I know a cult when I see one. Over the years, I’ve had dealings with Moonies, Hare Krishnas, People’s Temple members, and Southern Baptists. I know a cult when I see one. Trumpism is a cult in a way that few political movements are.
Calling Trumpism a cult in 2023 is neither original nor unique. The BIG LIE and the Dipshit Insurrection sealed the cult deal. It provided the MAGA maggots with a “stab in the back” myth comparable to the one that drove the Nazis in post-Great War Germany. Godwin’s law is dead, long live Godwin’s law.
Cult members typically deny being one, so your basic GOPer won’t admit to having drunk the MAGA Kool-Aid. There’s another segment of society that blinks at calling Trumpism a cult as well: The mainstream media. There are a few exceptions to the rule including Jonathan Karl of ABC News. Karl was ABC’s chief White House correspondent from 2012-2021. During the Obama administration, Karl was known for his tough questions and conservative political leanings. That makes his current role as Trumpist scourge even more intriguing.
The Atlantic has published an excerpt from Karl’s new book, Tired Of Winning: Donald Trump and the End of the Grand Old Party. Non-fiction book titles are almost as long as a Scorsese flick nowadays. I prefer short and snappy titles, but I wasn’t consulted…
The focus of the excerpt is the MAGA obsession with retribution. Karl writes about the first rally of Trump’s 2024 campaign in Waco, Texas. Usually, campaign kick offs happen in swing states or the home state of the candidate. Texas is as ruby red as the grapefruit grown in the Lone Star state and Waco is the location of Baylor University, which is Southern Baptist central.
“A Trump spokesperson would later deny that the venue selection was at all related to the massacre that took place there almost exactly 30 years earlier—he claimed Waco was chosen solely because it was “centrally located” and “close” to big cities such as Dallas and Houston—but plenty of rally attendees drew the connection between the setting and Trump’s central campaign message.
“[Trump’s] making a statement, I believe, by coming to these stomping grounds where the government, the FBI, laid siege on this community just like they laid siege on Mar‐a‐Lago and went in and took his stuff,” Charles Pace, a Branch Davidian pastor who knew Koresh but left the compound several years before the deadly fire, told The Texas Tribune. “He’s not coming right out and saying, ‘Well, I’m doing it because I want you to know what happened there was wrong.’ But he implies it.”
Shortly after the rally was announced, I asked Steve Bannon, who had served as the CEO of Trump’s 2016 campaign and had once again emerged as one of Trump’s most important advisers, why the former president would go to Waco for his big campaign reboot. He wasn’t coy.
“We’re the Trump Davidians,” he told me with a laugh.”
Bannon may be laughing but I am not.
The bloody mess at the Branch Davidian compound foreshadowed the terrible Ts: Teabaggery and Trumpism. Its memory inspires paranoia on the far right. It also inspired Timothy McVeigh’s lethal bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. True right-wing believers consider Koresh and McVeigh to be martyrs to their cause. I consider them criminals. Terrorism is terrorism, foreign or domestic.
The Kaiser of Chaos knows none of this but the people around him bathe in the blood of right-wing resentment. Bannon and Stephen Miller are key players in the 2024 Trump campaign. It will be about retribution and revenge in a way that few American campaigns have ever been. That’s the mark of a cult and it’s worrisome for the future of our democracy.
Bannon’s return to the center of the MAGA cult is a clear indication that they’re moving even farther to the right. Bannon is a Fascist who disdains the rule of law. I didn’t realize he had Lost Cause leanings too:
“When I spoke with Bannon a few days later, he wouldn’t stop touting Trump’s performance [at CPAC], referring to it as his “Come Retribution” speech. What I didn’t realize was that “Come Retribution,” according to some Civil War historians, served as the code words for the Confederate Secret Service’s plot to take hostage—and eventually assassinate—President Abraham Lincoln.
“The use of the key phrase ‘Come Retribution’ suggests that the Confederate government had made a bitter decision to repay some of the misery that had been inflicted on the South,” William A. Tidwell, James O. Hall, and David Winfred Gaddy wrote in the 1988 book Come Retribution: The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln. “Bitterness may well have been directed toward persons held to be particularly responsible for that misery, and Abraham Lincoln certainly headed the list.”
Bannon actually recommended that I read that book, erasing any doubt that he was intentionally using the Confederate code words to describe Trump’s speech.”
Is anyone surprised? The MAGA cult and its leader love violent imagery and threats of physical violence. It’s mostly bluster and bullshit but those threatened must remain vigilant. I think the threat of mass violence has been lessened by the thousand-odd prosecutions of insurrectionists but the lone wolves are baying for blood and retribution. Be careful out there.
The devolution of the Republican party into the MAGA cult has baffled the political press. They still think horse race coverage will do: Wrong. The Republican right has transformed secular issues such as gun control and abortion into religious causes. That’s why they’re still proposing abortion bans in the face of widespread hostility. Josh Marshall nailed it in the title of this post: Will Republicans Take No For An Answer On Abortion? They can’t because of the religious fervor surrounding the issue. That’s why I’m glad to be an atheist.
Cults are hard to combat, especially one fueled by lies. The only way to defeat the MAGA cult is at the ballot box. I always look at the big picture: I still believe that the Indicted Impeached Insult Comedian will lose the 2024 election. He’s likely to face the voters as a convicted felon. That’s when we’ll learn who the true believers are.
It’s time to flip Steve Bannon’s language on its head. The next election will be the country’s “come retribution” moment against Trumpism. It’s time for the MSM to stop appeasing the MAGA cult. They’ve been trying modern anti-bullying methods on feral Trumpers. The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them, especially when they’re Trump Davidians. I still know a cult when I see one.
The last word goes to Abbey Lincoln: