Defending Donald Trump

Are Trump supporters behaving like a cult? Is Trump behaving like a cult leader?

Answer: No

Every famous person has both haters and fanboys. Paul Graham has written a piece explaining to other famous people how they ought to think about haters. Every famous person has fanboys, and fanboys are obsessive and uncritical. Liking the person becomes part of their identity. They create an image in their head that is much better than reality. If you do something bad, they find a way to see it as good.

My point is that every famous person has fanboys, not just Trump. If fanboy behavior by some fanboys is considered evidence of a cult, then all famous people are the heads of their own private cults. Such a definition would make this argument entirely moot, so we must abandon this.

Cults are characterized by a strong powerful charismatic leader. Trump certainly fits that bill. But cults also repeatedly indoctrinate their members and forbid their members from interacting with the outside world, lest the cult brainwashing be negated by reasonable people from the outside. This is most certainly not present in Trump supporters. Typical Trump supporters repeatedly engage people from the opposite side of the political spectrum, a behavior cults would absolutely constrain.

Those that make this cult argument claim that Trump's followers abandon their prior beliefs, abandoning libertarianism, family values, and even simply logic in favor of Trump worship. But I've seen no evidence of this. Have Republicans left their families because Trump slept with a stripper and doesn't go to church? No. Have Republicans renounced their religions? No. Have they stopped using logic in their argumentation? No.

What about libertarians? Are they now suddenly in support of trade wars? Eh... yes, they are. At least some of them are. So what to make of that? Recent logical argumentation has convinced a number of libertarians that their view of the issue was overly simplistic, and they subsequently changed their view. But that wasn't done in order to worship Trump, it was done in pursuit of the truth, and in recognition that they were wrong. Libertarians haven't abandoned any of their prior beliefs about trade and trade wars and their effects, they have only changed their notion as to whether they might be temporarily necessary from time to time. They expanded their calculus with additional information, without abandoning what they already knew. But the main point for this article is that the explanation that they changed in order to worship Trump is not a very good explanation. I would be more worried if their politics were static and unchanging even in the face of overwhelming evidence against their positions.

On the other hand, Democrats are actually behaving a bit like a cult, but in a different aspect. They don't have a strong charismatic leader. But they do try to prevent their members from listening to outside information, marking that information as alt-right or racist or otherwise dangerous. They punish their members for associating with outsiders, marking them as alt-right adjacent and ex-communicating them. They try to silence outside opinions so that only their side of the argument can be heard, by forbidding comments on news websites, by censoring Tweets that clearly do not violate the policy but which expose incorrect thinking among Democrats, by removing YouTube creators who don't fall in line, deplatforming speakers who might have a good argument against their orthodoxy. This behavior seems to be driven from a small minority of Democrats who practice post-modernism. They are small but exceedingly powerful, and the rest of the party doesn't have the tools to resist their influence, so everybody seems to cave into them. I find this cult-like behavior far more worrying than any cult-like behavior that might be going on on the right.