[Cult expert, Daniella Mestyanek] Young doesn’t believe that anybody can be argued out of Trumpism (or any other firmly held belief). People can save only themselves, as she did [when she escaped from the Children of God]. But she argues that such self-rescues are happening all around us.
“Twenty years ago,” she told me, “when I walked away from a cult, it was much rarer to meet Americans like me, who are completely estranged from their families because they wouldn’t follow one leader, one guru, one specific ideology. And now it’s very common. The way that cults die without a final, Jonestown-like conflagration is when they can’t recruit the next generation, and we are seeing this in the alt-right. We’re going to see young children of MAGA Republicans voting for the left.”
She said that she hears from young people on TikTok all the time who say “they’re not going to vote for the people who made them do live-shooter drills in schools and at the same time loosened the gun laws.” There’s a trend on TikTok of young people posting what are called “deconstructing” songs; they’re usually about someone walking away from conservative Christianity. They say things, Young told me, like, “Screw you. You told me all my friends are going to hell. I’m going to hell with them.”
It’s possible as well, she thinks, that many formerly avid followers of Trump are themselves just quiet quitting, in a way. They stop posting Facebook memes, put away the MAGA hat, get back into cooking or sports or whatever it was that interested them before Trump. As said, it’s tough to admit you’ve been conned, so they don’t publicly denounce their former beliefs—unless, of course, they’re trying to get a lighter sentence. Consider the ragged smattering of followers who’ve appeared at Trump’s various arraignments, the desultory showings at his recent rallies, the smaller and sadder group of loyalists who attend him at Mar-a-Lago.
But Young believes that the only thing that will truly end Trumpism is what ends everything, eventually: the icy hand of death. Not necessarily the departure of Trump himself; she (like Hassan and Benscoter) believes that if and when he leaves the scene, via jail or one too many Big Macs, various pretenders will rise up to claim his mantle and authority, just as the Unification Church splintered into various factions after the death of Reverend Moon. No, what she means is that the members of the cult itself will die out, and there will be no one, eventually, to replace them. [Continue reading…]