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Donald Trump’s Campaign Has Become a Cult

Friday's rally in Charlotte took Trumpism to a frightening new level.

Brian Blanco / Getty Images

The Trump campaign has has turned into something new: a cult.

The fact hit me a few minutes after I entered the Charlotte Convention Center on Friday night and heard supporters openly blaming the women who’ve recently come forward to accuse Donald Trump of sexually assaulting them. The Trump faithful were more than ready to cut down anyone standing in their leader’s way.

“They’re gold diggers,” I heard an old woman say.

“Let’s call them what they are,” said a woman in a “Proud Deplorable” shirt. “They’re whores.”

Throughout the night there were similar strains of the same conversation. Everyone was in agreement that there was no veracity to the women’s claims, that it was just another dirty trick by “Crooked Hillary” to defeat Trump, a man so good, another woman explained, holding out her quaking hand, “It makes me shake to think they’d hurt a man like that.”

But the questioning of the women’s accounts didn’t stop at skepticism. In a cult, when confronted with conflicting evidence, it’s oftentimes necessary to go to extreme lengths to sustain the shared narrative. Here, in Charlotte, they were more than ready to go to those lengths.

One man noted to his friend that it was suspicious that Trump was accused of sexual improprieties just as former Fox News head Roger Ailes has been. “You reckon Fox is in on it?” he asked aloud.

But the most disgusting suspicion concerned the accusers’ attractiveness.

“Trump dates models,” a woman in a red-white-and-blue blouse said. “Did you see that woman?” she asked, referring to Jessica Leeds, who says Trump groped her on a plane in the 1980s. “You think he was so hard up?”

Trump has continued to feed that same narrative by mentioning how unattractive he finds the women. At a rally in Greensboro earlier on Friday, Trump referred to reporter Natasha Stoynoff’s claim that he assaulted her while she was interviewing him in 2005 for a profile in People magazine. “Take a look. You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so, I don’t think so.”

Trump’s followers didn’t think so, either.

“Women say all the time they’ve been raped,” said a man in a Trump/Pence shirt. “They lie all the time.”

A cult is only as secure as they are willing to isolate themselves from the outside world, and Trump, who has called for a wall along the Mexican border to keep out others, is busy building a metaphorical wall to protect his followers from outsiders who might contradict his message.

“Maybe we should boycott that issue,” Trump said of the new issue of People that details Stoynoff’s claims.

The crowd not only cheered, but they slipped into their now-familiar chant: “Lock them up, lock them up, lock them up.”

The “lock her up” chant, usually reserved for Hillary Clinton, has grown to encompass anybody who threatens the Trump cult.

Last night it was his accusers.

Lock them up, lock them up.

The FBI who chose not to indict Clinton.

Lock them up, lock them up.

The dishonest media.

Lock them up, lock them up.

They were chanting it on the floor before he got there, throughout his speech, on the escalators as they rode their way out of the convention space, and then outside, in the faces of the protestors holding signs reading “Don’t Grab My Pussy,” a reference to Trump’s now-infamous admission of sexual assault.

“You might live in Fairytale Land,” one supporter told a female protestor, “but you aren’t a princess.”

There were confrontations everywhere. Arguments between white supporters and black protestors. Rapid-fire insults. A young man told a black protestor he “still wasn’t free” and that he should have some pride and “at least make the Democrats work for your vote.”

Things reached a fever pitch. A protestor was chased off, tears streaming down his face. “I don’t want to go to jail tonight,” he said, before dodging cars in the street.

“Don’t believe the polls!” the man who’d chased him screamed. “Polls are lies! They’re telling you lies! Polls are lies! Don’t believes the polls!”