Sunday, July 30, 2017

Trumpism as Religion

I am not the first to have the idea that followers of Donald Trump exhibit a religious devotion to the man, or that Trumpism really might be a religion.  As I read the news, and hear the daily stories about Trump's corruption, incompetence, and stupidity, I can't help but marvel at the irrational devotion of his followers.  He has a sufficient level of popular support that Republicans in congress don't feel the need to put an end to this horrific administration.  In fact, they fear they would risk their own seats in the halls of government if they should attempt to do so.  This is due in large part to constitutional restrictions on democracy that tend to give disproportional strength to the rural minority where much of Trump's political base comes from, and the increasing political fanaticism of that minority.

It is no secret that Trump exhibits qualities that would have been fatal for any other President of the US.  He has been mired in controversy from the first moment of his time in office.  He has refused to release his financial information.  He has refused to divest himself of business holdings that create obvious conflicts of interest, and he and his family members have been profiting handsomely from those interests, sometimes in visible and obvious ways, and sometimes in a more subtle manner.  Could any other president get away with this?  And aside from suspected criminal business relationships with Russian oligarchs and even Russian mafia, he has shown a decidedly friendly (if not treasonous) attitude toward Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, even as they are accused of attacking and undermining our democratic institutions.  For any president in the past century to be so friendly toward Russia, whether he was a Republican or a Democrat, would have been instant political suicide.

So how does Trump get away with it?  Why don't his followers hold him accountable for his incompetency, his lies, his corruption?  It's religion.  Trumpism is the new religion that has swept the country, infecting the minds of millions.  No matter what he does, no matter how much he lies, devoted Trump followers don't care.  Their devotion is indistinguishable from religious devotion.  And of course, those of us who are are able to take a more objective view of religious belief in general can see a clear parallel between Trumpism and Christianity.  Try to tell a Christian that Jesus might have been anything less than a divine being, and the reaction you get is just like the Trump fanatic's insistence that he is the guiding light for the soul of America.  And don't bother trying to bring up evidence to the contrary.  No matter how clear and convincing that evidence might be, they simply won't hear it.  Such is the nature of religion.

The phenomenon of Trumpism has been noticed right from the start of his seemingly inexplicable rise in the polls.  In this op-ed from the presidential campaign, Peter Manseau notes that Trump has presented himself as a new messiah, who promises that "I alone" can deliver us from the evils that haunt our lives.  A messiah needs an evil counterpart.  Jesus (the man) promised to save the Jews from the evil Romans.  That eventually morphed into Jesus (the god) promising to save mankind from Satan and an eternity in hell, with a utopian existence that is soon to come.  Likewise, Trump wouldn't be a messiah without bad guys to save us from, and he has them in spades.  He never fails to raise the specter of destruction being wrought by Muslims, Mexicans, liberals, politicians, job exporters, and anyone else who might be regarded as enemies who threaten to ruin the lives the good and righteous folks to whom Trump's appeals are directed.  Not surprisingly, Trump's message resonates strongly with evangelical Christians, despite his abject ignorance of Christian scripture, as Manseau notes, though it is not limited to them. 

Another part of that appeal is the notion that he, along with his community of followers, is being subjected to persecution.  Trump is constantly being audited by the IRS.  He is subjected to a "witch hunt" by investigators, and unfairly hounded by the "fake news" media.  And he deftly draws his followers into the fold by telling them that they are being persecuted too, for being Christians - denied their right to freely discriminate against gays, Muslims, and other enemies of the faith, all under the umbrella of the demon known as "political correctness".
The persecution card thus plays effectively not only in casting Trump as a martyr, but in aligning his evangelical supporters with those early Christians (us) that suffered for their faith at the hands of oppressors (them). - Iain Ellis [popMATTERS, 13 Feb 2017]
As I have noted before the Christian persecution complex is a powerful tool in bringing a community together and girding them for battle against their common enemies, the "oppressors".  It has been used to great effect by the church, and so too by Trump's new religion.

As I mentioned at the beginning, effect of Trumpism as a religion is to create a cohesive community whose leader is immune from all accusations of wrongdoing, lying, or incompetency.  Its followers tend to be fanatical and impervious to any factual information that would detract from his aura of divinity.  He is their messiah, their savior.  In their eyes, he can get away with anything, and he doesn't have to pretend he's innocent.  Replacing our democratic institutions with a kleptocracy in which there is no accountability under the law, Trump has managed to perpetrate the biggest scam in American history - perhaps the biggest in nearly two millennia.


  1. Trumpism ... like Satanism but not as nice.

    1. In Satanism you sell your soul in exchange for some kind of benefits in life. In Trumpism, you sell your soul, and he takes away your healthcare and jets down to Mara Lago to make some shady deal with his Russian buddies, and you (as a taxpayer) have to pay for the trip.