Former President Donald Trump's reign in the White House saw him tell over 30 thousand lies, undergo two impeachments, refuse any and all attempts at accountability, and retaliate against anyone who expressed even a sliver of doubt in his supremacy, regardless of party.
Yet Trump continues to enjoy near unanimous approval from Republican voters and near-unconditional capitulation from almost every Republican elected official at the federal and state levels.
This unwavering devotion led Trump's supporters to call for the execution of his Vice President, Mike Pence, for not throwing out free and fair election results. It's what led his supporters to storm the Capitol and beat police officers. It's what led them to believe the 2020 election was "stolen" despite constant refutation from courts, experts, and Trump's own appointed officials.
Many of Trump's supporters have also resisted basic public safety guidelines in the wake of a pandemic that's killed nearly 600 thousand people. This is in no small part due to the former President's vocal opposition to mask wearing and temporary shutdowns of non-essential businesses, as well as far-right media's disinformation regarding vaccines.
It's become become a confounding phenomenon of the Trump era: his ability to degrade trust in every person and entity, with his words being the only ones that can be trusted.
That's why legions of people have likened him to a cult leader.
Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California knows a thing or two about cults.
In the 1970s, Speier was a staffer for Congressman Leo Ryan. She accompanied him to Jonestown, Guyana to investigate the human rights abuses of Jim Jones, the infamous leader of the Peoples Temple cult.
As Speier, Ryan, and the rest of his team began to board the plane to leave Jonestown, they were ambushed by members of the Peoples Temple. Congressman Ryan was murdered. Speier was shot five times while taking cover behind the wheels of the airplane, and waited nearly 24 hours for assistance. The very same day, Peoples Cult members drank poison Flavor-Aid in a mass murder-suicide that left nearly a thousand cult members dead.
So Speier wasn't being flippant when she compared Trump to Jones in a recent interview with CNN's Brian Stelter.
"There's no question that you could compare Jim Jones as a charismatic leader who would bring his congregation together, force them to do things that were illegal, and then took 900 of them into the jungles of Guyana where, over the course of time, he then convinced them that they should die. ... So you look at Donald Trump, charismatic leader, who was able to continue to talk in terms that appeal to those who are disaffected, disillusioned, and who were looking for something."
As harsh as the comparison may seem, people widely agreed with the Congresswoman.
That Speier survived the massacre made the comparison all the more valid.