Cult scholar Dr. Janja Lalich is the founder and director of the Center for Research on Influence and Control, and in an interview with Pacific Standard, she pointed out that Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) “touched on something important” when he said the Republican Party under Donald Trump was “becoming a cultish thing.”
Dr. Lalich told Pacific Standard, “I think there are plenty of similarities—enough to be concerned about.”
She said, “The people around Trump, and the Republicans in Washington, absolutely kowtow to him, either out of fear they’re going to anger him or out of adulation. That behavior is very typical of a cult.”
Dr. Lalich is a professor emerita of sociology at California State University–Chico. She’s written or co-authored a series of books about the cults and has identified four characteristics of “totalistic” cults: They “espouse an all-encompassing belief system,” they “exhibit excessive devotion to the leader,” they “avoid criticism of the group and its leader,” and they “feel disdain for non-members.”
PS writer Tom Jacobs observed those characteristics are “unnervingly similar” to Trump’s GOP, and Dr. Lalich agreed.
“I think you have to look at the effect of Trump’s behavior and language on his base. He readily ridicules and chastises people,” Lalich said. “He readily pushes people aside if they’re not worshipping him. We’ve all seen the videos of his aides praising him to high heaven. That’s the kind of adulation cult leaders expect and demand.”
The doctor also said that Trump’s ongoing campaign-style rallies are a way to “rev up their people.” This is typical cult leader behavior. She said, “Him [Trump] holding these rallies is both a recruitment technique and a way to keep his followers happy.”
Often times in smaller-scale cult scenarios, families will stage successful interventions, but Dr. Lalich warns it will be much more difficult to reach his more ardent supporters, “If Trump continues with this egregious, inhumane behavior, some of his people may actually wake up. Some of the churches that have been supportive of him have come out to say, ‘This is too much.’ When the cultic behavior is on a national scale, [breaking it up] is going to take a national movement.”