“As people put together more and more pieces of the puzzle,” Perkins told the New York Times, “they can see, yeah, this is real.”
Reality check: No, it’s not. It’s crazy talk, on the level of the paranoid speculation in Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” that Russians were using fluoride to taint Americans’ “precious bodily fluids.”
I’m not sure I could find a sitting GOP senator who, if given truth serum, would admit to actually believing such paranoid nonsense. But plenty are willing to play footsie with QAnon followers by speaking of the imaginary deep state as if it were real.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), for example, complained last year that there are “Republican senators up here whose allegiance is more to the deep state than it is to the president.” At the time, Paul was arguing that the Senate should be holding hearings about Trump’s claim that the whole investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was nothing but a conspiracy to destroy Trump’s presidency.
If paranoid rants like this were just electoral performance art, that would be deplorable enough. But Republicans are using the power of their office to grant wishes to fantasists such as Paul, and to bolster conspiracy-minded voters who crave the feeling that they’re always on the brink of a major revelation.
Senate committee chairmen are reportedly preparing subpoenas for documents and testimony to investigate how Trump’s campaign “was treated like a hostile foreign power by our own law enforcement,” in the words of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), because of “wild theories of Russian collusion.”
Those of us grounded in reality know Russia interfered with the 2016 election in an effort to boost Trump’s chances of winning. The Trump campaign at least welcomed this interference, and there was evidence of possible collusion — more than enough for Trump’s own Justice Department to launch the investigation by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. But for nonbelievers, that’s just what the “deep state” and the puppet-masters want you to believe happened.
It’s not only voters who engage in this kind of contortion. This week, Senate Republicans presented, with fanfare, an email that President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, wrote to herself on Inauguration Day 2017 describing a White House meeting two weeks earlier about the Russia investigation. Shockingly, she wrote that Obama insisted the probe be conducted “by the book.”
Wrote Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on Twitter: “Susan Rice knew exactly what she was doing. That’s why she wrote herself emails in a desperate attempt to cover her tracks.”
So goes QAnon logic: Up is down. Seeming innocence is proof of deviance. And following an unpopular president down a very strange rabbit hole is just another move in a game of four-dimensional chess.
Polls show Trump trailing badly against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Trump, who fancies himself a marketing genius, has so damaged the Republican brand that the party is in danger of losing Senate seats in Montana, Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina and Maine — for starters. Even in South Carolina, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham is having to look over his shoulder at Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, who outraised him last quarter. The GOP’s 53-to-47 majority is in real peril of being erased.
Republicans could have decided to cut Trump loose and try to save themselves — and, in the end, perhaps some will take that route. But Trump has so remade the Republican base in his own image, including by providing encouragement to a near-cult, that, as Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the party whip, told Politico: “I just think that everybody realizes that our fortunes sort of rise or fall together.”
An actor killed President Abraham Lincoln. A different kind of fiction may kill his party.