by labeling everything that is not “of the cult” as “of the devil.” We can see this at work in the media messaging of the right wing with their demonization of the “main stream media” and their dismissal of media outlets, newspapers, websites, and television channels that don’t consistently support their ideological positions. Many news sources have traditionally tried to represent competing arguments and positions without intentional bias. This has been considered to be good journalistic practice. However, outlets like Fox News have intentional bias and routinely demean and dismiss news outlets that represent multiple positions or competing positions as being part of a liberal conspiracy and therefore reinforce and encourage allegiance to themselves as the sole source of reliable information. Consumers who are thinking for themselves will attempt to compensate for editorial bias by getting their news from multiple sources. Myself, I will read or watch news coverage from all sources, including Fox, and also from international sources, in order to try to get a more complete picture of an important event. There are many, however, who only subscribe to and interact with a small number of very consistently biased media outlets and therefore they begin to believe that they are well-informed and that people in general concur with their views. This is an illusion but it is one component of having a shared social reality. People in “the bubble” of the approved media sources will have similar views of certain topics, words, and ideas that may not actually be accurate, but are consistent.
This selective information flow leads to step two of creating a social reality: a cult’s eye view of the world. This is “picture of the world is then used by members to interpret all events and happenings. For example, Jim Jones taught that there is a constant threat of nuclear war and that the world is full of racism. To be prepared to live in this evil world, one must be ready to die. Suicide practice drills were conducted to prepare members for the inevitable attack on the Temple by this evil world.” The Watchtower Society promotes the idea that the world is in “the last days”, Armageddon is coming soon, and Satan is behind the world’s governments. Thanks to the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories via right-wing media outlets, there has emerged a relatively consistent right wing “worldview” in which a handful of powerful liberal monetary elites (generally presumed to be Jewish) have colluded to manipulate things to undermine American sovereignty and create a “New World Order”. Hillary Clinton is allegedly working with them, according to Trump. They have promoted the hoax (probably originated by the Chinese government) of global climate change because it weakens American business interests. The homosexual agenda, pro-choice movement, and the rest of the liberalization of Western culture is a premeditated and coordinated attack on Christianity intended to undermine White Anglo-Saxon Protestant European culture. I could go on. And on. And on. The world we live in, with globalization and multiculturalism and massive technological, scientific, and cultural changes, cannot simply be changing due to the march of human progress and the growth of science and ideas, it must be a conspiracy or a plot against Conservative American Values. That is the narrative that makes sense. The War on Christmas. Anti-Islamic sentiment. Anti-immigration sentiment. Hatred of Clinton. It all seems to “connect” somehow. If you think I’m exaggerating, watch or listen to some right wing media. Glenn Beck will happily pull out a giant blackboard and draw out all the connections. Alex Jones will tell you all about how Obama is not only secretly a Muslim and not born in America, but also that he’s gay and Michelle is a transgender man named Michael, and the Rothschild’s and Illuminati control it all, and evolution is a lie and climate change too, and the conspiracy is coming for your guns.
Most of this reads as sheer insanity to people who are not in the social reality inhabited by right wing adherents. If you exercise critical thought and judgment and keep a balanced intake of a variety of media sources and listen to people and family and friends from across the political and religious spectrums, you will not arrive at these conclusions or see these patterns. But if you filter out everything but these sources, it makes perfect sense that Hillary Clinton is an evil puppet of the NWO and white genocide is nigh. Step one of creating a cult, in other words, was accomplished and underway and Trump simply had to blow the right dog whistle to have people throng to him. This is how he won the nomination, but also limits his ability to grow his base. Most of America is not already primed to join the cult but enough are that Trump was able to take over. This particular aspect of the Trump cult phenomenon does have strong parallels to the rise of Hitler in Germany.
Let’s look at the second item: creating a “granfalloon” or an in group/out group situation. The word “granfalloon” was coined by writer Kurt Vonnegut in the book Cat’s Cradle and it means “a group of people who affect a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless”. Examples: people who feel connected to each other because they all attended the same school or support the same football team or come from the same state or country. In truth, none of these similarities tells an individual anything about the personality, trustworthiness, or value of another person, but humans are remarkably susceptible to the granfalloon technique. This is “a method of persuasion in which individuals are encouraged to identify with a particular granfalloon or social group. The pressure to identify with a group is meant as a method of securing the individual’s loyalty and commitment through adoption of the group’s symbols, rituals, and beliefs.” (source: Wikipedia)
There was a famous study by a British social psychologist named Henri Tajfel who found that strangers would form groups on the basis of completely inconsequential, completely random, criteria. For example, in one study, participants were split into groups based on coin tosses and then asking questions about the people from the In and Out groups. It turned out, that people had strong positive associations with their fellow participants who had shared their coin toss result and negative associations with those who did not.
This site: http://www.simplypsychology.org/social-identity-theory.html has the following summary:
“Social identity is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership(s).
Tajfel (1979) proposed that the groups (e.g. social class, family, football team etc.) which people belonged to were an important source of pride and self-esteem. Groups give us a sense of social identity: a sense of belonging to the social world.
In order to increase our self-image we enhance the status of the group to which we belong. For example, England is the best country in the world! We can also increase our self-image by discriminating and holding prejudice views against the out group (the group we don’t belong to). For example, the Americans, French etc. are a bunch of losers!
Therefore, we divided the world into “them” and “us” based through a process of social categorization (i.e. we put people into social groups).
This is known as in-group (us) and out-group (them). Social identity theory states that the in-group will discriminate against the out-group to enhance their self-image.
The central hypothesis of social identity theory is that group members of an in-group will seek to find negative aspects of an out-group, thus enhancing their self-image.
Prejudiced views between cultures may result in racism; in its extreme forms, racism may result in genocide, such as occurred in Germany with the Jews, in Rwanda between the Hutus and Tutsis and, more recently, in the former Yugoslavia between the Bosnians and Serbs.
Henri Tajfel proposed that stereotyping (i.e. putting people into groups and categories) is based on a normal cognitive process: the tendency to group things together. In doing so we tend to exaggerate:
1. the differences between groups
2. the similarities of things in the same group.
We categorize people in the same way. We see the group to which we belong (the in-group) as being different from the others (the out-group), and members of the same group as being more similar than they are. Social categorization is one explanation for prejudice attitudes (i.e. “them” and “us” mentality) which leads to in-groups and out-groups.
Examples of In-groups – Out-groups
o Northern Ireland: Catholics – Protestants
o Rwanda: Hutus and Tutsis
o Yugoslavia: the Bosnians and Serbs
o Germany: Jews and the Nazis
o Politics: Labor and the Conservatives
o Football: Liverpool and Man Utd
o Gender: Males and Females
o Social Class: Middle and Working Classes”
Donald Trump did not invent the in/out division, but has exploited it, magnified it, and promoted it. From encouraging violence towards dissenters at his rallies, promoting ethnic and cultural separation and division, and telling his followers that they are part of a special “Movement” and that the whole world is “rigged” against them and “just doesn’t get it” and they are united because they are on the Inside, he has been promoting this concept from his very first day as a candidate. The social reality inhabited by Trump supporters involves a lot of other people who are “In” and who are reinforcing the concept to each other that a Clinton win would be the end of America, that Islam will take over, that China will bankrupt us, and that it’s all according to a planned conspiracy. They are happy to be in The Movement and don’t understand why everybody else can’t see The Truth about “Them”.
As we move deeper into the political campaign, we see more of number three: create commitment through dissonance reduction. If you don’t know the word “dissonance”, it’s defined as “a lack of agreement or harmony between people or things”. In the world of cults, this is both about getting everybody to “tow the line” among themselves but also get’s into cognitive dissonance, where an individual has conflicting or competing thoughts in their own minds. Removing dissonance is a vital step in getting people to be more committed to a cause. AOP says:
“After making an initial commitment one does not feel comfortable reneging on the deal. To justify the sensibility of the initial commitment, the member is often willing to do more and then still more-to make increasingly demanding commitments. In this way, the resolution of dissonance and maintenance of one’s self-image as honoring commitments form a powerful rationalization trap.”
Getting followers to yell together, to hold to the same group standards, maybe dress alike, talk alike, think alike, requires people to commit more and more fully to a worldview and part of that is learning to resolve contradictions or conflicts in a way that keep you in the cult. Initially Trump may have needed people to listen to his speeches, but he has asked more of them over time. More money, more time, but most obviously, a deeper commitment to his message and The Donald even as his behavior has become less and less defensible. People who would never have supported somebody who bragged about sexually assaulting women, are so committed to his worldview and message, that they have to defend it or risk admitting that they made a mistake. To resolve the dissonance for themselves, they have to lower their own standards, demonize Clinton instead, or convince themselves it’s not true. They will judge and reject family and friends who don’t see that Donald Will Make America Great Again because they would rather talk to people who agree with them. Similarly, they learn to reject facts and counter-arguments and even make up “facts” of their own rather than admit that there may be other ways of looking at things. Thinking for yourself, holding contradictory opinions, these are hard things to do when you have a candidate who says he is “the only one” who gets it, who peppers every other sentence with “believe me” and who encourages supporters to use violence against protesters.
Number 4: establish the credibility and attractiveness of the leader. If there are two major themes to Trump’s campaign, they are the theme of “us vs. them” (granfalloon technique) and the myth of The Donald. So rich, so successful, so smart, such a ladies man, big hands, big penis, powerful, gold plated… never in my experience has an American politician worked harder to tell the world how amazing and awesome and sexy and smart and wordy and long-fingered he is. Oh, and rich. Did we forget that? Only The Donald can save you. Only Him.
The next item: send members out to proselytize the unredeemed. Trump has rallies, hats, Twitter, Facebook, the media, etc, etc, and like all politicians he wants people to share and post and promote his message. And of course, promotion of a candidate is par for the course in political campaigns, but there is something slightly deeper going on with Trump. He is promoting argument and division. He has encouraged his followers to sometimes “rough ’em up a little”. Why? Why ask others to carry your message, even when you will not persuade anybody to agree? AOP says: “Perhaps just as important, proselytizing can ensure that members are constantly engaged in self-sell, or self-generated persuasion” Arguing on social media or at a doorstep rarely changes a mind, but it often DOES reinforce the beliefs of the people arguing. Good cult leaders promote the idea of their followers spreading the word even if it results in few new converts. It builds up loyalty in the followers you currently have.
The sixth item, “distract members from thinking undesirable thoughts” is a retention tactic that is particularly powerful when bad news hits a campaign, and Trump has proven adept at it. The tactic is “one of preventing further close scrutiny and thought about the merits of membership. This can be done by teaching that any “disagreeable thought” is evil and from the devil. For example, if a member doubts a leader’s command or starts to wonder about the merits of a particular theological point, he or she is counseled that this is “out of the Lord” or “from Satan” and should be rebuked”.
The examples given in the AOP quote in the previous paragraph are religious in nature, but think about Trumps response to the Access Hollywood Billy Bush tape. Many Trump followers were shocked to hear him brag about his ability to grab women “by the pussy” and kiss them without their consent and get away with it because he was “a star”. They may have wanted to abandon Trump, especially if they themselves are moral and religious people. Trump responded to the video by distraction aimed at keeping his followers from thinking about the problem. ‘Look over here! Bill Clinton is accused of affairs with these women!’ or “it’s just locker room talk” and finally, “it’s all lies, lies, lies, they have it in for me”. Like all cult leaders, Trump wants you to see his positive attributes (wealthy, ???) while being distracted away from anything that might make you question him.
Trump is a master of “shooting the messenger”. He routinely launches personal criticisms of individual journalists, and dismisses entire newspapers, and television outlets as being garbage if they say anything about him that he doesn’t like. Nobody is safe, not even Fox News. Not even fellow Republicans. If somebody publishes his tax returns and they look bad for Trump, he will say the newspaper is evil and threaten lawsuits. He will not address the contents of the tax returns. His standard practice for diffusing criticism is to attack the person or outlet doing the criticizing and encourage his followers to do the same.
Finally, we come to the culmination of the recipe, the final piece that differentiates a cult leader from a normal politician. Normal politicians try to appeal to a wide range of voters, they worry about the demographics of their constituency, they promote their policies and ideas, and they debate over tactics and strategies to solve problems. Cult leaders claim to be the only solution to the world’s problems, because they are so special, they promote limited, heavily filtered, information consumption among their followers, they promote the idea that there is an Us and a Them, they foster division and, therefore, allegiance, they deepen the commitment of their followers with carefully chosen tactics and they do everything they can to keep their followers from thinking any unapproved or undesirable thoughts. And to make that all seem worthwhile, they fixate their followers on to a phantom promise, a golden goal, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
In the case of Trump, it’s right on the hat. Make America Great Again. The America Trump decries is a crime-ridden, powerless, poverty ridden, country overrun by immigrants and Muslims and terrorists and other non-White, non-European, people. And he tells his people that he will return us to a halcyon time, a time of Prosperity, Law and Order, Safety, and Greatness. It’s going to be so great, believe Him. Trump doesn’t back this up with a solid plan other than to build a wall and trust in Him. He is the only one. He can restore America to the paradise it was before liberals and gays and blacks and Jews and hispanics and Muslims and all the rest brought it to wrack and ruin. Only The Donald. Only Trump. America can once again be a shining city on a hill, fortified by walls, where little white children can grow up, safe from the terrorists and globalization. It’s a phantom in more ways than one. First, the paradise America he seems to remember never really existed in the first place. Our world has always been complex. There has never been an Eden or a Golden Age. But, we can use selective memory and information filtering to make it appear that there was some better, simpler, time. Facts be damned. The other way this is a phantom is that the world He claims He will bring about is impossible. The forces of globalization and multiculturalism, the impact of technology and communications networks, these are not reversible and no Great Wall of America can stem these tides. Donald’s wall and Donald’s amazing powers of negotiation are not going to bring manufacturing jobs back to Detroit. Trump’s vision of the future relies on magical thinking. But the phantom only needs to seem real long enough for him to get elected. If it dissipates months after the election, he can just keep their attention on other things. He will have already acquired the power he seeks, it will no longer matter to him. And for those of us not under his influence, we may like the world as it already is. We may already think America is great because of the very things he decries. We may love having greater diversity and freedom and multiculturalism and global opportunity. But then again, we aren’t wearing his red hats.
Nobody ought to be surprised that a man who has made his entire life out of representing his own name as a brand and using persuasion techniques would build his political power via cult leadership tactics. I heard Dilbert creator Scott Adams in a recent interview explain how he had studied persuasion techniques and it was so obvious that Trump was using them that he personally believed Trump was almost certain to win the election. He believed it didn’t particularly matter what Trumps policy positions were, it was simply the case that most people have poor defenses against being manipulated by these tactics.
Fortunately for America, unfortunately for Trump, his advertising and political ground game have been poor. He has made some errors strategically in getting his message out, thinking that what works at his rallies will work with people who are not already under his sway. He has not been very good at step 3, commitment via dissonance reduction, where the larger populace is concerned. The 10% of the population who are hardcore believers in Him will do anything he asks, but the other 90% are still mostly free of his Believe Me influence. It doesn’t hurt that he has been caught on tape bragging about committing sexual assault either. I’ve thought all along that there was a natural limit to how many people he could get to support him, and I think he has hit it, and it’s not enough to win the election. He will almost certainly lose. But it is very likely that this won’t end here.
The propaganda machine has been at work so long, Americans don’t even realize it anymore. They no longer remember a time when news outlets strove to minimize or eliminate bias. They no longer consider it a bad idea to restrict their information intake to one or two narrowly filtered channels. Red V. Blue has become a part of the culture, with two different sets of facts and worldviews. The situation that Trump has capitalized on to build his cult will still exist if he almost certainly loses on election day. What’s worse, Trump and his followers will still be there and that will be the time that they will be the most dangerous.
In the early 1800’s, a man named William Miller became interested in Biblical symbolism and prophecy. He became convinced that the Bible predicted a date for the end of the world, October 22, 1844. He gained a following and they became known as Millerites. When the day came and went, it was known as The Great Disappointment. You would think that would be the end of the story, but you would be wrong. He went back, recalculated, moved the date to 1845, failed again. Then things got really interesting. Many left his movement, but other sects of Christianity arose from the ashes of the Great Disappointment by reinterpreting the events in such a way as to continue to believe they had been correct. The exercise in using rationalization to reduce cognitive dissonance gave rise to the Advent church, the Seventh Day Adventist church, and ultimately, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Ba’hai faith also believes Miller was right. Once a person is committed to the message of a cult leader, it is very difficult for them to give it up. If the Perfect Leader fails, there are a number of rationalizations to fall back on. The Leader didn’t actually fail, he succeeded in some other way. The Leader was persecuted and thwarted by his enemies and must be vindicated. The Leader is only experiencing a temporary setback and will return if we are only patient and have faith. When/if Trump loses the presidency, his cult leader status and his power will decrease overall, media coverage will decrease, his brand will suffer, but his core adherents, his most loyal followers, will continue. They will accept the claim that the election was rigged. They will embrace his messianic language he has already begun to use about himself, suffering slings and arrows on their behalf. It will serve as evidence for them that liberals are evil, America is going to hell, the conspiracy is real, etc. What he has unleashed, what he has given direction and voice to, will still be haunting this country for decades, long after candidate Trump is gone. New cult leaders will recognize what he recognized, that there is a large, powerful, easily manipulated segment of our population that are just ripe for the picking and will be hungry for a new savior.
I would love for this entire thing to be wrong, but I fear I may be right. The Cult of Trump may fail at the ballot box, but it won’t be over, this is just the beginning. Wait until his True Believers suffer their Great Disappointment.