At what point do you see a personality cult become a political party, or a government? Perhaps we are about to find out the hard way.
Most of us exercise two forms of social distancing these days. First, and most obvious, is avoiding catching COVID-19. Second, sadly, is avoiding conversations with Trumpers, especially those we love.
When you experience otherwise sweet, loving, Christian relations tell you only Trump can save the world and Joe Biden is the Anti-Christ, you know you have a problem. A recent survey showed that more than 90% of American families with children no longer allow politics to be a dinner table conversation topic.
If you have studied cults, or even just read about personality cult, you know that the core of these is unquestioning commitment to a leader and his belief system. Above this foundation, you find three pillars define personality cult.
First is information control. A leader provides an alternative reality based on deception and lies. Conflicting information becomes “fake news”. Critical thinking disappears. Second is obedience. Questioning, doubt and dissent are discouraged and punished.
Your third pillar is special status, or a polarization between us and them. A personality cult rises above the law. Members are not accountable to authority other then the leader. Sound familiar? Social media and fragmented news ecosystem make creation of a personality cult astoundingly easy.
Personality Cult versus Political Party
We are watching a cult versus political party drama unfold in real time. Will the Grand Old Party survive? I am 50-50 on that question at best. Will the United States survive? I can hardly believe that is even a question, but it is. Historically, Americans have revered and adored some political leaders – FDR, Regan – but not worshipped them. During its early years, a similar personality cult arose around George Washington and was rejected.
Back in 1779, John Adams coined the phrase “a government of laws, not of men”. Thomas Jefferson held this vision when he invented the USA. It meant that citizens had freedom to do whatever they want within the rule of law. Laws created by citizens collectively not by any one person.
This would be a good time for all U.S. Senators to reflect on their oath of office: ““I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”