Trump Backers Aren't a Cult…But We Are the OutsidersNovember 25, 2019
When I advocated for candidate Donald Trump back in 2016, I sometimes used the analogy of my favorite teenage book, “The Outsiders.” We on Team Trump were the equivalent of the “greasers” and the establishment permanent political class represented the “socs.” After decades of disrespect from Beltway Brahmins and their complicit media allies, American voters wisely ignored the embedded power brokers and rallied to the upstart renegades. In many ways, even though Trump is now commander-in-chief, we remain very much the greasers, as shown by the intense disparagement of our movement lately from mainstream media.
In recent days, these underhanded tactics of demonization involve branding our movement as a “cult.” That term has been used so regularly -- and so casually -- by various press figures that it clearly represents the latest derisive narrative media elites are using to dismiss our cause as mentally disturbed. Dan Rather, whom many in mainstream media now lionize despite his prior departure in disgrace from CBS News, tweeted out that “I have covered many cults … they invariably end. The question is how much damage they leave in their wake.” Expounding upon this comment on TV, he said that “President Trump’s support seems cultish.”
Elise Jordan of MSNBC, a regular panelist on highly anti-Trump “Morning Joe,” similarly smeared our movement. First, she claimed on Twitter that her insult of the president as a “scumbag” represented a “factually accurate statement.” I responded that such typical media obfuscation demonstrated why the purveyors of it deserve the president’s “harsh appellation: enemy of the people.” Jordan then retorted, “Have fun in your cult while it lasts.”
Then my network, CNN, delved deeper show into this theme Sunday by showcasing Steven Hassan, author of a book named – you guessed it – “The Cult of Trump.” “Reliable Sources” Host Brian Stelter introduced his guest as a “mental health expert” who had himself escaped the throes of the Unification Church in the 1970s. Hassan then described the alleged cult-like traits of this current group of, oh, 63 million American citizens who voted for the Republican Party ticket in 2016. He warned that much of what these believers hear “is emotionally driven, loaded words, thought-stopping and though-terminating-type clichés like … Make America Great Again.” The host responded that “it is frightening to hear a cult expert say that you see all of these signs right now today in American politics.” This level of hyperbole resembled an August edition of the same show in which supposed mental-health experts disregarded all ethical standards of their profession to publicly diagnose President Trump, whom they have never even met, much less personally evaluated. One of them, Dr. Allen Frances, lurched to the appalling comparison that the president is “as destructive a person in this century as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were in the last century.”
The message here is clear on two fronts. First, in this present media landscape, a cult could roughly be defined as groupings of people despicable enough to hold views contrary to those of New York newsrooms and Ivy League faculty lounges. The second message also seems self-evident. Rather than debate policy, disparagement becomes the default narrative of the president’s detractors. This new “cult” criticism seems to flow directly from the inability, so far, of the Democrats to damage the president in the impeachment imbroglio.
Evidence mounts that the charade of impeachment actually benefits him politically, especially in swing states and among key independent voters. Even liberal Vanity Fair concedes the weak hand of the Democrats: “By massive margins, Independents say the impeachment issue is ‘more important to politicians than it is to me’ … and ‘more important to the media than it is to me.’” Specifically, the Politico/Morning Consult poll cited shows a mammoth 3-to-1 ratio regarding that question. Similarly, the same poll finds impeachment ranked dead last among 11 issues important to voters, trailing far behind health care and immigration.
Perhaps even worse polling news for Democrats was unveiled by last week’s Emerson poll, which showed black approval of Trump at 34% and Hispanic approval at 38%. Such numbers among voters of color far exceed the totals he garnered in his 2016 upset win. If such percentages hold, not only will he win reelection, but perhaps he’ll vanquish Democrats in a romp.
Consequently, as his Capitol Hill opponents lose momentum on impeachment, and minorities increasingly rally to the president’s growth agenda, the sadly predictable default posture of the Democrats and their media allies is to embrace a dehumanizing castigation of our movement. We are, according to their aspersions, a giant basket full of “deplorables’: racists and other irredeemables. Now, it seems, we are also cult members. But these smears will not work. In reality, such defamation will compel undecided voters to join up with the political outsiders, the “greasers,” in defiance of the “socs” of politics and media.
To paraphrase “The Outsiders” (paraphrasing Robert Frost): Stay gold, Trump…