The Cooperative Society Newsletter
January 2021, Issue 26
by E.G. Nadeau, Ph.D.
“The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.” Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements
Hoffer could easily have been talking about Donald Trump, except that he wrote these words 70 years ago.
The purpose of this article is to understand why so many Americans became true believers in Trump’s skewed view of the world during the past five years, and how some of them may get back in touch with reality prior to the 2022 elections.
The “why” issue is a tricky one. There are many paths to becoming a true believer, defined as, “One who sticks to one’s dogma … irrespective of the facts.”
Some people are more susceptible than others to putting their preconceptions of the world ahead of reality. This predisposition itself requires a rationale, one for which I have an incomplete explanation.
Some people who feel angry, alienated, oppressed, and/or beaten down by the world around them turn to faith in something or someone that gives them hope, purpose, and a sense of belonging. This transformation is often accompanied by finding like-minded groups of people who share and reinforce the same fervor of distrust, hatred, and/or shared belief in a cause.
Regardless of an incomplete understanding of the “why,” these true believers need a “who” to pin their hopes and aspirations on. Along came presidential candidate Donald Trump to fill this role of validator of their discontent.
Trump’s true believers don’t need to share the same detailed set of beliefs to swear their fealty to him. Some see him warding off the waves of migrating brown people from Latin America. Some identify with his antipathy to Muslims and/or Blacks. Some are reinforced by his promise to drain the swamp of deep-state politicians and bureaucrats in Washington. Some identify with his disdain for the scientists involved in battling COVID-19 or climate change. In any case, they coalesce around his promise to vanquish these “others” whom they distrust, fear, and hate.
In the unfettered world of social media, Trump and his followers find “enablers” who reinforce their beliefs regardless of the lack of facts supporting them. Lies repeated often enough become the truth, particularly for those who seek information only from sources with which they agree. Trump, his disciples, and their enablers in social media use the term “fake news” to characterize mainstream (“lame stream”) media in an Orwellian disparagement of factual information.
Another crucial set of enablers has been Republican leaders, particularly in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, who, for the most part, have kowtowed to Trump, despite his false and often bizarre pronouncements and actions. (Remember his musings on injecting bleach to cure COVID-19?)
The Washington Post’s mind-numbing chronicling of Trump’s 30,000-plus lies during his four years in office have affected his true believers like water off a duck’s back.
So, back to one of the original questions of this article: Can Trump’s true believers see the light of reason by 2022?
More than 70 million Americans voted for Trump on November 3, 2020. Most of these voters continue to believe that Trump won the election. They hold this belief in the face of overwhelming evidence that he lost by a significant margin.
Trump’s false claims about election fraud began in April 2020, more than six months before the election. He publicly repeated these claims more than 150 times before November 3. The expectation of a stolen election that he instilled in his followers culminated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
But this time, his egging on of violent protesters received condemnation by most people across the country and resulted in his unprecedented second impeachment. As a result, he ended his presidency with his highest disapproval rating since taking office.
There is a split in the Republican Party between those who retain loyalty to him and those who are trying to distance themselves from him. He is facing numerous civil and criminal charges and huge financial debts that must be repaid in the next couple of years. The reality of Biden’s victory is gradually sinking into the minds of some “forever” Trumpers.
Trump’s true believers seeing the light of reason won’t happen all at once. And it won’t happen to all of them. Perhaps 40 million or so of Trump’s true believers will see the light of reason in time to put America’s democracy back on a solid track in the next two years. Many will not suddenly become moderates or liberals, but they have the potential to improve their ability to differentiate truth from lies, and to keep their political beliefs and actions within the bounds of a democratic society.
Announcing a new book from The Cooperative Society Project
I’m pleased to announce that Strengthening the Cooperative Community will be available starting Monday, March 1, as a free PDF on this website and as a print book through Amazon and local booksellers. Many of the case studies and recommendations in the book are based on my 50 years of international cooperative research and development experience.
Some comments on the advance review copy include these perspectives:
“Anyone interested in concrete ideas for reducing inequality domestically or internationally should read this book, . . . —Dave Grace, Managing Partner, Dave Grace and Associates
“Thank you for this lively, agile, and accessible introduction to the cooperative world, . . . ”— Gianluca Salvatori, CEO, Euricse
“E.G. has made a major contribution to the history and future impact of cooperative enterprise . . . I hope the 16 recommendations in this narrative will be given serious consideration by cooperative leadership at the global, regional, national and local levels across all sectors.”—Dr. Martin Lowery, Executive Vice President Emeritus, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, International Cooperative Alliance board member and Chair, ICA Cooperative Identity Committee
See our press release here.