The mainstream media calls the mask-averse crowds at Trump’s rallies his base. It’s more accurate to think of the unwavering 40% under his spell as a tribe at war. A war against the liberals and progressives Trump demonizes as "socialists," yes. But it’s ultimately a war against truth.


In this war, facts are viewed as weapons in the arsenal of the enemy. Zero tolerance for reality ("fake facts") is an iron rule.


A political base is typically the product of enlightened self-interest — people choose a party or candidate based on factors like income, occupation, tax fairness, affordable health care, educational opportunities and the like. Such issues as environmental protection and legalized abortion are important but not definitive for voters behaving as rational actors.


What then explains the trance-like hold Trump has over his followers? How does a public personality become a cult figure and leader of a multimillion-member tribe?


Donald Trump’s life that is part legend and part lie. In his telling, he is a self-made billionaire. An art-of-the-deal prodigy. And a "very stable genius." He likes to compare himself to Abraham Lincoln (as he did, again, during the last televised debate).


He’s no altar boy, but ... This past summer he awkwardly held up a Bible in front of St. John’s Church during the protests over the police killing of Floyd George.


Trumpism represents a return to tribalism, a bygone world without nation-states when political power was based on kinship ties — families, clans and tribes. The formal recognition of nation-states only dates back to the mid-17th century. It was a major step away from tribalism toward a higher form of organization based on principles and laws.


Tribalism still tears countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Nigeria apart. Anyone who believes it can’t happen here is not paying attention — in fact, it is happening here.


Trump’s narcissism is a turnoff for a majority of Americans.


But his anti-intellectualism and taste for Big Macs endears him to millions of working class Americans — a solid 40% or more that, magically, can turn a popular majority from winners to losers in the electoral college.


For a president who craves the limelight, the White House is not so much a bully pulpit as a stage. In the famous scene across from Lafayette Park, the church was part of the set; the Bible was a prop. He was playing to a particular audience — his flock.


It’s all theater, of course. All an act.


Many of Trump’s followers clearly view him with a kind of adulation normally reserved for saints or a savior. Many are devout Christians who see Trump as God’s instrument sent to redeem a sinful society and world.


In truth, Trump is a victim of his own practiced deceit. He’s the tragic reality TV president who can’t escape his own success story he created.


He will one day — perhaps soon — take his place among the most spectacular cases of self-deception at the pinnacle of power in recent history. Among the world’s long list of petty demagogues with zero tolerance for the truth.


Tom Magstadt, of Westwood Hills, co-wrote a book first published in 1984, "Understanding Politics."