The State of the Cult

Reverend Jim Jones of Peoples Temple in San Francisco 1977. Photo by Nancy Wong.

There is no sugar coating it; Donald Trump has a cult following.

But isn’t that harsh? To call The Deplorables a cult? Well, let’s define what a cult is first.

This is Merriam-Webster’s definition:


great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (such as a film or book) criticizing how the media promotes the cult of celebrity
especially such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad

the object of such devotion

a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion the singer’s cult of fans
The film has a cult following.


However, that just seems a bit tame to characterize what cults actually are, how they act, and what their leaders are like. Joe Navarro, from Psychology Today, wrote an article in August of 2012 that supplies a list of 50 characteristics that are tell-tale signs of a pathological cult leader:

1. He has a grandiose idea of who he is and what he can achieve.

2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, or brilliance.

3. Demands blind unquestioned obedience.

4. Requires excessive admiration from followers and outsiders.

5. Has a sense of entitlement – expecting to be treated special at all times.

6. Is exploitative of others by asking for their money or that of relatives putting others at financial risk.

7. Is arrogant and haughty in his behavior or attitude.

8. Has an exaggerated sense of power (entitlement) that allows him to bend rules and break laws.

9. Takes sexual advantage of members of his sect or cult.

10. Sex is a requirement with adults and sub adults as part of a ritual or rite.

11. Is hypersensitive to how he is seen or perceived by others. 

12. Publicly devalues others as being inferior, incapable, or not worthy.

13. Makes members confess their sins or faults publicly subjecting them to ridicule or humiliation while revealing exploitable weaknesses of the penitent.

14. Has ignored the needs of others, including: biological, physical, emotional, and financial needs.

15. Is frequently boastful of accomplishments.

16. Needs to be the center of attention and does things to distract others to insure that he or she is being noticed by arriving late, using exotic clothing, overdramatic speech, or by making theatrical entrances.

17. Has insisted in always having the best of anything (house, car, jewelry, clothes) even when others are relegated to lesser facilities, amenities, or clothing.

18. Doesn’t seem to listen well to needs of others, communication is usually one-way in the form of dictates.

19. Haughtiness, grandiosity, and the need to be controlling is part of his personality.

20. Behaves as though people are objects to be used, manipulated or exploited for personal gain.

21. When criticized he tends to lash out not just with anger but with rage.

22. Anyone who criticizes or questions him is called an “enemy.”

23. Refers to non-members or non-believers in him as “the enemy.”

24. Acts imperious at times, not wishing to know what others think or desire.

25. Believes himself to be omnipotent.

26. Has “magical” answers or solutions to problems.

27. Is superficially charming.

28. Habitually puts down others as inferior and only he is superior.

29. Has a certain coldness or aloofness about him that makes others worry about who this person really is and or whether they really know him.

30. Is deeply offended when there are perceived signs of boredom, being ignored or of being slighted.

31. Treats others with contempt and arrogance.

32. Is constantly assessing for those who are a threat or those who revere him.

33. The word “I” dominates his conversations. He is oblivious to how often he references himself.

34. Hates to be embarrassed or fail publicly – when he does he acts out with rage.

35. Doesn’t seem to feel guilty for anything he has done wrong nor does he apologize for his actions.

36. Believes he possesses the answers and solutions to world problems.

37. Believes himself to be a deity or a chosen representative of a deity.

38. Rigid, unbending, or insensitive describes how this person thinks.

39. Tries to control others in what they do, read, view, or think.

40. Has isolated members of his sect from contact with family or outside world.

41. Monitors and or restricts contact with family or outsiders.

42. Works the least but demands the most.

43. Has stated that he is “destined for greatness” or that he will be “martyred.”

44. Seems to be highly dependent of tribute and adoration and will often fish for compliments.

45. Uses enforcers or sycophants to insure compliance from members or believers.

46. Sees self as “unstoppable” perhaps has even said so.

47. Conceals background or family which would disclose how plain or ordinary he is.

48. Doesn’t think there is anything wrong with himself – in fact sees himself as perfection or “blessed.”

49. Has taken away the freedom to leave, to travel, to pursue life, and liberty of followers.

50. Has isolated the group physically (moved to a remote area) so as to not be observed.

Psychology Today

Hum. I suppose the better question is, how many of these 50 traits does Donald Trump NOT exhibit? 10, maybe. I’ll leave that up to you to decide. 

Ok, but what about the members? Surely they can see for themselves all of this, right?

We all have anecdotal stories from our own familial and friend cult members, but here are a couple from the media.

The Financial Times ran a story in June of 2018, where they talked with workers at Harley Davidson in Wisconsin. Despite Trump’s tariffs potentially costing them jobs, many still supported the man.

“He wouldn’t do it unless it needed to be done, he’s a very smart businessman,” said one Harley employee whose name is embroidered on his work shirt — though he asks not to be quoted by name.

“I think he’s playing poker: I’ll hit you with this, you’ll hit us with that, I think this will bring them to the table — unless he’s completely crazy,” chimed in another, who also declined to be quoted on the grounds that he could get into trouble with the company for speaking out.

The Financial Times

So what about other Trump voters that are feeling the pinch of his policies? We go to the Des Moines Register with a story written by Trump voter, John R. Block, on August 20, 2018, where he details the difficulties Reagan had with farmers’ support and compares Trump’s economics.

“Today, the U.S. economy is generally in great shape, but times are hard for farmers. Last year, net farm income slumped to a 16-year low. Even President Trump’s tax reform and pushback on overregulation have not yet moved America’s farmers to a sustainable economic footing.

Des Moines Register

While farmers closely watch trade wars buffet their markets, they feel the pain of depressed markets only when they sell, often at harvest. President Trump is right that farmers are sticking with him, because they understand the unfair trade barriers imposed by Europe and China.

Des Moines Register

So, in rural America, there is eroding support for President Trump’s escalating trade tariffs, although there is continuing support for President Trump despite his trade policies.”

Des Moines Register

And, of course, on the Internet there are a plethora of Trump pushing sites where commenters display their fealty to the POTUS. The top comment on one of these sites during the Omnibus debacle in March lamented Trump’s presidency had just come to an abrupt end, they were off the Trump train, and Trump could procreate with himself.

What was that same commenter saying just 11 days ago?

Trump’s doing a fantastic job and they’ll be damned if traitors get to throw him out of office.

I’ll leave off with a final word from Mr. Navarro,

“When a cult or organizational leader has a preponderance of these traits then we can anticipate that at some point those who associate with him will likely suffer physically, emotionally, psychologically, or financially. If these traits sound familiar to leaders, groups, sects, or organizations known to you then expect those who associate with them to live in despair and to suffer even if they don’t know it, yet.”

Psychology Today

About the opinions in this article…

Any opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this website or of the other authors/contributors who write for it.

About GretchensR 16 Articles
I am a supposed bitter TDS sufferer. An equal opportunity mocker of both the Red and Blue teams, I join fellow TNBers of being politically homeless.