What Drives Trump’s True Believers?

Of course not all supporters of Donald John Trump are folks that can be technically classified as fanatical true believers — those whom the Donald claimed that even he were to shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue they would continue to support him. The Donald may not know much of anything of substance, but like his old hero, Adolf, and pal, Vladimir, he does understand how to manipulate the dark underbelly of human nature. Possibly because they are the sorts of folks that he is attracted to and in turn they are the ones that latch ahold of him.

Beside the hardcore true believers that glue themselves to Trump there are the super greedy ones who see Trump as a means to gain even more obscene wealth. And last but not least there’s the majority of today’s Republican politicians desperate to hold on to personal power and see demonstrating their devotion to the orange moron as the only approach to accomplish such a selfish intention, over that which best serves country’ — Trump being an existential danger not only to the nation but to the entire world.

But these latter Republicans are living in a fantasyland. In the end the Donald is a destroyer who kills all he touches (think COVID 19). When he is done with many of his devotees he stabs them in the back simply for his own sadistic pleasure. Take for instance George P Bush, the son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the latter that Trump insulted in every conceivable way.

After having trashed the entire Bush clan, the younger political Bush nevertheless went upon his knees to suck up to the Donald, saying what a great leader and president that Trump had been. Thus making himself a disgraceful fool toward the Donald, what did Trump do? With awesome gratification Trump endorsed young Bush’s primary opponent. That, my friends, is the snake in the grass that silly Republican politicians are pinning their futures upon ever so tightly.

Make no mistake about it, Trump, in the end, will relish the notion of killing off the Republican Party no less so than the countless individuals he has turned against over his lifetime. However, let’s forget about Trump’s greedy and political suck ups. At least with them there’s a perverted sense of rational purpose, but what is it with the average Dick and Jane MAGA hats that form the hard core of Trump’s true believer, personality cult?

I’m aghast at how many talking head political commentator’s say that they are at a loss to explain Donald Trump’s millions of average Joe supporters. Sure the Trump base is saturated with a whole spectrum of race bigots all the way from, “some of my best friends are black,“ to, “one way or the other we’ve got to get those folks out of our White, Christian nation.”

To comprehend bigotry and hate on the most fundamental level requites understanding some basic psychology of the fanatical true believer mindset, which is a profound undertaking that many folks are want to avoid like the plague. Perhaps this is why when taking heads say that they don’t understand the nonstop grafter and pathological liar’s attraction, it’s because they sense that such a revealing truth is too deep and unwanted to be know even by quite liberal audiences.

In any event, when I hear commentators at a loss to understand the mind of Trump fanatics, I just want to scream at the TV — “read the ‘True Believer,’ you oafs.” You see, Folks, way back in the middle of the last century a self-made man, Eric Hoffer, became an American writer on social and political philosophy. His first book, The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements (1951) has since become recognized as a little gem of a book on mass-movements and the psychological foundation of fanaticism.

This pocket-sized book reduces many volumes of overly complex psychological babble to an easily digestible read by any thoughtful high school level graduate. The following are classic samples of Hoffer insights that would fit the Trump fanatic like a glove.


“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.”

In this Hoffer is setting the table for the “other” to blame and hate.

“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.”

In this one we can see Trump’s brushing aside expert opinion as inferior to his own and the disregard for America’s traditional allies. “I alone can fix it.”

“It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible.”

“Propaganda … serves more to justify ourselves than to convince others; and the more reason we have to feel guilty, the more fervent our propaganda.”

In these two qw can recognize the Fox News (Tucker Carlson in particular) and other right wing media disinformation machines insulating the self-hatred of their viewers from themselves.

“People with a sense of fulfillment think it is a good world and would like to conserve it as it is, while the frustrated favor radical change.”

How many Trump voters said they voted for the TV reality show host simply because they wanted to shake things up? Apparently they didn’t consider, or weren’t capable of considering that turning a bull loose in a China shop might not be a safe or sane thing to do. But then again, if one sees one’s life as irredeemably spoiled what do they care if Trump puts everyone else’s life at risk.

“The enemy — the indispensible devil of every mass movement — is omnipresent. He plots both outside and inside the ranks of the faithful. It is his voice that speaks through the mouth of the dissenter, and the deviationists are his stooges. If anything goes wrong within the movement, it is his doing. It is the sacred duty of the true believer to be suspicious. He must be constantly on the lookout for saboteurs, spies and traitors.”

Trump uses each of his faithful ones to keep the others in line. For instance, perhaps many of the Trump faithful would actually like to get vaccinated, but theu fear the wrath of their fellow true believers.

Thus if business would require that workers be vaccinated it might provide political cover for what many MAGA hats wish to do. “Yah, I didn’t want to get vaccinated, but what could I do. I need the job.”

“There is perhaps no surer way of infecting ourselves with virulent hatred toward a person than by doing him a grave injustice.”

White guilt of America’s misfits partially explains White hatred against folks of color.

“An effective mass movement cultivates the idea of sin. It depicts the autonomous self not only as barren and helpless but also as vile. To confess and repent is to slough off one’s individual distinctness and separateness, and salvation is found by losing oneself in the holy oneness of the congregation.”

Trump’s MEGA rallies are always choreographed as a revival meeting with the Donald leading his admiring congregation against the loathsome deep state and traitorous liberal Democrats.

These few samples barely scratch the surface of Eric Hoffers’ insightful, little, book of profound discernments. Perhaps the most meaningful book I have ever read.


Jim Ridgway, Jr. military writer — author of the American Civil War classic, “Apprentice Killers: The War of Lincoln and Davis.” Christmas gift, yes!