This election cycle, more than any other I remember, has been divisive. I watch intelligent, kind friends of mine behave like fanatics…over a clearly imperfect presidential candidate. It’s nearly impossible to find a media figure that is objective in reporting on these two candidates and they rarely mention third party canidates. I have had my patriotism questioned recently because I don’t think someone’s candidate of choice is the only answer. That’s ironic since I’m a veteran, my husband, father, brother, both uncles and 4 out of 5 cousins are veterans. During this election, I watch as hundreds of thousands of people behave as though they are members of a political cult rather than political party. It’s time for everyone to take a step back, take a deep breath and ask if any of these 11 signs that your political party is your cult apply to you. And before you say that they all as they apply to the other side, these characteristics are equally and frighteningly evident on both sides. I am not a member of either of the two political parties. I’m an independent thinker and voter. And I’m fed up with the cult-like thought and behavior on both sides.
11 Signs that Your Political Party is Your Cult
I know all the arguments, invoking extreme and evil leaders from history used to justify positions. I don’t want to hear them – that’s a cult technique. Intellectual arguments are not dismissive or derisive. Thinking people, free of cult control, are not intimidated by rational discussions with other viewpoints.
You see the world as Us and Them. You forget that we are all Americans first. You would never discriminate or belittle any other group of people. You know that prejudice is simply wrong … except when it comes to the other side. As soon as you hear or see any indication that someone is a member of the other side, you dismiss them. You call them stupid, unpatriotic, crooked or worse. You refuse to listen to them or even consider their views as legitimate.
You think that your candidate is the only answer. You say the words, “________ is the only one that can lead our county.” Or you say, “________ can never lead our county.” You see your leader as a messiah and the other leader as evil rather than your leader as more qualified and the other as less qualified. You cry or scream with overly zealous passion when you see your leader. You’ve forgotten that your leader is a political person (an imperfect political person), you see her or him as a messiah.
You refuse to listen to the other side. You don’t want to hear the other side’s views or opinions (fingers in ears, eyes shut tightly, lalalalalalala, I can’t hear you!). Cults keep members’ loyalty by only allowing members to hear their own propaganda not any other views or ideas. Cults see their views as the only ones valid, true and worth hearing; there’s no reason to even listen to other ideas. You only listen to news, friends and other candidates that support your side. This is how cults isolate their members, by not allowing members to be exposed to and challenged by other ideas.
You choose to listen to your side’s commentary of the other sides’ leader rather than listening directly yourself to the other side’s leader. You choose, whether purposefully or unthinkingly, to only read or listen to commentary that agrees with your side. Cults maintain loyalty by surrounding members with views that agree with their propaganda and prevent opposing view points that might challenge the propaganda. You have abdicated your intellectual responsibility to analyze the other side’s views and rely on leaders on your side to evaluate for you. That’s irresponsible and lazy at best, and cult behavior at worst.
You call the other side’s followers derisive names. Rather than explaining why you disagree with the other side, you resort to name calling, gossip and intimating scandal or undesirable traits. This is juvenile and unthinking behavior that results from cult-like adherence to your side’s propaganda.
You don’t have a problem with your leader and leaders of your side calling the other side names or intimating undesirable traits. If leaders from the other side said the exact same thing about your side, you’d be up in arms, but because it’s someone from your side, it’s true and justified.
You feel an emotional high from being associated with your side. Being with a group of your side or watching your side’s leader speak gives you an emotional high, an almost religious experience. You cry or scream when you see your leader.
You gleefully celebrate the downfall of the other side. You feel that the other side deserves to lose and deserves any misfortune or scandal (whether true or manufactured by your side) that occurs. Rather than being satisfied that your side is doing well, you are joyous that the other side is losing.
Your support of your leader is emotional rather than intellectual. You feel your leader is the best. Your leader knows you and what’s best. Your leader cares for you and the country. Your leader understands you and what’s needed. Your leader says he or she will do what’s best. These are all emotional and cult-like reasons to follow your leader, not rational or factual reasons.
Your leader and your side is not accountable to authority. Because your side has an exulted status (knows better, is more caring, is more fiscally responsible, etc.), the rules and laws don’t apply to your side or your leader. The ends justify the means when it comes to your side and your leader.
You punch the ________ party box on the ballot without thinking. As a member of your side, you unquestioningly support every candidate and every position on your side. You would never vote for a member of the other side. There’s nothing wrong with voting for all the candidates of one party or the other, if you do it purposefully and individually rather than with one unthinking rubber stamp.
Bonus – If you think these 11 characteristics only apply to the other side.
I’m not going to ask if any of these 11 signs that your political party is your cult apply to you. I just ask that you take a long hard look at your behavior this political season and ask yourself if they apply to you. And vote!