“It’s becoming a cultish thing, isn’t it?” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) mused this week about his Republican Party under President Trump.
As if to prove Corker’s point, the Trump administration the very next day claimed that it had the divine right to rip children from their parents’ arms at the border.
.. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday. “I am not going to apologize for carrying out our laws.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, asked about Sessions’s remarks, said: “It is very biblical to enforce the law.”
This isn’t religion. It’s perversion. It is not the creed of a democratic government or political party but of an authoritarian cult.
The attorney general’s tortured reading of Romans is exactly the strained interpretation that others have used before to justify slavery, segregation, apartheid and Nazism.
.. Romans 13 does indeed say to “submit to the authorities,” because they “are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” But this is in the context of what comes before it (“share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality”) and after (“owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law”) – and, indeed, admonitions to care for the poor and the oppressed that come from Isaiah, Leviticus, Matthew and many more.
.. They swallowed their heretofore pro-life, pro-family and pro-faith views to embrace Trump’s travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries (“Such blatant religious discrimination is repugnant,” said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)
.. House Republicans drafted legislation allowing children to be detained with their parents. But Trump on Friday signaled that he would veto the bill, and, as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said this week, the “last thing I want to do is bring a bill out of here that I know the president won’t support.”
This is the way of the cult.
Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance—where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks—the case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong . . . . Wherever communal action can mitigate disasters against which the individual can neither attempt to guard himself nor make the provision for the consequences, such communal action should undoubtedly be taken, . . .
No doubt they’d be shocked to find the passage is found in their favorite anti-socialist tome, F.A.Hayek’sThe Road to Serfdom.
.. Instead, as Thompson notes in his post, the rhetoric of the right reveals that we are more influenced by Ayn Rand than Hayek
.. The libertarians often prop up Hayek as their hero while we traditionalist conservatives like to trot out Edmund Burke. But the truth is the vast majority of the right subscribes to a form of libertarian populism inflected with social conservative attachments—an unholy hybrid of Ayn Rand, William Jennings Bryan, and Morton Downey, Jr.
.. One of the key concepts in this weird era—adopted from Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged— is “Going Galt.” From Tea Party protestors to think-tank intellectuals, folks talk about Going Galt without the slightest hint of irony. The problem is not such much that it’s a silly hollow threat, but that it exemplifies a trait that is prevalent in conservative movement: The embrace of personality driven ideas that are often incompatible with some of our most basic philosophical, religious, or political beliefs.
.. People who would laugh at the absurdity of a “Christian Muslim” seem not to recognize the similar incongruity between being a follower of Christ and an acolyte of Ayn Rand.
.. Despite the fact that these well-meaning conservatives fail to exhibit any discernment about the views they are imbibing, they become terribly offended when you question how they could accept such nonsense.
.. Their defense tends to be based on a variation of a common theme: They don’t actually subscribe to those crazy views (at least not all of them), they just align themselves with a personality that does.
.. These St. Georges slaying the liberal dragons are placed beyond reproach. You are no more allowed to question the right’s preferred cult of personality—CoulterHannityBeckLimbaughPaulLevinRandPalinWhoever—than liberals can challenge Obama. Even thinking contrary thoughts about these figures is enough reason for them to question your conservatism (if not your patriotism, manhood, and love for small animals).
The result is that the conservative movement is becoming increasingly ineffective, insular, and irrational—in other words, we’re becoming the mirror image of the political left.
They have created an esoteric private language with terms like cuck, red pill, deus vault. People are seduced by a combination of humour (everything is ‘ironic’ so it has plausible deniability) and a secret language
the alt-right is a moving target, able to tease, and able to deny the authenticity of their content because of its comedic packaging; in the words of Jason Wilson, “the alt-right have stormed mainstream consciousness by weaponising irony, and by using humour and ambiguity as tactics to wrongfoot their opponents” . It is rare that they advance a straight argument, or in fact any argument at all.
But they are indeed a cult. Their power comes from a series of social media sites such as Elders of the Black Sun; Stop Degeneracy; Nazi Tinder; Art of the True Right; Strictly Ubermensch; Men Among the Ruins; Trumpenreich. The subcultural and cultist elements effectively disarm potential critics via their very oddity.
.. This occurs precisely at the point in American history where the nation is poised to lose its white majority, a critical juncture.
.. African Americans are a particular target. One crime of a black person is the crime of all black people everywhere, a familiar Goebbels-style rhetorical trick. The alleged mannerisms and culture of African Americans are caricatured in parodies which are beyond crude. They also mock the aspirations of African Americans to their own heritage: “we wuz kangz (kings) and sh*t”.
.. Yet the alt-right is not an organisation but a disorganisation. The process is essentially crowd-sourced, originally via the message board 4Chan. Exactly like Isis propaganda
.. Here then is the gathered harvest of personal bitterness. Lonely individuals map onto these causes their own frustrations. Underlying it all is an appeal to solidarity, the community of shared views and values.
.. The common denominator is a hatred of American and European liberalism
.. It seeks neither to harangue with argument nor beguile with rhetoric, but to ridicule, and to elude the scrutiny of conscience by virtue of its levity and lack of seriousness.
The president’s base is rooted in a cult of personality, not support for the Republican party or conservatism.
.. it also demonstrated his complete indifference to Republican objectives, since it set up another confrontation with the Democrats at the end of the year over the debt ceiling and likely made it much harder to pass a tax-reform package.
.. While Trump’s overall popularity continues to fall, the people who turn out to cheer him at rallies and who were responsible for his routing of his Republican rivals in the 2016 primaries aren’t going to abandon him because he stabbed McConnell and Ryan in the back. The Trump movement, to the extent that one can dignify it with that term, was never about any ideology, let alone conservatism.
.. he is the object of a cult of personality, not the leader of a political party.
.. But despite his vocal disappointment about the failure to pass an Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill this summer, Trump was largely AWOL during the battle for votes, avoiding the normal give and take with members of the House and Senate that might have secured his objective. Since then he has publicly feuded with McConnell and made it clear that he blames everyone but himself for this failure.
.. If Trump was willing to give the Democrats everything they wanted, it’s not because, as some conservatives have always suspected, he’s a closet liberal. It’s because he’s in business for himself. Trump wants to be seen getting things done, so, if a three-month debt-ceiling deal will prevent partisan squabbling from interfering with hurricane relief, he’ll do it, even if it strengthens the Democrats’ ability to thwart tax reform, budget cuts, or even funding for the border wall he wants to build.
In theory, that ought to make your average Trump voter as mad at the president as Mitch McConnell is. But it won’t.
.. Trump’s base despises GOP congressional leaders, in some cases more than they do the Democrats.
.. Indeed, with a sidelined Hillary Clinton no longer available as a target of their vituperation, the desire of Trump’s fans to “lock up” their idol’s foes now seems to be focused solely on Republicans.
That the irony of calling a war hero like McCain a traitor is completely lost on Trump backers tells you all you need to know about their blind loyalty to the president and complete indifference to anything other than his interests.
.. Trump’s media cheerleaders, such as Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs. He reacted to Trump’s embrace of the Democrats as being praiseworthy precisely because it cut Speaker Ryan off at the knees. He seems to think anything that undermines GOP leaders is a triumph for Trump, no matter what it means in terms of legislation.
.. The base’s trust in Trump isn’t predicated on a belief that he will be more skillful at advancing conservative issues; it’s rooted in their desire to burn the system down and replace it with one led by someone who is not merely untainted by past failures but also unencumbered by adherence to the traditional values that the political class cherishes.
.. Nor will a possible betrayal on immigration — the one issue that seems to really motivate the Trump base — damage him. If Congress doesn’t pass a solution to the DACA issue that will give legal status to illegal aliens brought here as children, Trump has already threatened to act on his own as Obama did. Or he might again cut a deal with Democrats on the issue — to exchange something his base would call amnesty if it were proposed by anyone else
Is the movement that elected Donald Trump President of the United States a cult?
Big Lies that turn perceptual frames or paradigms on their heads” and pull “false lesser-associated non-‘facts’ . . . in train behind the flipped central premise . . . is the very economical technique used by cults both religious and political.”
.. Boot accurately observed that:
Trump’s most ardent supporters are . . . remolding their own views to keep pace with their leader. . . . This shows the extent to which Trump’s rise was not based on any particular positions or views. It was and remains a cult of personality. Trump’s followers worship him—and he worships himself, too. They are bound by a conviction, rooted in basically nothing but quasi-religious faith, that he is a singularly tough and savvy dealmaker who will protect American interests in a way that no previous president has done.
.. the idea of a cult of personality, if not the actual phrase, applies to a great many pre-modern political leaders as well, perhaps most of them. The key point of Weber’s distinction was to indicate that in more institutionalized modern political settings some combination of law, custom, and more or less egalitarian norms tends to diminish or at least limit the personalization of political orders.
When cults of personality happen anyway in post-patrimonial political cultures it indicates some invasion of culturally sacred space by what is supposed to be cordoned off from it in a secular age.
Why does this happen? Lilla and others have suggested that political cults tend to fill religious vacuums; that is, they tend to arise when people lose faith in the efficacy of the religious status quo to manage their problems. In other words, in times of confusion and fear, people will vouchsafe unto symbols of the nation, the state, the race, the leader, and so on what they used to reserve for God and related religious symbols.
.. the burgeoning of political religion usually indicates an urge to regress from a contemporary mean—to go back to a purer, simpler, nobler, or somehow better life. In the 20th century the urge to regression invariably involved a demeaning of modernity, which first established the secular divide. Both fascist and communist varieties of political religion sought to: efface individual agency and smother it in the superior collective, hence the disdain for the cacophonous messiness of democracy
.. two phrases from Virgil: Novus Ordo Seclorum and Annuit Coeptis. For the Founders to have called the United States a “new order of the ages” and to have claimed that “He has approved our undertakings” calls to mind the language of Roman (Republic-era) prophecy and suggests that, like the coming of Christ, the birth of the United States will in due course redeem mankind. The God referred to is only tacitly and hence vaguely the God of the Bible, but He is certainly the God of America.
- .. First, there is sharp differentiation between the in-group of believers or adepts and outsiders, who are demonized as enemies. So loyalty is a first-order virtue, and ritualized loyalty oaths often exist in one form or another.
- Second, there is a charismatic leader.
- .. Second, there is a strong repugnance for theologies or ideologies that are different, and a special absolute rejection of theologies or ideologies that are close but not identical. Deviations from the belief system are rarely accepted as genuine or honest doubt, but are treated either as heresy or alien-group infiltration.
- Third, the belief system is utopian.
- Fourth, in-group members aver that the group’s beliefs are obvious or natural, and that anyone who rejects them is “blind” or somehow diseased. Conspiracy theories that tend to unify all opposition to the group are common.
- Fifth, members proselytize upon opportunity.
- Sixth, members believe that any means is justified by the end—including deception, outright lying, theft, physical intimidation, and often violence.
- And seventh, in-group members believe in the inevitable triumph of the belief system; they are incurable optimists.
.. but Trump is in most respects several country miles to the left of Tea Party orthodoxy (and of today’s so-called Freedom Caucus).
.. Karl Kraus summed up the process best: “The secret of the demagogue is to make himself as stupid as his audience so that they believe they are as clever as he is.” I do not think Trump is manipulating a movement; he is as encyclopedically ignorant as he seems.
.. most self-avowed Christian religious fervor one sees today in the United States, especially of the Protestant sort, is not born of traditional, innocent faith. Much of what professed fervor there is, it seems to me, reflects a deep desire for community and identity in an alienating hyper-commercial culture that is best at manufacturing material fetishism and emotional insecurity. A good deal of it, in reaction, is intellectualized (neo-fundamentalist) religion that often seems to lack the power of the real thing in a pinch.4 And that small but influential shard of it known as the evangelical movement is itself already highly politicized, so can be seen as an element breaking down the divide of secular arrangements moving from the religious side toward the political. This seems the most persuasive way to explain evangelical support for Trump—as a form of political transactualism—a man who in no way resembles the model of a pious Christian.
.. I don’t know, and at this early point no one can know, not least because this President is neither a predictable nor stable character.
.. We do not know how this President will react to political crises born of seemingly baked-in scandals
.. But whatever happens, we would be well advised to watch not just the man but also the movement. To the extent it is more cult-like than its recent predecessors, the “excitement” may be just ahead of us as the movement circles the wagons.
Starting decades ago, many people, especially in the universities, lost faith in the Western civilization narrative. They stopped teaching it, and the great cultural transmission belt broke. Now many students, if they encounter it, are taught that Western civilization is a history of oppression.
It’s amazing what far-reaching effects this has had. It is as if a prevailing wind, which powered all the ships at sea, had suddenly ceased to blow. Now various scattered enemies of those Western values have emerged, and there is apparently nobody to defend them.
The first consequence has been the rise of the illiberals, authoritarians who not only don’t believe in the democratic values of the Western civilization narrative, but don’t even pretend to believe in them, as former dictators did.
.. More and more governments, including the Trump administration, begin to look like premodern mafia states, run by family-based commercial clans. Meanwhile, institutionalized, party-based authoritarian regimes, like in China or Russia, are turning into premodern cults of personality/Maximum Leader regimes, which are far more unstable and dangerous.
.. In France, the hard-right Marine Le Pen and the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon could be the final two candidates in the presidential runoff. Le Pen has antiliberal views about national purity. Mélenchon is a supposedly democratic politician who models himself on Hugo Chávez.
If those two end up in the finals, then the European Union and NATO, the two great liberal institutions of modern Europe, will go into immediate crisis.
.. the share of young Americans who say it is absolutely important to live in a democratic country has dropped from 91 percent in the 1930s to 57 percent today.
.. These days, the whole idea of Western civ is assumed to be reactionary and oppressive. All I can say is, if you think that was reactionary and oppressive, wait until you get a load of the world that comes after it.