How do you have a rational and normal discussion about politics with someone who home schools their kids because they know ‘for a fact’ that childhood immunizations against whooping cough and polio will turn their children into idiots or worse? You can’t and you don’t.
By the same token, is it possible to make someone believe that the Presidential election wasn’t rigged if they also know ‘for a fact’ that all those voting machines were controlled by foreign-based agents working for the Deep State?
I am beginning to think that the only way to understand why hundreds of MAGA followers charged into the Capitol intent on throwing out the ‘traitors’ and taking back the USA is to think of MAGA not as an embryonic political party, not as a budding national movement, but as a cult.
Why do I say this? First, what tends to characterize members of a cult is the fervent idea that what they are required to do more than anything else is to believe what the cult leader says is completely and indisputably true. Therefore, what the cult leader tells them to do they must go and do.
That’s the reason why more than 900 people killed themselves in Jonestown in 1978. That’s the reason why 75 people inside the Branch Davidian compound were killed after their so-called security force opened fire on a heavily armed, para-military group from the FBI and ATF.
What is even more typical of cult-like behavior, however, is that most people, when faced with a choice between getting involved with a cult and going another way, tend to go the other way.
On January 6th, more than 30,000 people were present at the Ellipse when Trump and others told them to march down to the Capitol and ‘take our country back.’ Maybe 5,000 marchers came down Pennsylvania, maybe it was more. But most of the people who showed up at the Ellipse turned around and went home. How come everyone didn’t march down from the Ellipse and try to run up the Capitol steps?
The current issue of The New Yorker Magazine has a clever article by Ronan Farrow based on a long interview with a 40-year-old woman who was not only in the middle of the riot but appears to have played something of a leadership role. She’s now in hiding from the Feds, so she wouldn’t answer any direct questions about her behavior within the Capitol itself.
But she was there because she wanted to be there. She was there because she really believes that what Trump and others have said about a ‘stolen’ election is really true.
This woman is what my father would have called a ‘poor unfortunate.’ She lives in a crummy town in Western PA, she’s a single mom with at least 6 children still under her roof. She’s worked in various low-wage jobs and of course she home schools her kids because she ‘knows for a fact’ that vaccinations do more harm than good.
Why did she come to D.C. on January 6th? It’s something she just had to do, particularly after learning all the ‘facts’ about how Trump was robbed, in particular from listening to Rudy Giuliani and Alex Jones. You’re going to have any kind of rational conversation with someone who actually believes what they hear from Alex Jones?
What would have made Farrow’s article a real contribution to the current political debate, particularly in the context of the upcoming impeachment, was if he had interviewed some folks who heard what Trump said at the Ellipse and then got in their cars and went home.
All we ever hear about are the ones who follow the crazy dictates of the MAGA cult’s leader. How about all the people who don’t? If all the people who were at the Ellipse had marched to the Capitol, perhaps we would be talking about a new political party, or a national movement of some significant size.
What MAGA consists of are poor, depressed, and anxious people who will do whatever they are told. That's a cult.