We Must Face the Facts: Donald Trump is a Political Cult Leader

by chaunceydevega –

jonestown bodies

It is clear that Donald Trump is the center of a cult of personality. But after watching his ascendance in the 2016 Republican presidential primary race, I have come to the disturbing conclusion that he is something far worse.

Trump is of course, an indicator of a broken American politics and a Republican Party that is extremely radical and revanchist. But, Donald Trump may actually be the leader of a political cult.

As such, “Trumpmania” exhibits key aspects of political psychopathology.

Another article examining the Jonestown mass-suicide from a clinical psychology perspective is entitled “The Group Psychology of Mass Madness.” The authors propose the concept of “collective pathological regression within a charismatically led mass movement.” Their analysis of the leader of the Peoples Temple, Reverend Jim Jones, shows how his actions triggered the “mass madness that engulfed the inhabitants of Jonestown.”

The following terms, then, were used by mental health professionals I have cited in their analysis of the mass-suicide at Jonestown: psychotic fantasy, masochistic group death, revolutionary suicide, mass madness and collective psychological regression.

I explore these dynamics in much greater detail in my new piece at Salon—which happens to be today’s lede story.

The heart of that essay is the following passage:

If contemporary conservatism is a type of religion where faith—what is a belief in that which cannot be proven by empirical means—rules all things, then Trump is the head of an extremist cult, a group considered too “radical” even by the fundamentalist standards of the Republican Party.

Donald Trump is not Jim Jones. He is also not Immortan Joe from the recent film “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Trump is something more mundane. He is a demagogue with money who can mine fear, white identity politics and right-wing populism where spoils and rewards are given to good “real Americans” and the Other is, by definition, punished and excluded.

Donald Trump is a hero for the angry and resentful white “silent majority” and “Everyman” who feel that they are somehow marginalized in “their” country and that “the blacks,” immigrants, Muslims and terrorists are out to get them. Cults provide easy answers, direction and a feeling of belonging for their members. The cult leader offers a way for his or her devotees to feel better about themselves than they did before joining the community. This is not a form of healthy personal growth or behavior. In most cases, it is deleterious to the self. When such techniques are used in politics, on many millions of people, it is a form of mass psychosis.

While some will bristle at such an analysis as hyperbole or fear mongering, Donald Trump’s pattern of behavior, and the slavish devotion of his followers to the alternate reality he has created, should give pause to all Americans who care about the common good and a We the People democracy. I am also disturbed by how most of the talkers in the so-called “liberal media” are unwilling to describe Donald Trump and his followers in the most precise and best terms. He and they are demagogues and proto-fascists who are racist, nativist, xenophobes. Trump is a professional liar. His believers are both dupes and enablers.

Whatever words we may use to describe Donald Trump (e.g. fascist, proto fascist, or cult leader) are separate from diagnosing how this sickness was introduced into the body politic. Trump’s Right-wing populism has been here for decades and centuries. It has gone by the name of the Know-Nothings, the Black Legion, and been embodied by men like George Wallace. The Fox News echo chamber and broader Right-wing hate media have crystallized and refined Trump’s—and the GOP’s—particular version of  fascism, authoritarianism, mythmaking, and demagoguery into a poison pill that mixes political indoctrination with entertainment.

The question now becomes, is Donald Trump the new way forward for the Republican Party? Or is Trumpmania the last desperate gasp and temper tantrum fit of an old model of Right-wing populism that will have little purchase in an increasingly diverse America of the future?

In November, Americans of conscience will either celebrate his defeat or quake in fear for what his popularity portends.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos