Drawing by M.C. Esher.
I have come to the conclusion that Trump has all the qualities of a cult leader. In spite of his broken promises and litany of false statements, his fanatical followers remain mesmerized and loyal. In this piece I’m going to examine the psychology of why people hand their minds, their very lives and souls over to charlatans and con men.
Cult leaders such as Trump are master manipulators. They possess a bag of tricks that provide them with the power to control individuals who are vulnerable. The individuals who are lured into a cult have a need to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They are looking for a way to avoid the angst of an existential crises. Charley Manson, Jim Jones and the Hitlers of the world are quick to recognize individuals who are willing to give up their independence in exchange for a leader that provides them with simple answers to life’s complex questions.
Trumps campaign promises were built on unrealistically simple solutions. Here’s a sample of some of his quick, easy and absurd solutions—–Build a wall and have Mexico pay for it, seize and deport millions of immigrants, quickly and effortlessly wipe out ISIS and all related terrorist groups, immediately withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan, renegotiate all of the United States trade agreements with his “Art Of The Deal” smarts, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with his secret program that he claimed would be cheaper and provides better coverage, provide the middle class with a huge tax break while vowing to never reduce funding for the Social Security program, dropping the United States support for the Paris Climate Agreement because climate change is fake science, to discharge all transgender individuals from the military, to bring back coal mining jobs, to drain the swamp in Washington by kicking out all the lobbyist and special interest groups.
The crowds at his rally’s cheered and applauded enthusiastically as he made these baseless promises. They believed that his path to “Making America Great Again” would be simple. He provided no details or substance to his promises, they were emotional slogans designed to appeal to a frustrated and angry constituency. The impulses of anger ultimatley lead to poor decision making.
His support has gradually begun to shrink, but many of his core supporters continue to believe in his campaign slogan to “Make America Great”. But like the cult leader who’s end of the world prediction date fails to materialize, there are followers who still continue to be loyal to him and his failed promises. Such individuals are so emotionally and mentally invested in the cult and its leader, that it becomes impossible to back out and admit that they’ve been duped. Ironically, as the leader is exposed to be a fraud, his core followers become more fervent in their loyatley. Fanaticism is fueled by impulsive emotions rather than logic and common sense.
Lets examine some of the common traits shared by cult leaders and Mr Trump.
- They are authoritarian and demand an unquestioning loyalty. Trump expected to receive James Comey’s vow of personal loyalty and manipulate him into dropping the Russian collusion investigation.
- Followers are expected to not ask any questions of the cult leader, but to blindly believe what the leader states as truth.
- Followers are told that facts, data or information that’s contrary to the cults beliefs are fake or false (fake news?). The cult leader is the only conveyer of truth. His reality is to be accepted as the groups reality.
- Followers are taught that there are two worlds, an evil outside world and then there is the cults version of the world/reality as defined by the cult leader.. There is no gray area, it is a black and white choice.
- These leaders present an “us against them” scenario. They exploit the differences between races, religions, nationalities and sexual orientation. Individuals that hold different beliefs than the cults are judged as inferior and evil.
- The cult leader will use divisiveness, fear and hate speak to scare their followers into trusting no one but them. They will tell their followers that those who are not devout to the cults cause are the enemy who are taking their jobs, their resources, their America.
- These leaders deflect personal responsibility by casting blame on others. It’s the media, the deep state, the democrats, the republicans, the alt-left, the alt-right, the Muslims the Mexicans, the Chinese etc…..Cult leaders never accept blame, they cast blame on everyone other than themselves.
- Followers are isolated from outside information and influences. Followers are instructed to read and listen to specific outlets that support the cult beliefs e.g. Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Fox and Friends and other programs that espouse supportive propaganda. Cult followers live in a close minded bubble.
- Cult leaders believe that laws and appropriate moral conduct does not apply to them. Due to their position of authority and power they often use and abuse followers. “And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
- They expect to be catered to and showered with praise. They are narcissistic and egocentric. They lack empathy and the ability to understand the suffering of others.
- Cult leaders will claim to be superior to their followers. They believe that they are more intelligent or have augmented skills above and beyond a normal person. Trump stated that he knows more than the generals. He brags that his ingenious “deal making skills” and business savvy qualify him as a superior leader. Some cult leaders even claim to be ordained by god to lead the cult to salvation. Some may say that god speaks directly to them. Trump stated: “Well I think I was born with the drive for success because I have a certain gene”.
- Cult leaders can never admit that they are wrong. They will never offer an apology. They will cast blame on others rather than own up to any of their mistakes or short comings.
- They will use threats and bullying techniques to keep followers under their control. Fear is a weapon that they often employ. They may threaten physical and/or emotional harm to those not following the leaders rules. Trump has said he would like to punch a demonstrator in the face and has encouraged his followers to physically throw out demonstrators, suggesting that they be taken out on a stretcher. “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing,”
- They are paranoid. Any person who is perceived to be a threat to their power and control will be fired, banished or in someway separated from the group. Trump continues to have a phenomenal turn over in his administration.
- They thrive on praise and attention. Trump fulfills this need by holding his rally’s in venues packed with his core fanatical followers.
Cult leaders prey on individuals who are emotionally weak and mentally lazy. These individuals seek out a leader to do their thinking for them. They willingly abdicate their personal power to a leader who will provide them with simple answers to life’s difficult questions. Below are some suggestions on how you identify and confront a cult leader.
- Question authority. Just because a leader has an impressive title and is in a position of authority does not mean that their words are true or the intentions honorable. Don’t allow yourself to be misdirected or shamed for asking questions. Keep repeating your question until you are provided a logical answer verses emotional rhetoric
- If you are offered a simple solution to a complex problem it is probably a campaign slogan and not a solution. Demand facts, data and detailed answers.
- Do your research. Seek out information, data and input from multiple sources. If the majority of sources find that the facts are contrary to the leaders statements, then you need to side with the substantiated facts. Be ruled by your mind not your emotions.
- Be willing to live in the gray area. Many of life’s complex issues do not have simple black and white answers. Learn to trust you own judgment. Play out the different outcomes to the proposed solutions in your mind before deciding what is the correct actions to take. Don’t be impulsive, take time to weigh the pro’s and con’s.
- Be willing to admit when your assumptions and beliefs are wrong and make the appropriate adjustments. Don’t be emotionally attached to a truth or a belief.
- If a leader is a bully and calls people names, threatens them or abuses them, he is a abusing his power.
- Does the leader behave like a dictator or does he subscribe to a democratic method where the majorities input is unlisted and abided by.
- If the leader is caught in multiple lies, fabrications and embellishments, his words are no longer to be trusted.
- If the leader is a braggart and makes claims that are blatantly false, he is to no longer to be believed.
- If a leader is divisive and dehumanizes those that challenge him, he is using hate speak to maintain control and power over followers.
- If a leader lacks moral authority he is extremely dangerous. If he uses his power and position to abuse or encourage abuse of others, he is not fit to lead.
Democracy depends on the personal involvement of its citizens. In order for a fascist leader or an authoritarian leader to rule, it requires it’s citizens to no longer remain engaged in the political process. When citizens stop turning out to vote they are relinquishing their personal power. To combat fascism citizens need to hold their leaders accountable for the things they say or do. A healthy democracy includes a free press that fact checks politicians without being ridiculed or called “fake news”.
We are once again at a pivotal point in the struggle to preserve this grand experiment known as democracy. I encourage you to do your research and fact checking to draw your own conclusions regarding President Trump and his ability to lead this great country. I have come to the conclusion that he lacks the moral fiber, mental stability and trustworthiness to be a leader of a democracy.
I do agree with one thing that Mr Trump has touted, and that is we need to “Make America Great Again”. Lets start by stripping Mr Trump of his power by exposing his embellishment, fabrications and out right lies. Lets question his moral character by calling him out on his veiled racist statements as well as his past abuses of woman. Lets pull the covers on his corrupt administration and his flawed leadership. Don’t give up hope, stay involved, vote, call and write your representatives. Demand that your leaders speak the truth, have good character and lead with compassion and empathy.