Charlatans like Donald J. Trump succeed because Americans are searching for moral authority and salvation through politics. Interestingly, a number of critics on both sides of the political spectrum have discerned a search for moral authority in the rise of politicians like Trump.
Specifically, Trump’s support is greatest among ex-churchgoers; presumably, people who lost their faith, Timothy P. Carney concludes. In fact, data reveals Trump did best among conservative Christians who are not active churchgoers, Carney estimates. However, polling data from the 2016 presidential primaries indicates Trump has little appeal for active churchgoers.
“But when Middle America turned away from church, they were missing something,” Carney writes at The American Conservative. “And they sought it in Trump.”
Hence, Carney believes Trump is a quasi-religious figure whose appeal is based on moral authority or faith. Notably, Carney, the Commentary Editor at The Washington Examiner, recently wrote a book titled; Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse.
Trump offers Moral Authority and salvation through politics
Under these circumstances, Trump offers followers the restoration of the moral authority the church has lost.
Thus, Trump offers a kind of salvation through politics. Notably, Trump seems to do best in areas where traditional religion is collapsing.
For instance, Trump is very popular in rural regions like West Virginia where mainline Protestantism is dead and Evangelicalism is dying. In addition, Trump does well in heavily Catholic areas like Pennsylvania and Ohio, where the Roman Catholic Church is in total collapse.
It is no coincidence Trump’s rise came as the priest sex abuse scandals blew the American Catholic hierarchy apart. In fact, Trump can be seen as a strong authoritarian father figure for confused Post-Christians.
Obviously, the idea Trump offers any sort of authority is purely delusional. However, there’s another popular delusion that is as absurd and as potentially destructive as Trump as a political savior.
The Rise of the Church of the Universal Mother
Medium writer Umair Haque labels Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) or AOC the “universal mother.” Moreover, Haque thinks Ocasio-Cortez’s universal mother is an antidote to Trump’s “authoritarian father.” Hence, the universal mother is the next salvation through politics.
The destructive delusion both Haque and Trump supporters buy into is that political leaders can serve as moral authorities. In particular, Haque, like the MAGA hat wearers, seems to believe a political leader can take the place of religious authority.
Obviously, this delusion will crash to earth the minute the reality that Ocasio-Cortez and Trump are simply human beings dawns on the true believers. Tellingly, it is disillusioned conservatives who are most fascinated with the universal mother; or Strongwoman, cults growing around figures like AOC, Michelle Obama, U.S. Senator Liz Warren (D-Massachusetts), Oprah, and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-California).
The rise of the cult of the Strongwoman
The cult is that a Strongwoman will reassert lost moral authority, restore faith, and fix a broken government. The delusion being those ignorant, irresponsible, chauvinist, and immature men are responsible for the present mess but Wonder Woman will fix everything.
My prediction is that many Trump followers and the evangelical and traditional Christians frightened by Post-Christian America will gravitate to the Strongwoman cult. In fact, it will be a smart move for liberal female presidential candidates to start campaigning among Evangelical Christians. In particular, Kamala Harris could have strong appeal to cultural conservatives with her background as a tough law and order prosecutor.
To clarify, now that Trump is revealing himself to be the chaos president more interested in disruption than governing, the evangelicals will seek a new protector. Obviously, the mythology of the strong; but compassionate, Queen will attract many disillusioned conservatives and traditionalists.
In the long run, the Evangelicals and others will be as disappointed by the Strongwoman as they were by Trump. However, many of them will become as rabidly devoted to the strong woman as they were to Trump.
In fact, I think many evangelicals will condemn Trump as a fraud and a false prophet the minute he starts mocking their Strongwoman. Hence, they will start accepting the Resistance’s tiresome anti-Trump propaganda as their new Gospel.
What Happens after the Strongwoman?
In the final analysis, we have to ask what happens after the Strongwoman fails to “make America Great again?”
I predict some thoughtful Christians will withdraw from politics completely. In particular, many of them will try to form alternative institutions as American Conservative writer Rod Dreher recommends in his Benedict Option.
Others will turn to the Silicon Valley cults of Technocracy, Artificial Intelligence, and technology. In fact, the first Silicon Valley religion the Way; which worships artificial intelligence as the Godhead, has already applied for tax-exempt status from the IRS.
Notably, influential philosopher Yuval Noah Harari believes the next great faith will emerge from Silicon Valley or Shenzhen. In fact, Harari identifies two varieties of technological religion in his fascinating book Homo Deus.
Technology as God and Salvation from Silicon Valley
Those faiths are Dataism; or the Data Religion, and Techno-Humanism. To enumerate, Dataism is the belief that strategic use of data will solve all our problems.
Interestingly, the nerdy Barrack Obama (D-Illinois) can be described as our first Dataist president. Thus, Trump’s emotion-based anti-scientific strongman cult can be seen as a reaction against the Data Religion.
Meanwhile, Techno-Humanism is the belief that technology will turn human beings into Gods. For instance, the belief that technology will make human beings immortal or super intelligent.
Additionally, there will be cults like the Way built around artificial intelligence and algorithms. To explain, the belief will be government will work if we eliminate those pesky humans from the process. Interestingly, we already see this ideology at work in the popular dialogue about cryptocurrency, the blockchain, and self-driving cars.
Thus, we are still waiting for our first Techno-Humanist president. Largely, I suspect, because Techno-Humanism is still undefined.
The Technocrat as Strongman or Strongwoman
Consequently, we will see the growth of a cult of the technocrat or the nerd as strongman. The idea is that the Silicon Valley executive or inventor will “make America Great Again.”
The first of these individuals; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is already offering voters his services. In fact, The Nation reports Zuckerberg hired political consultants to plot a presidential campaign.
Tellingly, another presidential candidate Andrew Yang claims he is a tech entrepreneur who can solve America’s problems with basic income. Notably, Yang falsely claims to be a tech entrepreneur when he is nothing but a professional politician. Beyond Yang there is PayPal co-founder turned Trump ally, Peter Thiel.
I predict that many of the evangelicals currently backing Trump will fall in line behind a technocratic strongman like Zuckerberg, Yang, or Thiel. In particular, sexist evangelicals will be attracted to an alpha male technocrat as an alternative to the Strongwoman.
Obviously, the most popular figure will be a technocratic strongwoman who makes a pseudo-religious appeal. Fortunately, the Technocratic Strongwoman has not appeared yet but I am sure she is waiting in the wings.
Finally, I predict that all those seeking a Strongman, a Strongwoman, or political savior will be disappointed. Instead, of making America great again the next strongman or strongwoman will leave a trail of disappointment and broken faith in his or her wake.
The Strongman and the Strongwoman will fail
Most likely, the strongman or strongwoman will finish Trump’s total discrediting and disruption of American Christianity. For an interesting take on this see Dreher’s recent American Conservative essay on Spain after the dictatorship of Catholic strongman Generalissimo Francisco Franco.
To explain, Franco was supposed to be the strongman who “made Spain great again” by restoring traditional Catholicism. Instead, Franco left a spiritually dead empty shell of a church and a secular country hostile to Catholicism in his wake.
Like Spain, America will be disappointed by the strongman and the strong woman. History proves there is no salvation through politics; only chicanery.
Only future history will tell if Americans can construct a new faith to replace the ones we have destroyed. However, history teaches that politics cannot take the place of faith or God.