Category Archives: Trump the Saviour

Desire for Cruelty


Because of their incredibly strong desire to separate themselves from respectable society—the establishment as 1960s rebels would call it—the true believers of totalitarian movements of the 1930s and following in Europe, inculcated a desire for cruelty. They were driven by a desire for cruelty. That desire fueled their passion.

Lately I have been rewatching the mob of Trumpsters on Capitol Hill on January 6th and have noticed the same phenomenon. The similarities to the older totalitarian mobs are astonishing. As Hannah Arendt said in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism in which she described the insurrectionists of the 1930s and 1940s:

“They read not Darwin but the Marquis de Sade.  If they believed at all in universal laws, they certainly did not particularly care to conform to them. To them, violence, power, cruelty, power, were the supreme capacities of men who definitely lost their place in the universe and were much too proud to long for a power theory that would safely bring them back and reintegrate into the world. They were satisfied with blind partisanship in anything that respectable society had banned, regardless of theory or content, and they elevated cruelty to a major virtue because it contradicted society’s humanitarian and liberal hypocrisy.”


That applied to Nazi mobs and Communist mobs. I think it also applied to modern American Trump inspired mobs.

Watching the rioters on Capitol Hill on January 6th of 2021 I was struck by how much fun they were having.  It was obviously a blast for them. Literally a blast. It was probably one of the most exciting days of their lives. Running down the corridors of the Capitol in search of Mike Pence chanting that they would hang him and  Nancy Pelosi was incredibly exciting for them. They were filled with passion. Arendt mentioned in her book how the older rebels has a “yearning for violence.” Arendt had said how the revolutionaries experienced

the self-willed immersion in the suprahuman forces of destruction seemed to be a salvation from the automatic identification with pre-established functions in society and their utter banality…”

They were finally loosed from the chains of mediocrity. As Arendt said about the older rebellions,

“What proved so attractive was that terrorism had become a kind of philosophy through which to express frustration, resentment and blind hatred, a kind of political expressionism which used bombs to express oneself, which watched delightedly the publicity given to resounding deeds and was absolutely willing to pay the price of life for having succeeded in forcing the recognition of one’s existence on the normal strata of society. It was still the same spirit and the same game which made Goebbels, long before the eventual defeat of the Nazis, in case of defeat, would know how to slam the door behind them and not be forgotten for centuries.”   


Many have been surprised by the fact that Donald Trump could attract support from elites as well as those who had been humbled by globalization. How was that possible?

First, as Hannah  Arendt said, “The members of the elite did not object at all to paying a price, the destruction of civilization, for the fun of seeing how those who had been excluded unjustly in past forced their way into it.” Next, Arendt also said this about earlier insurrectionists: “The temporary alliance between the elite and the mob rested largely on this genuine delight with which the former watched the latter destroy respectability.” The elite wanted to see the cruelty of the mob in action. It was the same on January 6th 2021. The lust for cruelty can be surprising powerful.

Anyone who unleashes these powerful and uncontrollable emotions must be prepared for the unholy explosion that is likely to follow. Trump was prepared for that. Some of his followers were not, for they abandoned him. It is now being determined how many others are prepared to enjoy the train wreck too.

Yearning to Belong


Hannah Arendt commented on how early supporters of Hitler in Germany demonstrated astonishing selflessness. She described that this way:

“The peculiar selflessness of the mass man appeared here as a yearning for anonymity, for being just a number and functioning cog, for every transformation, in brief, which would wipe out the spurious identification with specific types of predetermined functions within society. War had been experienced as that “mightiest of all mass action” which obliterated individual differences so that even suffering, which traditionally had marked off individuals through unique unexchangeable destinies could now be interpreted as “an instrument of historical progress.”


This desire to be part of a movement—to belong to a group—is of course of vital significance. Humans have strong desires to be part of groups.  Groups are desired to heal feelings of alienation and isolation. They are exhilarating. If you have any doubt about this go to an American football game. You will be convinced.  The feeling is that this is “us” against “them” and the excitement is palpable. These feelings are beyond reason. Cheering for your team has nothing to do with reason.  That is what the rapture must feel like.

Bakunin, the Russian anarchist expressed this feeling deeply. He said, “I do not want to be I, I want to be We.”

To us from afar this seems insane. It is insane. But it was real for those members of the movement. Will it be the same for modern authoritarians and their followers such Donald Trump’s Trumpsters? We cannot know that in advance, no matter what Arendt has told us about earlier mass movements, but it certainly must make us consider what comes next?

Absolute Loyalty


As Hannah Arendt said in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism totalitarian movements required and received absolute loyalty. A member might have to let himself be tried, found guilty of any crime, cooperate with the authorities, without objection—all in the name of the movement.

Of course, not everyone is able to give such loyalty. As Arendt said,

“Such loyalty can be expected only from the completely isolated human being who, without any other social ties to family, friends, comrades, or even mere acquaintances, derives his sense of having a place in the world only from his belonging to a movement, his membership in the party.”

Notably, that was also the kind of loyalty Trump demanded of the Trumpsters, and usually got. That’s what he told James Comey who refused to give it. It did not take long and Coney was out of his job as Director of the FBI. That happened to countless others.

Arendt found it interesting who was able to give such loyalty. It was surprising. As she said,

“What is more disturbing to our peace of mind than the unconditional loyalty of members of totalitarian movements, and the popular support of totalitarian regimes, is the unquestionable attraction these movements exert on the elite, and not only on the mob elements in society. It would be rash indeed to discount, because of artistic vagaries or scholarly naiveté, the terrifying roster of distinguished men whom totalitarianism can count among its sympathizers, fellow-travelers, and inscribed party members.”


Again Trumpism found similar support among elite conservatives. Trump and Trumpsters expected Mike Pence to overthrow the votes of states despite the fact that courts had refused to do this, and despite the fact that there was no way this could be done and when he refused Trump immediately turned on him even though he had received 4 years of abject loyalty from Pence. And with only the vaguest of suggestions, the Trumpian mob marched to the White House with chants “Hang Mike Pence.” Later. even though his life had been endangered by Trump and his followers at his behest, Pence did not overturn the election results because he thought he could not do that, but after this devotion to the leader was stubbornly persistent

Loyalty is an astonishing thing. Absolute loyalty is incomprehensible. But it is real. It can persist long past what reason would suggest.


Hannah Arendt: Mass Support for authoritarians


Dictators live on mass support. To many people that seems strange, but it isn’t. Massive power comes from mass support. They can’t do it alone. That does not mean a democracy is necessary. Not at all. Tyrants realize that democracy is not important. Mass support is important and there are better ways to get it than messy elections. Hannah Arendt described it this way in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism:

“It would be a still more serious mistake to forget, because of this impermanence, that totalitarian regimes, so long as they are in power, and the totalitarian leaders, so long as they are alive, “command and rest upon mass support” up to the end. Hitler’s rise to power was legal in terms of majority rule and neither he nor Stalin could have maintained the leadership of large populations, survived many interior and exterior crises, and braved numerous dangers of relentless intra-party struggles if they had not had the confidence of the masses.


Often it is startling how brazen tyrannical leaders can be. Trump was not the first, though I acknowledge he was not a tyrannical leader-so far he is just a wanna be authoritarian, but he could easily tip in that direction if elected again. Arendt had another important observation here:

“Nor can their (totalitarian leaders) popularity be attributed to the victory of masterful and lying propaganda over ignorance and stupidity. For the totalitarian movements which precede and accompany totalitarian regimes, invariably as frank as it is mendacious, and would-be totalitarian rulers usually start their careers by boasting of their past crimes and carefully outlining their future ones.”


Trump did exactly that many times. For example, when he talked openly to Bob Woodward a reporter about how he minimized the risks of Covid-19 and told the American public they had nothing to fear. Later he kept saying, without evidence again, that “the end of the pandemic is around the corner.” He also bragged how he could stand in Times Square and kill someone and would not lose any support. He might have been right.


Russian Christian Fascism


Timothy Snyder described Ivan Ilyin’s nationalism this way after the revolution of 1917:

“Ilyin thus portrayed Russian lawlessness as patriotic virtue. “The fact of the matter, “ he wrote, “is that fascism is redemptive excess of patriotic arbitrariness.


Again, this is music to Putin’s ears.


Snyder sees religion as playing an important role in Russia fascism just as it does in American fascism:


“Ilyin’s use of the Russian word for redemptive, spasitelnii, which means released a profound religious meaning into politics. Like other fascists, such as Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf he turned Christian ideas of sacrifice and redemption towards new purposes.  Hitler claimed that he would redeem the world for a distant God by ridding it of Jews.  “And so I believe that I am acting as the almighty creator would want, “ wrote Hitler. “Insofar as I restrain the Jew, I am dong the work of the Lord. “  The Russian spasitelnii would usually be applied by an Orthodox Christian, to the deliverance of believers by Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.  What Ilyin meant was that Russia needed a redeemer who would make the “chivalrous sacrifice” of shedding the blood of others to take power. A fascist coup was “an act of Salvation,” the first step towards the return of totality to the universe…To make war against the enemies of God was to express innocence. Making war (not love) was the proper release of passion because it did not endanger but protected the virginity of the national body…True “passion” was fascist violence, the rising sword that was also a kneeling prayer.”


All this follows from the core belief that that the  nation is pure, innocent and holy. Hence, in effect, Ivan Ilyin argued for Christian fascism. His fanaticism was theological. To love God meant to fight his enemies without restraint or limit.  Anything else was evil. The leader of that fight would be the redeemer. One can see how Vladimir Putin would find a fantastic role for himself. He would be the redeemer of Russia. The redeemer must be strong and uncorrupted. He must be a man like Hitler, Bolsonaro, or Donald Trump.


For these reasons Snyder said, “Fascism, however, is about a sacred and eternal connection between the redeemer and this people.” This was an idea later implicitly endorsed by Trump and Putin. As Snyder said, “A fascist presents institutions as the corrupt barriers between leader and folk that must be circumvented or destroyed.


Snyder described the fascist leader in a way that would include Hitler, Putin, and Trump:


“The redeemer should be regarded as “leader” (gosudar) “head of state,” “democratic dictator,” and “national dictator,” an assemblage of titles that recall the fascist leaders of the 1920s and 1930s. The redeemer would be responsible for all executive, legislative, and judiciary functions, and command the armed forces.”


I would submit that this is perfect description of what Hitler, Putin, and Trump have each tried to achieve, with varying degrees of “success.” According to Snyder Ilyin would make Russia a “zero party” state. This again was taken up by Trump in 2020 when the entire Republican Party platform was Trump. No policies were needed. Whatever Trump wanted was the platform. The Republican Party all but disappeared in the 2020 presidential campaign. If I thought Trump ever read, I would think he must have read Ilyin or at least got a précis from Putin. Ilyin thought Russians must overcome democracy “by political habits that excite and sustain Russians’ collective love for their redeemer.” The resemblance to Trump and Putin is remarkable. As Snyder said, “Voting should unite the nation in a gesture of subjugation.”

Ilyin had the same attitude to law as Putin and Trump:

“By “law” he meant the relationship between the caprice of the redeemer and obedience of everyone else. Again a fascist idea proved to be convenient for an emerging oligarchy. The loving duty of the Russian masses was to translate the redeemer’s every whim into a sense of legal obligation on their part. The obligation, of course, was not reciprocal. Russians had a “special arrangement of the soul” that allowed them to suppress their own reason and accept “the law in our hearts.” By this Ilyin understood their to suppress their own reason in favor of national submission.”


Isn’t this exactly the doctrine enunciated by Trump’s lawyer Alan Dershowitz at Trump’s impeachment trial and later enthusiastically endorsed by Trump and his minion Rudy Giuliani. Whatever Trump did was lawful. What he wanted was lawful. And amazingly, only 1 Republican voted to impeach Trump and later, more than 73 million Americans voted for Trump in the presidential election that followed. More than73 million Americans voted for fascism!


In Russia this was all given a religious gloss. Here is how Snyder described it:

“The Russian nation, summoned to instant war against spiritual threats, was a creature  rendered divine by its submission to an arbitrary leader who emerged from fiction. The redeemer would take upon himself the burden of dissolving all facts and passions, thereby rendering senseless any aspiration of any individual Russian to see or feel or change the world. Each Russian would experience this immobility as freedom. Unified by their redeemer, their sins washed away in the blood of others, Russians would welcome God back to his creation. Christian fascist totalitarianism is an invitation to God to return to the world and help Russia bring an end to history everywhere.”

The sleep of reason leads to  treating the nation  and its leader as holy.

The Road to Unfreedom: Political Fiction


Like most everyone I have become fascinated by what is happening in Ukraine.  What is particularly fascinating to me  is how much of what is happening now happened earlier in the Ukraine in 2014 and how much of this was presaged by what happened in Russia.  We did not learn our lessons in 2014 and now we are paying a hefty price.

In 2018 I read a very important book called The Road to Unfreedom by a historian from Yale University Timothy Snyder.  It described the road from freedom to unfreedom in Russia, Ukraine, Britain, and finally the United States.


According to Snyder,

“In the 2010s, much of what was happening was the deliberate creation of political fiction, outsized stories and medium-sized lies that commanded attention and colonized the space needed for contemplation.”


This was when people began to speak about the death of truth or decay of truth or living in a post-truth world. In American and the United Kingdom people were shocked to see political leaders who seemed uniquely incapable and unqualified but appealed to large segments of their society nonetheless. Reality was being shredded. As Snyder said,  It was “a time when factuality itself was put into question.” The road to unfreedom was being paved with lies.


Journalism during this time was attacked by demagogic leaders for their own nefarious purposes.  Donald Trump for example, did not want anyone to pursue him with claims of being a liar, so he usurped the notion of fake news that had referred to internet lies that crushed the truth. As we will see, this is direct from the fascist playbook.  Call out others for your own faults. That can create the illusion of innocence. Hitler did it. Putin did it.  So did Trump. Trump did that while lifting himself  into an office for which he was uniquely unsuited, but his followers did not care.  His followers wanted a wrecking ball and they got one and were entirely satisfied. Truth was  as irrelevant as morality.

Russia has already completed its road to fascism while America and Europe seem not that far behind. As Snyder said,

“What has already happened in Russia, is what might happen in America and Europe, the stabilization of massive inequality, the displacement of policy by propaganda, the shift from the politics of inevitability to the politics of eternity. Russian leaders could invite Europeans and Americans to eternity because Russia got their first. They understood American and European weaknesses, which they had first seen and exploited at home.”


The times were ripe for authoritarian or even worse. The times were ripe for fascism.


Evangelical Christians must Decide which Side they are on


Fortunately, there is opposition to Christian Nationalism in America even among Christians. Thomas Edsall in his New York Times article, referred to a group called Christians Against Christian Nationalism with many well-known supporters. This group was formed in 2019. As well more than 16,000 ministers, pastors, and parishioners signed a statement that read in part this way:

“As Christians, our faith teaches us everyone is created in God’s image and commands us to love one another. As Americans, we value our system of government and the good that can be accomplished in our constitutional democracy.”


Yet Christian nationalists are still a strong force in America. As some of its Christian opponents told Edsall,

“Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation. We reject this damaging political ideology and invite our Christian brothers and sisters to join us in opposing this threat to our faith and to our nation.”


It remains to be seen which part of American Christianity will rise up. Right now, the Trumpers and Christian Nationalists are speaking with a loud voice. Over time we don’t know which group will prevail. Sometimes loud voices don’t win out and saner and quieter voices prevail. We can only hope for the best. Evangelical Christians should not just pray for the best. They should do more than that. They should act to support the best. Too often as the poet W. B. Yeats warned, the “worst are filled with passionate intensity, while the best lack all conviction.”

 If you want something to worry about consider what author Robert E. Jones told Edsall in his email:

“It’s also worth noting that even AFTER the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, PPRI’s final favorability poll showed white evangelical Protestant’s favorability toward Trump remained at 62 percent — double the level of Trump’s favorability rating among the public (31 percent).”

Trump might be right. No matter what he does the evangelicals will continue to support him with religious fervour. Only Christians can decide where they stand. It will be interesting to see. I think they will have to decide who is their savior. Trump or Jesus.

Christian Tribal Power


I am still trying to make sense of all those prayers and Christian symbols I saw at the Capitol the day of the insurrection. What do they mean and what do they tell us about the matrimony of politics and religion?

Paul D. Miller, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, made these  claims in an email to Thomas Edsall of the New York Times:

“Christian nationalism is the pursuit of tribal power, not the common good; it is identity politics for right-wing (mostly white) Christians; it is the attempt to ‘own and operate the American brand,’ as someone else wrote; it is an attitude of entitlement among Christians that we have a presumptive right to define what America is. I oppose identity politics of all kinds, including the identity politics of my tribe.”


According to Benjamin Lynerd, a professor of Political Science at Christopher Newport University and the author of Republican Theology: The Civil Religion of American Evangelicals,” Christian Nationalism involves

“the tragedy of evangelical politics, a tragedy that the unrestrained loyalty to President Trump lays bare, but which stretches well beyond this moment in American history,” when “political theology serves merely as cover for the more pragmatic agenda of social empowerment.”


Professor Lynerd asserts, that there is a difference,

“between searching out the implications of the Christian gospel for politics and leveraging this gospel to advance the social position of American Christians. When evangelicals disguise the latter in the robes of the former, not only do they engage in dishonesty, but they also give fuel to the cynical view that there really is no difference — that the theological is nothing more than a cloak for the political.”


When theology is used to cloak a grab for political power the religion is far from pure. Then it has jumped into the fray and got soiled by it.

As Robert Jones said in an email to Edsall:

“While many media outlets focused on decoding the myriad white supremacist signs and symbols, they too easily screened out the other most prominent displays: the numerous crosses, Bibles, and signs and flags with Christian symbols, such as the Jesus 2020 flag that was modeled on the Trump campaign flag.”


Jones also said, those religious symbols used on Capitol hill by the insurrectionists:

“reveal an unsettling reality that has been with us throughout our history: The power of White supremacy in America has always been its ability to flourish within and be baptized by white Christianity.”

Like I said before, the deep connections between anti-black racism in the United States are deeply disturbing. No mild words of religious comfort can gloss them over. The same is true of the religious trappings of the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Samuel Perry in his email to Edsall said that when white Americans are asked about taking the country back they mean that the Christian character of the country should be restored, and by that they mean “they want to take the country back to the days when they (white, native-born, conservatives) were in power.” But if you asked blacks the same question they would mean, a return to a ““civil religion” where there was a sacred obligation to be a “just” nation, characterized by fairness, equality, and liberty.

That mixture of religion and white supremacist politics is incredibly toxic and dangerous. That is what Trump tried to bring about and in that battle his greatest allies were Evangelical Christians. To the extent that this is true, the Evangelicals have been besmirched with their leader’s slime. By leader of course, I mean Donald Trump, not Jesus Christ. This is my conclusion: Those Evangelical Christians that followed Trump to the bitter end, gave up on Jesus a long time ago, in favour of their own bully in the White House. Trump became their Savior supplanting the one on the cross.

Messiahs don’t come around every year.


Donald Trump called his followers to the Washington Capitol on January 6, 2021 and like dutiful followers they came. They came to put a wrecking ball to what they considered false government and fraud. Their spiritual leader called them, so Trumpists arrived from all over American to the Washington Capitol as he had asked. He asked them to “fight for their country.” Was he being metaphorical?

To his faithful followers they were on a religious mission. It was their sacred duty to come to the Capitol to defend the leader of the faith and the country. It was a holy cause. So, men and women who would normally be going to work, their Bridge club, or doing laundry, or sending their kids to school, turned up instead in Washington ready to riot. Many of them actually planned a riot. After all, as one of their posters said: “Jesus is my Savior; Trump is my president.”


And, like so many sacred causes in the past they were deceived by their leader. He told them to march to the Capitol and he would be right there with them. That was a lie. He stayed back at the White House where he could be safe to watch the action on his big screen TV instead. To his followers it was a sacred cause. To Donald Trump is was entertainment.

Now you might ask why would anyone believe a New York real estate developer who had a notorious aversion to the truth?  That didn’t matter to the true believers. The leader called; they came. After all, 2000 years ago,  who would believe a young man who appeared to be the son of a poor carpenter?


But Trump was no Jesus. In the case of Trump, the true believers were sad fools. We pity them. They made a horrible choice. Some of them like the QAnon Shaman with his wide grin, bare muscular chest, coon skin hat, horns, spear, and face painted with the colors of the American flag, came all the way from my “home” state of Arizona. He thought if he got into trouble, as he did, his spiritual leader and savior Donald Trump would pardon him or save him in some other manner. The Shaman was sadly deluded. That’s what his “true belief’ was—a sad delusion. Too late he realized he had been a fool.

That doesn’t mean all such beliefs are delusions. Not all prophets are false, but certainly enough of them are false to make us wary. We should recognize that and use some critical judgment. Messiahs don’t come around every year. Or even every four years

Politics and Religion: A Strange Brew


When I watched live the insurrection at the Capitol in Washington D.C. on the afternoon of January 6, 2021 I was astonished. I witnessed rioting that I had contemplated, but actually never thought I would see. It was a shocking day.

One of the things that struck me that day was the proliferation of signs carried by rioters that made it clear that to many of them the insurrection was a religious act. They felt they were defending the faith.  The insurrection was a religious event. I now realize that is exactly what they were doing. They were defending the faith of Trumpism. That was their religion. These people believed in Trump without reservation.


As New York Times opinion columnist Thomas B. Edsall said, “It’s impossible to understand the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol without addressing the movement that has come to be known as Christian nationalism.”

Trump had said that during the first election campaign that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue in broad daylight and he would not lose any supporters. Now I know that for once he was telling the truth. That was literally true. That is what it means to have religious devotion to a leader. Trump started a riot. & people died as a result.  Yet Trumpers still support him. Trump was right.  I think that is pretty clear by now. He summoned his followers to Washington on January 6, 2021 and thousands showed up. Then he filled them with rage and asked them to march to the Capitol. He even said he would walk with them. He exactly said  that.  It was a lie but there is nothing unusual about that. Then he filled them with hatred for his Vice-President who had been his faithful disciple for 4 years and they marched on the Pentagon shouting “Take the Capitol,” “Hang Mike Pence,” and other insurrectionary statements.  His followers rampaged the Congress looking for politicians like Pelosi and Pence and looked like they wanted to kill them. They built a gallows with a noose hanging from it.

Many of them carried signs like “Jesus and Trump. 2020.” They actually prayed in the House Chambers that they were occupying.

This was a religious event. Is this not what religious devotion is all about?