In his new book, “A Higher Loyalty,” former FBI Director James Comey characterized President Donald Trump as a Mafia kingpin who has a warped notion of loyalty and utter disdain for the rule of law, and views the FBI as his personal investigative service.
“The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth,” Comey wrote.
Demanding complete loyalty from subordinates, exerting absolute control and caring only about his own needs and interests, Donald Trump behaves like a mob boss rather than a democratic leader. Mob bosses are also a form of cult leadership.
As a raging narcissist and a charismatic leader who claims to know everything and have all the answers, Donald Trump displays many classic and stereotypical characteristics of a cult leader. Cults are known for overzealous and unquestioning commitment to the person in charge. An authoritarian who has even been compared to Stalin, Trump, the self-proclaimed “stable genius,” demands loyalty and effusive praise from his underlings, as his bizarrely cringeworthy Cabinet meetings have demonstrated.
Although he apparently has learned little about governing in the past year, the President has declared he is in charge and knows what he wants, as he consolidates his power, fires one official after another who disagrees with him and surrounds himself with loyalists. Indeed nothing about the Trump White House is normal, yet his minions behave as if everything is fine, and short of a few Republican outliers and retiring lawmakers critical of Trump and their party, the GOP faithful maintain their silence.
No matter what Trump does, his followers stand by him, despite his dishonesty and antidemocratic tendencies, as he embodies the very swamp he promised he would drain. This moment in time reminds me of the cartoon by K.C. Green, in which a dog sits at the table in a burning house, drinks a cup of coffee and says, “This is fine.”
Amid glaringly narrow public approval, the current President is flanked by his base – the Christian right, the NRA, Fox News and Infowars, white nationalists, tax cutters and kleptocrats. White evangelicals defend Trump, ignoring the allegations of sexual assault, extramarital affairs and payoffs to porn stars. Franklin Graham declared Trump stopped sinning when he became president, while Jerry Falwell, Jr. claimed Jesus “never told Caesar how to run Rome.”
His black supporters notwithstanding, Trump seems to preside over a white cult that feeds off white resentment and alienation after the civil rights movement, and must undo the legacy of the first black president.
Signs of this include him supporting punitive policies against people of color, such as the rollback of federal civil rights enforcement, a bogus voter fraud commission that seemed intent on voter suppression, undoing the Obama legacy to address mass incarceration, not being serious about police brutality, ICE roundups and the deportation of immigrants.
The polarizing “us-versus-them” mentality, and the sinister beliefs associated with cults, are abundant in Trump. Under the slogans “Make America Great Again,” Trump has promised to return the country to a mythical heyday for white America. Presumably that would be a return to the 1950s when the economy was booming and America dominated the world.
But that was also before the modern civil rights era, at a time of legal Jim Crow segregation against black people, blatant sexism and homophobia, and anti-communist witch hunts.
Restoring this glorious place has brought on what Trump seems to view as enemies – whether it’s the news media, or kneeling black football players or Muslims.
Some of his unrealistic solutions to “Make America Great Again” include imposing steel tariffs, building a wall or bringing back coal mining jobs. His other disturbing ideas include mass deportations and travel bans, separating immigrant parents from their babies, arming teachers and executing drug dealers.
Trump leads a cult of paranoia, with policy dictated by conspiracy theories of a “deep state” and “secret societies” and people opposing critical thinking and creating their own facts to match their own reality.
Consider former White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s claim the Trump inauguration had the largest audience ever, or when press secretary Sarah Sanders said when Trump called Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” it was not a racial slur, or the report by the Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee clearing the Trump campaign of collusion with Russia, while a vigorous investigation by Robert Mueller continues.
This administration, like typical cults, lacks accountability and transparency, and serves to benefit the leader. A cult of corruption and ethics deficiency, Trump’s devotees emulate their leader, with HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s $31,000 office furniture, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his doors that initially cost $139,000, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s million-dollar military flights and a 10-day European trip of former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin that mixed meetings with sightseeing. Shulkin’s wife accompanied him and her airfare and meals were paid for by the government.
This, as 130 appointees, including the President’s daughter and son-in-law, lack permanent security clearances. And others resigned or were booted from the premises – sometimes without their personal belongings – for security issues such as domestic violence and “serious financial crimes.”
“This President in unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty,” wrote Comey, painting a picture of Trump as a leader demanding allegiance from Comey as a condition for keeping his job. It was a pledge Comey was unwilling to give. “I remember thinking in that moment that the president doesn’t understand the FBI’s role in American life,” Comey added.
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Trump also expected the FBI director to serve as the presidential fixer and prove to the first lady the falsehood of the “pee pee” tape mentioned in the Steele dossier, the alleged encounter between Trump and prostitutes in a Moscow hotel. Comey had sworn an oath to support and defend the US Constitution, not the President. This is what separates a democracy from an organized crime syndicate, or better yet, cults.
Trump is a dangerous cult leader who will destroy democracy if we allow him. It is incumbent upon us to resist drinking the orange Kool-Aid.