What’s happening to Adam Kinzinger is frightening … and telling

What’s happening to Adam Kinzinger is frightening … and telling

As many Americans are aware, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger is one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump for his role in inciting the insurrection of Jan. 6. The conservative Air National Guard veteran, currently serving his sixth term in Congress, is one of the few Republicans who declined to fall in behind Donald Trump in the wake of the lethal riots at the U.S. Capitol. He is also one of an even smaller number of Republicans who has gone public in his criticism of Trump, appearing on cable television and late-night news broadcasts to criticize Trump’s actions.

And just like the seven U.S. senators who voted for Trump’s conviction in his second impeachment trial, Kinzinger is now suffering an intense backlash from a Republican Party that is now virtually indistinguishable from a cult.

Yet if you wanted a snapshot of what the Republican Party has become under Donald Trump, you need look no farther than this letter, penned by a cousin of Kinzinger and signed by several members of the congressman’s own family.

The letter reads, in part:

Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God! We were once so proud of your accomplishments! Instead, you go against your Christian principals and join the “devil’s army” (Democrats and the fake news media). How do you call yourself a Christian when you join the devils army believing in abortion! We thought you were “smart” enough to see how the left is brainwashing so many “so called good people” including yourself and many other GOP members. You have even fallen for their socialism ideals! So, so sad!

(all emphasis and errors are the writer’s own)

If the reflexive censure of those senators—a punishment normally reserved by a political party for its most errant members—was insufficient evidence of the GOP’s transformation into an out-and-out cult, then the “shunning” of Congressman Kinzinger by his own family members should put any doubts to rest.

As reported by The New York Times:

As the Republican Party censures, condemns and seeks to purge leaders who aren’t in lock step with Donald J. Trump, Adam Kinzinger, the six-term Illinois congressman, stands as enemy No. 1 — unwelcome not just in his party but also in his own family, some of whom recently disowned him.

At the outset, it should be emphasized that the imposition of such mass censuring is not “typical” behavior for a political party or its adherents in addressing dissident voices within their ranks, nor is it at all typical for a politician’s own family to “disown” him. Rather, this is more akin to what cults do when faced with an “apostate” who questions the cult—or worse, seeks to leave. Cults, not political parties, close ranks and attack the person they perceive as the heretic. Cults, not political parties, attempt to isolate the offender, in order to make an example of him/her to the rest of the cult.

The author of the letter was Karen Otto, Mr. Kinzinger’s cousin, who paid $7 to send it by certified mail to Mr. Kinzinger’s father — to make sure the congressman would see it, which he did. She also sent copies to Republicans across Illinois, including other members of the state’s congressional delegation.

“I wanted Adam to be shunned,” she said in an interview.

Otto’s correspondence to her cousin is particularly revealing, with respect to how Trump’s “cult” is being nurtured and sustained through systemic allusion to Christian religious dogma, specifically of the apocalyptic, white evangelical variety. The use of foundational, textual materials, which serve to separate the cult from those perceived as non-believers, is a hallmark of cults, ranging from Scientology and the Moon Unification Church (or “Moonies”), to more insular, religious and quasi-religious sects such as the Branch Davidians and the Amish, who are known for actually institutionalizing the cruel practice of “shunning.” 

As indicated in Otto’s letter, Trump’s devotees are employing the same type of religious interpretation in justifying Donald Trump’s position as his cult’s leading spiritual figure.

Obviously, you did not hear President Trump’s “Christmas message” to the American people (fake news media did not cover his message) where he actually gave the plan of salvation, instructing people how to repent and ask the Savior into their heart to be “Born Again!”

The implications of what is happening to Kinzinger, and similarly situated Republicans who have publicly opposed Trump, shouldn’t be minimized or underestimated. A politically based cult that can drive people to cast out their own family members, or one that can prompt ordinary politicians to collectively excommunicate their members presents a clear and present danger to democratic institutions. Cults are at their most dangerous when they are under threat from an outside “enemy”; in the case of Trump’s burgeoning cult, the catalyst for that danger here is the inexplicable and confusing loss of an election that the cult leader himself (falsely) guaranteed he had won.

With shockingly few exceptions, members of the Republican Party have allowed themselves to be co-opted by a toxic cult mentality that is now dictating the actions of the party itself. The fact that this mentality is being driven by a powerful but largely unexamined religious fervor in our society makes it even more dangerous. 

This is not at all normal, and we are in truly uncharted waters.

See also: Daily Kos’ La Feminista takes on the Kinzinger family letter

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