Does our nation’s president really believe the many goofy conspiracy theories he frequently references? Or does he merely use them for his political gain? Or is it both? Only he knows for sure. But for the rest of us, does it really matter?
Those of us who put no stock in the many bizarre conspiracy theories Trump and his cultish followers traffic in are as unlikely to change the minds of those true believers as they are to convert us. But the fact that the President of the United States gives open or even tacit regard to wacky notions–such as former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia being murdered–opens the door for untold thousands (or millions?) of mentally unstable Americans to take those notions seriously. And that’s exactly what’s happening. The greatest nation in the history of the world is being unraveled by zany conspiracy theories, particularly by the inane notion that our nation is secretly ruled by a “deep state,” and that only Donald Trump can save us from this evil confederacy.
But it’s that bizarre belief in particular that is keeping the most corrupt president in our nation’s history in power, where he’s unraveling our Constitution as well as many long-revered cultural standards. In the three years Trump has been in office, dozens of his former administration personnel have come forward to warn the rest of us about the president’s ignorance, instability, impulsiveness, and narcissism. (Sadly, none of them had the courage to do so before leaving.) All of them were formerly subjects of Trump’s praise. But when they dared to challenge “the chosen one,” he and his loyal followers turned on them and then dismissed them as deep-state agents out to foil his efforts to fight “the evil liberal cabal.”
Why have millions of Americans–a huge portion of them white evangelical Christians–fallen for these outlandish conspiracy theories? Primarily, I think, because such theories are exciting. Most people lead lives, as Thoreau noted, of quiet desperation. Buying into crazy concepts modulates that desperation–at least somewhat.
Among many evangelicals, adding to that thirst for exhilaration is the long-held notion that Satan works through governments to persecute true believers. So it isn’t a long leap from there to acceptance of the idea of a deep state out to get them.
So when Donald Trump came along in 2015, leading the conspiratorial accusations that President Obama was not a real American, it was easy for many, if not most, white evangelicals to embrace those accusations. After all, the nation’s first African-American president had an Arab-sounding name, and he promoted many liberal policies.
Then, during the Republican primaries–when Trump continued to promote conspiracies (remember the one about Ted Cruz’s father being part of an insider gang that killed JFK?)–his already-fervent-and-growing band of cult-followers joined in. The stage was set.
So now, three years later, with volumes of evidence and testimonies revealing Trump’s illegal and unconstitutional acts, his starry-eyed followers still find it easy to dismiss all that evidence as a deep-state plot to rid the nation of its true savior.
They are true believers, and as a favorite evangelical Bible verse says, “Just like a tree that’s planted by the waters, [they] shall not be moved.”
Does Trump believe all those weird conspiracy theories? It doesn’t matter as long as his followers do. And that is precisely what con men count on.