“Much of the world and half the country will breathe a sigh of relief that the four years of psychodrama have ended,” intoned the sober and disinterested Matt Frei of Channel 4 News last night. Perhaps one oughtn’t to expect too much impartial discernment from this particular programme: his comment comes a decade or so after their agèd abbot Jon Snow observed as George W Bush left office: “The nightmare is over, I think we can call it a nightmare without in anyway being anything other than objective.” For Channel 4 News, Republican presidents (like Conservative prime ministers) herald torment and horror; Democrats are beatific visions of ecstasy.
So shall it be with Joe Biden.
President Trump left office with an appeal for the world to meditate on the success of his mission: he renewed the spirit of his country, he said: he made America great again:
Four years ago, I came to Washington as the only true outsider ever to win the presidency. I had not spent my career as a politician, but as a builder looking at open skylines and imagining infinite possibilities. I ran for President because I knew there were towering new summits for America just waiting to be scaled. I knew the potential for our nation was boundless as long as we put America first.
People can reflect on the truth or otherwise of his stated accomplishments, all achieved, he acknowledged, “with the support and prayers of the American people”. But what isn’t in doubt is something of the truth of Matt Frei’s assessment: Donald Trump revelled in the psychodrama he engineered; the opera he himself composed and starred in. He created a theatrical cult which was more concerned with fulfilling the deepest sources of religious feelings than it was with effecting policy. He wasn’t so much focused on the detail of a programme for government or the doctrines of political philosophy – indeed, so much of his presidency seemed to be randomly buffeted by ‘events’; more reactive than coherently visionary – as consummating a promise to transcend the murky swamp and solve the unknown riddles of the political world of Washington.
He became to a very great many Americans an enormously exalted father figure; not quite the messiah, but certainly a type of saviour. Only he could truly understand the cries of his children and the needs of men and women who thronged to touch the hem of his coat. They gave him their prayers; he gave them signs of present relief and visions of a future hope. You might think them infantile, deluded and detached from reality. But he respected them as true believers in his light and in his art.
When life is too hard, crammed with pains, disappointments and impossible tasks, there is a natural yearning for something better, some more to mitigate the misery and deflect from the despondency. Some find it jogging or gardening; others in alcohol or sex; others in cannabis or coke; and others in the intense satisfaction of political idolatry. They may all be illusions of sorts, but only the political cult offers the fantasy of an enduring ecstasy; the building of a New Jerusalem. All the others are utterly ephemeral; intoxicating for hours, and then reality hits, or slowly emerges out of a comatose haze of contentment. In the Cult of Trump came purpose and value; fellowship and fraternity; enjoyment and faith. The Cult leader made his disciples feel empowered; to believe that they existed for a special purpose; that they were born uniquely for such a times as this. And so they strived for happiness in his service; a happiness which was promised before the foundation of the world. And only he can satisfy, so only he can be anointed President.
The other is an imposter; the Anti-President; the spawn of Satan.
The Cult of Trump was a divine revelation: he brought order over the arbitrary; civilisation over chaos; light over darkness. Millions of Americans genuinely believe that, and all they receive in return from the main media and ‘Big Tech’ is contempt, ridicule, disbelief and derision. You can’t understand the inner mysteries of the Cult unless or until you have been inducted: faith comes from hearing, and hearing by entering the steadfast, affectionate, healing faith.
Donald Trump was and is a flawed vessel for the prophetic illumination: if the medium is the message, he erected more barriers and stumbling blocks than angels of light ought if their revelation is to be received and believed by the masses. And yet God told Hosea to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2), and He told Ezekiel to eat human faeces (Ezekiel 4:12). Perhaps the Cult of Trump harbours a deeper motivation and a more wondrous revelation that may become clear in the future. That’s the great thing about cults: the readiness for the age of universal love and peace for mankind is always a prophecy for tomorrow; the perpetual promise of a land flowing with milk and honey is worth waiting for, hoping for, believing in, and trusting him.
And perhaps the day after tomorrow the Cult Leader will be back – if ever, indeed, he really goes away.