The frontrunner for the Republican nomination—who is expected to bring the primary race to an end with a decisive victory in Indiana tonight—is not a Republican and he is not a Democrat. His core political philosophy is, There’s something going on here, folks, and I dunno, but it sure seems fishy.
He is a conspiracy theorist.
This much has been evident since long before Donald Trump announced his candidacy in June. Over the last 10 months, he has steadily trafficked in fringe ideas once fit only for the Infowars comment section and your crazy uncle’s email chain to the mainstream.
Trump released his latest bombshell when he phoned into Fox News on Tuesday morning to deliver the word of his gospel, the National Enquirer: Rafael Cruz, the father of his central opponent for the Republican presidential nomination, Ted Cruz, had been seen with Lee Harvey Oswald just before the murder of President John F. Kennedy. The supermarket tabloid had published a photo of Oswald and another man last month and, without any discernible supporting evidence, claimed that man was the elder Cruz.
Trump was incensed. “You know, his father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being, you know, shot,” he said, as the hosts of Fox and Friends looked on in disbelief (think Mike Myers when Kanye West said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”)
“I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump added, “What is this, right? Prior to his being shot! And nobody even brings it up. I mean, they don’t even talk about that—that was reported. And nobody talks about it.”
In August, for whatever it’s now worth, Trump said he believed Oswald acted alone.
Trump is the candidate who challenges the public’s perception of reality, so it makes sense that his own relationship with objective facts is so fraught.
Trump spent months trying to prove that President Obama wasn’t born on American soil in 2011, going as far as to claim he sent private detectives to Hawaii. He imagined a pro-Muslim parade taking place on the streets of Jersey City on September 11, 2001, something he says he saw on television. In February, he entertained the idea that Antonin Scalia, who was 79 and overweight when he died in his sleep at a Texas ranch, may have been murdered.
JFK fan-fiction was the logical next step, then. And the groundwork for the next step after that was publicly laid earlier this week.
As he begins to shift his attention to the general election, where it’s all but certain that, if he becomes the nominee, he would face Hillary Clinton, we can only expect his flirtation with conspiracy theories will blossom into something resembling psychosis.
(Remember Vince Foster? You will.)
On Monday, Trump met with Ed Klein, the discredited author of Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary; Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas; and The Truth About Hillary.
And now officially back in Trump’s orbit, thanks to his affiliation with Paul Manafort, is Roger Stone, the former Nixon aide and co-author of The Clintons’ War On Women, a book that alleges, among other things, that Hillary Clinton is a physically abusive lesbian.
“There’s something going on, and it’s bad,” Trump has said during his rallies. What he’s implying is that it’s no accident America is not as great as it used to be. Something sinister and organized is at play.
This is a comforting thought for Trump supporters who, by and large, feel as though they’ve been dealt a bad hand and left behind. Conspiracies are comforting to people when the grimness and unpredictability of reality can be too much to bear.
It’s why there are shooting truthers—people who believe the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary or the murder of a television reporter on air in Virginia last year are fictitious events put on by government actors in order to scare the public into giving up their guns.
In fact, Trump is friends with some of those truthers. In December, he appeared on The Alex Jones Show. A few hours later, Jones said the San Bernardino shooting was “highly suspicious” and seemingly “geared to elicit widespread public outrage.”
Tune in next week, when Trump accuses Hillary of helping Stanley Kubrick direct the moon landing.