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Has the GOP Become a Cult?

Has the GOP Become a Cult?
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Written by Deborah Small, Jack & Jill Politics

Okay, I admit I’ve never been a Republican. I’ve never voted for a Republican, although my father did support John V. Lindsay when he was mayor of New York. I guess I’m just one of the millions of “brainwashed” black people Herman Cain (aka Uncle Ruckus) likes to deride. But I did have a certain grudging respect for the Republican Party – it’s ability to maintain discipline, articulate a clear message with conviction and stick with an issue – however unpopular – until it gained legitimacy in the political mainstream (e.g. school vouchers, prison privatization, HMOs, etc.). Lately that grudging respect has turned into terror.

When I look at the Republican Party today, the cartoonish cast of characters that purport to be its leaders (either as presidential candidates or legislative officials), the hateful and ignorant rhetoric that substitutes for substantive policy analysis and the slavish devotion to positions that make no sense (e.g. rejection of climate change, the so-called ‘birther’ controversy, supply-side economics) it occurs to me the GOP has morphed from a legitimate political party into something that resembles a modern day cults.

I know this argument may strike many as exaggerated and ‘over-the-top’ even among those who love bashing the GOP, but before you dismiss this idea out of hand, let me list the common characteristics shared by cult-like groups and see if you think they describe the current GOP. While there is often fierce debate about which organizations/religions/groups can be legitimately characterized as cults, there is general agreement about the common characteristics of cults:

Some common characteristics of cults:

  • Displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether alive or dead) regards its belief system, ideology, and practices as the truth and/or law.
  • Polarized, us-versus-them mentality – demeaning those who do not share their beliefs, sowing fear and mistrust amongst members about such people.
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
  • Elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for its leader(s) and members who are on a special mission to save humanity.
  • Teaching or implying that its exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary to achieve them.

Let’s see whether the current GOP exhibits these characteristics.

Displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leaders (whether dead or alive) and regards its belief system, ideology and practices as truth and/or the law.

It’s hard to dispute that within the GOP, Ronald Reagan has been accorded virtual demi-god status. Every major Republican leader has come and worshipped at the altar of Reagan, holding him up as the model for all would-be conservative Presidents. In many respects Reagan is for conservatives what Jesus is for fundamentalist Christians – an object of uncritical devotion tangentially related to the actual human being. Within this cosmology, Reagan single-handedly brought down the Soviet Union (effectively ending the Cold War), held the line against communist insurgents in Latin America, affirmed the role of Christian faith in the political mainstream and most importantly established the current orthodox belief that government is the enemy of the people and the only way to rein it in is to “starve the beast”. The following video produced by the Heritage Foundation in commemoration of Reagan’s centennial birthday presents Ronald Reagan as icon.

This deified version of Reagan ignores any facts (however well documented) that run counter to the narrative in the same way many fundamentalists conveniently ignore Jesus’ focus on charity, humility and generosity as the prerequisites for living a ‘Christian’ life. One of the many consequences of this revisionist view is that it’s enabled people who label themselves “conservative” to wear the Reagan mantle while embracing policies and tactics that Reagan rejected while in power.

The relationship between today’s Republicans and Ronald Reagan was nicely summarized by Jimmy Carter during an interview earlier this year with Rachel Maddow about how the GOP has elevated Reagan to virtual sainthood:

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Photo from Mike Licht via flickr

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6:13PM PDT on May 21, 2012

@Susan B. "Oh, I'm sorry, have you looked at the Cult of OBAMA? A person with questionable background and applicable skills, questionalbe verification, and a deep hatred for what made this Great Country great? HA! When I am in conversations with O. supporters they spew such deep negative emotions about the other side of the aisle that I can't talk with them. They "bang their drums" just as vehimently as any fanatic."

That's so deeply amusing. You, calling Obama supporters "fanatics" and a "cult" ?

You parrot claims about Obama having a "questionable" background and claim he has a "deep hatred for what made this Great Country great".

And then you prove your hypocrisy by saying Obama supporters spew deep negative emotions !

Here's a tip, maybe you can buy a clue with it; Obama doesn't have a deep hatred for what made America great.

Glenn Beck ranted about Obama having a deep-seated hatred of white people, and sponsors abandoned his show in droves. Beck's show ended up being cancelled, because he crossed the line from fanatic to disgustingly stupid.

As you just did. You're not in a position to know Obama, and you're just repeating empty rhetoric from "entertainers" that make millions on millions of dollars feeding trolls like you.

Since you have no credibility, and no proof, you should have realized your claim would be laughable.

But you're a fanatic. You can't think your way out of a wet paper bag. So you just say what you feel like saying and

6:34PM PDT on May 17, 2012

I maintain the suspicion that it's all lead poisoning.

After the invention of the automobile, there was a need to deal with the problem of "knock".

Henry Ford advised using Ethanol. He thought it was a good opportunity to help out America's farmers, by having them make biofuels as a gasoline additive. And it worked fine.

But you can't PATENT Ethanol.

Which means you can't get rich off it.

Enter Tetra Ethyl Lead. The same guy that later invented CFC's BTW, experimented to find something that would counter the tendency to "knock" that he COULD patent.

He tried Tetra Ethyl Tin. And it almost worked. Ethanol was still better though.

Then he tried Tetra Ethyl Lead. BINGO !

People who knew better tried to dissuade him, but he wouldn't listen.

He marketed his poison as an additive. And eventually the rights were bought up and lead ended up in all gasoline.

We must have pumped thousands of tonnes of lead into the air. Graph the lead background level in America; it matches the Interstate Highway System.

Our kids grow up poisoned by lead for decades.

Lead poisoning causes mental retardation, inhibits impulse control, and increases aggression.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that crime rates began to drop suddenly 18 years after lead was banned from normal gasoline. (although AV-Gas still has lead in it).

That was the first generation of the 20th Century that didn't grow up constantly breathing lead vapor.

Who kno

3:59PM PDT on May 17, 2012

I've never seen a republican actually stick to his belief in small government. Look at the recent George W. Dept of Homeland Security, huge. War in the middle East, huge. Spending on military weapons even in peacetime, huge. Their support of 'capitalistic' banks as large as some countries, huge. They only talk about mom and pop businesses in the theoretical, imaginary sense. And they support health insurance companies who take our money and deny coverage, huge. Not a small business in sight in our town and area. All big chain stores. Big box stores.

3:59PM PDT on May 17, 2012

I've never seen a republican actually stick to his belief in small government. Look at the recent George W. Dept of Homeland Security, huge. War in the middle East, huge. Spending on military weapons even in peacetime, huge. Their support of 'capitalistic' banks as large as some countries, huge. They only talk about mom and pop businesses in the theoretical, imaginary sense. And they support health insurance companies who take our money and deny coverage, huge. Not a small business in sight in our town and area. All big chain stores. Big box stores.

1:00PM PDT on May 17, 2012

This is an excellent article and a good analysis. Yes, GOP has taken on some very culty aspects:
- cartoonish, extreme characters out in the lead
- hateful, ignorant rhetoric
- slavish devotion to non-sensical, impractical positions

Remind anyone of movements elsewhere?

6:35PM PST on Mar 9, 2012

Ms. Small, you are not exaggerating or over-the-top in your comments. The old Republican Party at least had beliefs in small government. But old-style repubs must be quaking in their boots, because the party has allowed these hate-filled bigots to capture the dialogue, and now they must feel like the person who captures the wolf -- they can't hold on, and they can't let go.

The Democratic Party has believed in good will to all, inclusion. Liberals are more adventurous, and enjoy investigating new info. They don't need black and white, but grays in their lives. We are not fear-based. We like to explore and learn new things, not stay with the same info we learned in elementary school. We LIKE facts, and as science changes, and new hypotheses and experimentation, disprove old theories, it does not dismay us, but causes us to embrace the new. As Martin Luthor King, Jr. said, "the arc of justice bends forward" (or along those lines). We will progress, not the backward, fact-hating, mean-spirited repubs. They are the past. It may sometimes seem like one step forward and two steps back, and I am dismayed at the lack of civility, but the arc of justice does bend forward.

8:08AM PST on Feb 10, 2012

Yes it is a cult. NO THINKING PERSON COULD EVER JUSTIFY BEING A PART OF THIS PARTY! Cults banish people if they don't conform , so do the repthuglicans.

8:47PM PST on Jan 31, 2012

More than merely a cult, I've been saying for several years now that conservatism is some sort of mental disorder. I mean, when an ideology routinely relies on myths and propaganda while eschewing facts, evidence, data, science, history, reason, and objective truth, what else could it be?

1:20PM PST on Jan 29, 2012

Can we ALL say, The GOP A.K.A. The Cult of Satans Spawn!!! At this point I am not totally sure that the members of the GOP are in fact human! If they are they must be a group of humans who have been possessed by Very Evil, Demonic spirits, who became so at home theat they decided to stay & breed! Even as cults go, I am almost certain that there are Not any that would want to be held in the ranks of with the GOP! "GRIEVOUSLY OBLIVIOUS PIGS- GOP!!!!!!!!!!"

5:27PM PST on Jan 20, 2012

Yes, I'm convinced!

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