Former President Donald Trump exploited bigotry, economic frustrations, and nationalism to mobilize an unconditionally loyal base of supporters.
Though Trump told more than 30 thousand lies in his four years in the White House, it's commonplace to hear his supporters praise his honesty, presenting him as the only truthful person in Washington. Fawning supporters have labeled him as the biblical "good samaritan" and so-called journalists have berated veterans who dared issue one critique of Trump's regime.
An unignorable faction of Trump's supporters even subscribe to the QAnon conspiracy theory, which hinges on the idea that Trump was sent by God to expose a covert network of satanic, cannibal pedophiles secretly controlling the government.
Trump has used his supporters' devotion to erode their faith in American democracy, mobilize them to intimidate election officials, and rally them to stage a deadly failed insurrection against the United States Capitol.
He's also used this worship to drain funds from his everyday donors, tricking them into recurring donations and pocketing donations even to this day.
Trump's allies still exploit this unconditional support, but now they're guilting the supporters instead, judging by a text from the National Republican Congressional Committee, calling donors "traitors" for not donating enough.
The text read:
"You're a traitor… You abandoned Trump. We were told you were a tried & true, lifelong patriot. But when Trump said he'd run for President if we took back the House from Nancy Pelosi … You did nothing. Was Trump wrong about you? This is your final chance to prove your loyalty or be branded a deserter. We're giving you one final chance to stand with Trump. You only have 17 minutes."
And it's likely not a coincidence that the NRCC gave recipients only 17 minutes. "Q" is the 17th letter of the alphabet, and Trump's die-hard supporters who believe in QAnon have been taught to look for signals secretly confirming the existence of the anonymous 8chun whistleblower "Q."
This, along with the faux disappointment designed to guilt supporters who want to be adored by Trump, led people to deem the base, and its leaders, a cult.
People sensed a downward slide further into authoritarianism.