Is the GOP a Cult?

10 May, 2009

I ran across this at the International Cultic Studies Association (I was looking for Celtic Studies) about (go figure) cults.  And as I read the warning signs of a cult, I realized, “Holy batshit, fatman:  The GOP’s a cult.”  Don’t believe me?  Run down the checklist with me:

‪ The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.  (Saint Ronald is the purported ideological leader of the GOP.  Though his administration would be far too liberal for today’s GOP,  his ‘belief system, ideology, and practices’ are regarded as the ‘Truth’.  And dissent is discouraged.)

‪ Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).  (Anti-Democrat, anti-(perceived)-socialism, and other bizarre chants are de rigeur at GOP events.)

‪ The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).  (Limbaugh is the one who dictates most of this.  And the decision whether or not to have children, they want to enforce on everyone.) 

‪ The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).  (They revel in having only 22% of the population behind them;  they blame the non-existent liberal media for all problems.  And they think they will save not just America, but the world.  And they are the only ones who can do it.)

‪ The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.  (2000, 2004 and 2008 elections;  Limbaugh, Foxx, Bachmann.  Need I say more?)

‪ The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).  (Has any modern Republican ever taken responsibility for any mistake, misjudgement or incompetence?)

‪ The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).  (The modern GOP is willing to lie (Foxx, Limbaugh) to stop any effective law from being passed.  Additionally, they were willing to break international law and make America a human-rights pariah by torturing prisoners in order to invading Iraq.)   

‪ The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt iin order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.  (How many GOPers have insulted the Great Limbaugh and then apologized after public shaming?)

‪ Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.  (Do True Believer GOPers still hang around with liberals?)

‪ The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.  (Actually, they are just the opposite right now.  They are actively throwing moderate GOPers out of the party.)

‪ The group is preoccupied with making money.  (Duh.  Last 30 years or so.)

‪ Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.  (And they even invented the Tea Parties as a group-related activity.)

‪ Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.  (Again, not sure on that one.  But, I do know that once True Believer GOPers find out I am a progressive, they tend to either start screaming at me or walk away.)

‪ The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.  (Any who leave the GOP are instantly vilified by Faux News, Limbaugh, and the ‘political’ leadership of the GOP.)

I count 12 yes, two maybe and one no.  Sounds like a cult to me.



  1. These all apply equally well to the Democrats, who are pretty damn zealous about Obama, like to chant “Yes We Can!” and so on…

    • Joel: Thanks for stopping by. Keep in mind, that was a campaign chant. The Republican chants tend to be GOP talking points. One GOPer comes up with an attack, and every GOP politician and all of Faux News chant it for a weak.

      And grow up. “I know you are, but what am I” works to about second grade. If you have some actual points, rather than mindlessly repeating the GOP mantra of the day, go for it.

  2. I think this that is a decent enough description of the Republican Party. The problem is, you are totally wrong about why that is so. The GOP is not like this because it is a cult; rather it is that way because its leaders are most social-dominator types and the average wingnuts have the personality traits known as “right-wing authoritarianism”. See The Authoritarians; it’s a fascinating book.

    • I think that all cults are authoritarian, whether it is created by an individual (Koresh, for example) or by a committee (the RNC, Rush, Beck et al.) And I do not think that the GOP is a cult, merely that they use many of the same tactics of other successful cults (the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptists, etc.).

  3. Focusing on zeal for Obama while ignoring a laundry list of non-applicable traits and then claiming that laundry list applies “equally well to the Democrats” is a joke.

    I would argue, Rob, that social-dominator types describe religious leaders as well, and thus, religions are the way they are because they were founded by and are perpetually maintained by those types, making the comparison in the OP applicable. You don’t need the supernatural necessarily, although the GOP has that thanks to the religious right. You can replace the supernatural with other abstract absolutes, and they can be just as nonsensical. Listen to your average “believer” spout talking points. You know, like someone at a tea bag party, or Joe the Plumber. Compare that shit to your average moron walking out of a Billy Graham extravaganza.

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