My friend Kathleen Smith is an opinionated woman. Recently she made a comment on a Facebook post about losing friends to Trump, writing, “It’s not a Liberal vs Conservative thing. It’s a basic human decency vs being a selfish asshole thing.”
The post Kathleen commented on was made by Markham Hislop of Energi Media. He wrote, “Until 4 or 5 years ago, I had plenty of conservative friends . . . Then Trump happened. And 95% of those conservatives went thundering after him and became anti-science, climate-denying, Fox News-loving, rabidly partisan assholes.”
Trump helped me find out my loving grandmother is actually a hateful racist. We had no idea. –Kathryn
I’m not in favor of punting people from your life due to mere political differences. But conflicting moralities can be a bridge too far. When they support policies that restrict basic human rights to others, deny women sovereignty over their own bodies, and when faced with babies in cages ask, “Why don’t they come here legally?” it’s difficult for a compassionate person to continue such a relationship.
I have lost more than one. An entire family is gone for me now. And they are Canadian. But far right extremism has no borders. –Katriana
Trumpism is, in many ways, a cult, one for which cruelty is a binding force. It has numerous call signs of a cult. For many of its followers, the leader is not just admired but considered a near-infallible source of information. Dissent is not only discouraged, but those who do so are considered traitors. The members hold themselves up as being superior to others. The ends justify the means; Trump is known as a flawed man, but that’s okay because he’s doing such awesome things for the country. There is a strong us vs. them mentality. The leader is seen as above the law. Also, there is a preoccupation with money. All of these things are part of the cult mentality.
I’ve lost a ton of friends, but the person that hit hardest was my mom. I came out as trans and she came out as a Trump supporter . . . We were incredibly close up until that point. –Christina
There has been no shortage of messianic figures selling a load of shite to Americans throughout history, but this is the first time that so many have been sucked in, elevating an outspoken racist to the most powerful office in the land. In part, it was a backlash against President Obama. It began with the Tea Party and festered from there because a sizeable portion of the population simply could not abide having a black man in the White House.
My mother, a lifelong Democrat, was drooling over trump because she was so happy about getting rid of “that brown one,” and all of his policies. –Susie
They seethed and stewed in their barely closeted (or public) racism for eight years over it, and then along comes savior Trump, who had the “street cred” of many years of vocal bigotry directed at President Obama. Donnie told them their racism was okay. It was American. Embrace your deplorableness.
Here’s a quote….from a family member, just after trump took office…”at least with trump, we can call a n*gger a n*gger again.” Followed by….”I’m not a racist”. –Cathy
Remember last summer when Trump looked toward the sky and said, “I am the chosen one”? And Rick Perry, who served as Secretary of Energy from 2017 to 2019, responded to that by saying of the IMPOTUS, “You are here in this time because God ordained you.” And there are no shortage of religious leaders and self-proclaimed Christians who agree.
They are devout conservative Christians who judge tattoos, alcohol, divorce, sex outside marriage, swearing, not attending church, dancing, etc. etc. but then they believe Trump is a gift sent from God who is doing God’s work. The extreme hypocrisy has caused me to lose what little respect I had left for them and I have no desire to see or speak to any of them ever again. –Sarah
One problem with the cultish nature of Trumpism is that it breeds vehemence and absolute loyalty in his followers. Long-time friends and family will be cast aside if they are not on the Trump train. Since Trump is ordained by God, anyone who opposes Trump is seen to be against God.
My relationship with my mom might be irreparably damaged. In her eyes, Trump can do no wrong. I used to think of my mom as this smart, loving, cheerful woman. But ever since Trump ran for and was subsequently elected president, she’s become cynical. Logic has completely flown out the window . . . We used to be so close, but this makes me wonder if I never really knew her. –Alice
The fact that so many Trumpanzees are impervious to logic is telling. He can blatantly lie, and there can be undeniable proof that he lied, and the cultists will not hear it. They will engage in the most extreme of mental gymnastics to deny that the fake-tanned führer is anything but perfect.
My grandfather after my grandmother showed him the video of Trump mocking a disabled man legit said, “That’s fake news. That’s photoshopped.” –Brianna
This does not mean all Trump voters are part of the cult. Beyond the backlash against Obama, there are numerous reasons why people voted for Trump that don’t include being sucked fully into his orange aura. Automation has taken away millions of jobs, and people were looking to blame and break with the establishment. Additionally, many still live in fear of “others” in a post 9/11 world and imagine a “war on white people” or a “war on Christianity” or that Hillary was going to take their guns. When President Obama spoke of certain people who “cling to guns and religion,” he was right. And such people see Trump as the only way to fight back.
My dad was the first person who taught me about racism and he was the first person to teach me about sexism and equality, but the man loves an underdog and he loves conspiracy. It blows my mind that he has progressive values but somehow sees something in Donald trump that maybe reminds him of himself . . . Somehow he’s managed to project his own insecurities and identify with poor misunderstood Donald. –Amber
There was also a lot of hatred for Hillary Clinton—who was smeared mercilessly for three decades by the GOP—that people were voting against rather than for Trump. The last minute “but her emails” investigation announcement by James Comey (fuck that guy) tipped even more people against her. She also had the audacity to be a woman running for president, and was punished for it. And yet, she still beat Trump in the popular vote.
My father, an immigrant who lives off social security in government subsidized housing, got very comfortable talking about how much he hates immigrants and how they live off the government after Trump got elected . . . When he started talking about the fact that it was his job to educate children about the evils of Islam we cut ties to protect my children. I really miss my dad –AH
And some people are just diehard Republicans no matter who is steering the ship. It doesn’t mean these people are part of a cult. But with 46% of Trump voters saying they believed God wanted Trump to be president, there are plenty who qualify as cult followers.
If you have ditched your loving friends and family to embrace the lies of a hate-filled egomaniac who only cares what he can take from you—if your personality has changed where you become obsessive over your support of the leader—you’re in a cult.
I lost one of my closest friends from childhood. We were in each other’s wedding parties. She has gone so deep into the Trump cult that I don’t even recognize her anymore. –LeeAnne
This type of Trumpism changes people. The person you once knew and loved has been supressed. They’ve been coopted by evil. They’ve gone to the dark side, and—either metaphorically or literally, depending on your beliefs—allowed Trump to corrupt their souls.
My mother, who worked in healthcare the last 25 years, swallowed the 45 pill. She thinks Medicare for All is evil and means she won’t have healthcare anymore and how the Affordable Care Act made it difficult for people to pay for services. Of course I’m the “brainwashed” one when I tell her she’s factually incorrect. –Katherine
Fear is evolutionary. It is selected for because an awareness of danger helps keep people alive. We all have fears, all the time, and Trumpism—as many tyrants have done throughout history—has weaponized fear. Fox News. Rush Limbaugh. One America News. Breitbart. These and many others are the propaganda wing of the cult of Trump, tapping into that fear and transforming it into anger and hatred.
My father had a stroke on election night because he thought Hillary was going to win. I wish I was joking. –Jacqi
Robert Heinlein said, “You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic.” Paranoia transformed into something actionable is soothing. That anger and hatred gives them a sense of control over the fear.
What is to be done?
For those who despise what Trump espouses there is little understanding his allure, the pull he has to transform the personalities of those who once appeared normal, and now are in thrall. It might be nice to say, “Don’t give up on them,” but there is only so much emotional labor a person can put toward what may well be a lost cause.
My dad’s side of the family. Even ones who were more left-leaning ended up taking a hard right turn. As a bisexual female with friends who are trans and/or people of color, suddenly everything about me was whining and over-sensitivity because I’m a snowflake libtard who has no understanding of her own life or circumstances. I haven’t spoken to any of them for two years. –Michelle
I do think it’s okay to give up on them. Life is too short to expose yourself to their hatred and vitriol and accusations of being a libtard snowflake with Trump Derangement Syndrome. (Note: Not a real syndrome.) Self-preservation may require you to cut them out of your life and hope that one day they’ll again see the light.
My father-in-law fell hard for Trump. He used to be very accepting of everyone, every walk of life. His family sponsored Syrian refugee families with their church. Now he bashes refugees, “fags”, calls people snowflakes, etc, and has suggested that anyone who doesn’t accept “our way of life should go home.” How do I tell him his grandson is bisexual, and known and accepted by everyone else in the family? –Julie
Those who have lost love ones to the Trump cult are in a challenging position. If they hold values fundamentally opposed to Trumpism, it behooves them to call out his atrocities. But you do not change people’s minds by attacking their beliefs. So what are you to do? Keep attending get-togethers and refuse to discuss politics? When they go on and on about “the gays,” do you fight back because your child just came out to you? Or even just because you find homophobia to be disgusting? Or do you let it slide? Do you counter their anti-immigrant proclamations because the bigotry sickens you, or pretend you didn’t hear it?
I’ve lost my mom to Trumpism. We barely speak at all anymore . . . She used to preach love and acceptance to us. Now, she only preaches hate and intolerance. –Carissa
Because if you fight them, they’ll dig deeper. Again, not all Trump voters are delusional zealots. But for those who are, criticizing their leader is a sure way to get them to stop listening and brand you as the enemy.
So perhaps it’s best to just step away, remove yourself, and hope.
The family is now broken and I don’t think it will be repairable. I’ve cut ties with them. It’s like they’re dead but obviously still alive and I grieve every day . . . It’s devastating because we were pretty close. –Linda
Society goes through shifts. There are good times and bad. Sometimes there is progress, and in other eras we move toward fascism. Populist leaders come and go. None are immortal.
My family no longer gets together for Christmas. –Dawn
Sometimes it takes a war to end the horror. Hitler had to die, a country had to be brutally beaten into submission and ruled by outside powers who engaged in a postwar campaign of “denazification” to bring Nazism to an end. But other times, people just . . . move on.
Early in the Cold War, McCarthyism—the relentless hunt for communists, subversives, and traitors in the United States without consideration for actual evidence—ran rampant. It seemed much of the country had gone insane with its latest “red scare.” But a couple of key events, including Supreme Court decisions, saw support for McCarthyism rapidly fall apart in the 1950s. Another example is Richard Nixon, who carried 49 states in the 1972 election, yet saw his support evaporate only a couple of years later.
The end of Trumpism may come quickly and quietly, or it may be long, drawn out, and horrific. It may be something in between. But it will end. Some of those friends and family you lost to Trumpism may never return, lamenting the loss of their savior. Others, like those who came to regret supporting Hitler, may one day feel shame and return to reason.
Their insanity may prove temporary. If you decide they are worth it, be there to welcome them back into your life once the veil has been lifted. But one must not merely back away and wait. The lifting can be accelerated at the societal level when compassionate and inspired people work together and resist.
The time is now. If you’re not sure what you can do, start with reading my piece “Be a Hero.”
This is kind of the end of the article except not really. I asked for stories and received hundreds. I can’t publish them all, but more stories from heartbroken people who lost family and friends to the cult of Trump continue below. If you have your own similar story to share: READ / PROVIDE COMMENTS FOR THIS ARTICLE.
I am a Brit that moved to America. I lost both my ex wife and my son to the Trump fervour. It wasn’t her but her family, I argued against this as an immigrant and day after day we all fell apart. The family demographic became me as the enemy, the immigrant, vs the American people that are so much better than the rest of us. In time, around 3 months after my son’s birth, it hit a massive head and I was forced to leave. They called ICE on me actually. I spent 5 weeks in an American jail only to be released as innocent. I left America after that joke of justice and what was clearly rampant societal and legal xenophobia, and I have been in an international custody battle for my son whom is a British citizen also ever since. –Liam
I have lost my mother to Trump . . . I knew it was bad, but the enormity of it crystalized when my mother looked me in the eye and said, “Honey, you’ve lost your moral compass,” when I spoke against (I think it was) kids in cages . . . My anger at all of this knows no limits, and I mourn the change in our relationship. –Paula
My adult child is a Trump supporter . . . Both myself and their other parent are at a loss because it seems that they have been radicalized and there is no room for reason . . . I can’t understand my child seeing anyone as less than human but yet to hear them speak of immigrants breaks my heart . . . It’s so very hard to continue loving someone who has become filled with so much hate, that seems to idolize a daft, racist, sexist, lying, pompous, dangerous, power hungry, predator. –Anonymous
My hippy parents were the original California Dreamers from the 60s/70s my mom burnt her bras and grew weed. My Dad went into medicine. After Trump my father embraced his guns like they were Wonkas golden ticket and now posts about how immigrants are the bane of all existence. These are people who literally set up soup kitchens in the Philippines and are now saying it’s fine to lock up children in cages. It breaks my heart. –Anonymous
My Dad is a big supporter of Trump, and as a PWD [person with disabilities], I can’t help but feel betrayed. Knowing my own Father voted for a man who mocked a PWD just fuckin’ hurts. I haven’t told him this, but it really colors what I think of my dad. –Christopher
I’ve been BFFs with a man for 10 years, and we’ve supported each other through many ups and downs. We’ve always known our political leanings, no big deal. Until it all blew up one night when he sent me ranting texts about how I was a “tree hugging liberal” and “one of those women”…all because I didn’t like his Trump bear. That’s right, a fucking stuffed animal. I even tried to mend things, saying our friendship was more important. But he held his ground…said my not wanting to snuggle Trump bear insulted “it” and he couldn’t get past that. –Anonymous
I have a very strained relationship with my mother due to Trump. She is obsessed. After he was elected she started to follow other racist right wing politicians here in Australia . . . We’ve had so many clashes yet she brings up Trump whenever we are together. –Anonymous
I lost my parents to Trump. My father was mostly career military and my mother was a nurse. Both worked in public health and were a bit hippie when I was younger (early 80’s). I have not spoken to my parents since Dec. 2018 and they have minimal contact with my children. –Laura
We are Canadians, living in Canada. My husband’s unhealthy obsession with the daily reports and tweets of that man have adversely affected our relationship. I dread going home each day because I don’t want to hear what he has to say. –Karen
I am baffled as to how my parents, who by word and deed raised 6 thoughtful, empathetic, caring people who cherish the earth and all the beings we share it with, ended up so afraid. –Julie
My relationship with my dad has been absolutely SHATTERED by the cult of Trump. He was always my rock, and since we now disagree politically, he has made choices intentionally to hurt me that have nothing to do with politics . . . He isn’t currently speaking to me and won’t be attending my wedding at the end of next month. –Cortney
What breaks my heart is that they are both well educated, science-minded people, and yet they fall for the rhetoric hook, line and sinker. –Kimberly
I had a D&C [a therapeutic gynecological procedure]. Which was heartbreaking and awful . . . I bled for weeks and had 6 months of weekly follow up blood draws to make sure that no little part of leftover fetus was trying to kill me. My cousin screamed at me and called me a murderer. She won’t talk to me anymore. Refers to me as the baby killer. My dad, actually, asked if I was really sure that the fetus couldn’t be saved, since those liberal doctors are keen on killing babies (he heard it on Fox so it must be true). –Elizabeth
Brother is the person. I have been called a liberal cunt and my husband a liberal pussy. All of my family on my mother’s side is all a fan of Trump so I have been gently distancing myself . . . What I can’t understand is that they have all used social programs in the past but because they are white they don’t see the problem with using them. –Anonymous
My husband voted for Trump. When we married he was a Jesse Jackson democrat. His ability to support Trump even minimally has changed him in my mind to a decent guy with flaws like we all have to a man I’m sorry I spent thirty plus years with. –Anonymous
I’ve lost a lot of respect and hope for connection with my spouse through his support of Trump. –Natalie
Trump has ruined the republican party, and has tricked a lot of people into believing his schtick, I just can’t believe my dad is one of them . . . I’m exhausted. –Emily
I am the parent of a bisexual 14 year old daughter. And a 20 year old son that is in the U.S. Army. I have a very hard time reconciling the loving woman that raised me with the lady that is actively supporting a dictator whose actions and rhetoric actively endanger both of my children. –Chris
My dad is completely brainwashed by Fox/Trumpism. He sent my son some money for his birthday last year and it fell out of the card somewhere. He started to try and blame it on the illegal aliens (??) until I interrupted to say I am not going to listen to his bull. He told me to never call him again. I haven’t. –Sharlee
My brother, who I love. He says he doesn’t see color, doesn’t believe in white privilege, thinks all people get the same chance to succeed in the U.S., and calls people like me libtards. –Tricia
My husband’s closest friend. They’ve been friends since high school soccer 30 years ago. Both are conservative republicans. My husband remains a true republican (he hates Trump, didn’t vote for him and believes he’s ruined the party) while his friend joined the Cult of Trump. Last straw was when BF called my husband a “Liberal” for having the audacity to watch and support the USWNT in the World Cup. –JoAnn
My oldest brother. At a family dinner a couple of years ago, he was praising the Trump economy and policies; the rest of us tried to rationalize with him, and he went OFF on all of us, eventually telling us all to “go f**k yourself!!”. My mom and sister ended up in tears, my youngest brother’s wife was extra verbally abused by him (in front of her young kids) for “daring” to try to calm him down. The family hasn’t been the same . . . And we’re Canadian. –Tracy
A close friend, more like a brother: this regime made him comfortable to reveal to me that he believes my race made me succumb to constant victim hood in the modern era, and he was tired of me complaining about the “fake” injustices I and so many others have seen or witnessed by the regime and supporters of the regime. –Jeremija
A good friend of 14 years now sees me as a baby killing anti-american socialist. That’s the short version. –Ryan
My new book THE HOLY SH!T MOMENT, is now available. GET IT HERE!
James S. Fell, MA, MBA, has bylines in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, the Guardian, TIME Magazine, and many other publications. His blog has millions of readers and he is the author of two books: The Holy Sh!t Moment: How Lasting Change Can Happen in an Instant (St. Martin’s Press, 2019), and Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind (Random House Canada, 2014). Order them here.