Today's conservative movement is more than just a bit cult-like.
The modern, tea party-inflected conservative movement is based on a few core principles. Global warming is a hoax. Income inequality hasn't been growing. Tax cuts don't increase the deficit. America has the best healthcare in the world. Evolution is a myth. The economy is weak because of regulatory uncertainty. Barack Obama is a socialist.
How can you tell something is a cult? The existence of an impermeable barrier which blocks true believers from acknowledging reality. This worrisome trend in the conservative movement has been evident for a while. In Aug 2005, I wrote:
So what we have is a Republican Party that has decided science and facts have no place in informing policy. They are the true believers who Eric Hoffer warned of in his definitive book from 1951, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. Hoffer wrote that one defining characteristic of true believers is the willing suspension of reality because the doctrine they cling to is what defines the ultimate truth.
All active mass movements strive, therefore, to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth nor certitude outside it. The facts on which the true believer bases his conclusions must not be derived from his experience or observation but from holy writ. “So tenaciously should we cling to the world revealed by the Gospel, that were I to see all the Angels of Heaven coming down to me to tell me something different, not only would I not be tempted to doubt a single syllable, but I would shut my eyes and stop my ears, for they would not deserve to be either seen or heard.” To rely on the evidence of the senses and of reason is heresy and treason. It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible.
Welcome to the reality of the true believer.