Andrew Sullivan

The cult of Donald Trump

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The thing we most need to understand right now is how you deprogram people who have been in a cult. By cult, I mean a group of people living out an imaginary world view created by a charismatic leader. These things sometimes end with the guru hopping on a private plane to escape the authorities; others end in mass suicide; still others go up in literal smoke, as David Koresh did, or sometimes they collapse in a welter of claims of abuse and corruption. But when the cult is political, and when the guru is the sitting president of the United States, it all gets a little messier.

That’s what the core of the Trump movement is. Not all Trump voters, by any means. But the core: a cult. And these lost souls will believe anything and everything the leader says. Trump is currently denying there was anything in his speech that could be understood as incitement. But this is what he told them, just before they stormed the Capitol: ‘We beat them four years ago. We surprised them. We took them by surprise and this year, they rigged an election. They rigged it like they’ve never rigged an election before… We will never give up. We will never concede, it doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it any more and that’s what this is all about. To use a favourite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal.’

So the one thing you cannot say about that mob that stormed the US Capitol last week is that they were crazy. From their point of view — a rigged election, fomented by Democrats and weak Republicans, suppressed by Fake News in league with Big Tech — they were being perfectly rational.

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