There is something worse than Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican party.
Yes, even worse than a party that doesn’t take seriously a pandemic that has killed more than 217,000 Americans. Worse than a party that doesn’t care about locking up children in cages at the border or separating them permanently from their parents. Worse than a party that celebrates a leader who was impeached for abusing overseas military aid as a tool to smear his political opponent.
What could be worse than Trump’s version of Republican politics? It’s the Trump-driven conversion of the Grand Old Party into a cult of unhinged conspiracy wingnuts.
The QAnon cult is a bizarre world where everything makes sense of nonsense: where Trump is a savior of the nation’s children from a secret pedophile ring of satanic Democrats and deep state officials, who will be overthrown in some great awakening. And that’s the sane, simplified version of the story.
It should be easier to condemn these fringe-heads than the white supremacists who form such a loyal base for this white supremacist president. But it isn’t. Because to the spiritual leader of the cult of Trump – Donald himself – there are no fringe-heads who think he’s a savior. They are all just very fine people.
Those who endured the Trump town hall on Thursday night witnessed the president of the United States contort himself into a Q shape to avoid saying anything bad about the wingnuts. If anything, he went out of his way to say the opposite.
When the NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie asked Trump to disavow QAnon in its entirety, Trump feigned ignorance before completely reversing himself.
“I know nothing about QAnon,” he began.
When Guthrie said she just told him about QAnon, Trump reconsidered his first answer. “I know very little. You told me, but what you tell me doesn’t necessarily make it fact. I hate to say that. I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard. But I know nothing about it.”
This answer was about as hard to fathom as the secret messages of Q himself, whoever he may be. Trump knows nothing, except for a little, which could be a lot, but he doesn’t know anything.
At this point, Trump tried to deflect the questions into a discussion about another of his hallucinogenic dreams called antifa. But Guthrie, God bless her, quoted the Republican senator Ben Sasse, who called QAnon “nuts”.
“He may be right,” said Trump, reversing himself for the fourth time in less than two minutes.
Just as Guthrie was about to finish her QAnon questions, Trump changed his mind for the fifth time, backing away from the possibility of nuttiness to embrace the conspiracy all over again.
“What I do hear about it is they are very strongly against pedophilia,” said the ignorant president. “And I agree with that. I mean, I do agree with that. And I agree with it very strongly.”
But surely Trump did not agree with the satanic cult part of the QAnon fantasy?
“I have no idea,” he said. “I know nothing about them.”
“And neither do you, know that,” he added for good measure.
For a man who knows nothing, Trump knows a lot about QAnon and its unknowable stories. Like a terrified arsonist, he just wants to light the fuse and run away, claiming his innocence as the matches fall from his pocket.
And so we ended up with the topsy-turvy moment when the commander-in-chief decided to defend his promotion of the QAnon fantasy that the elite Seal Team Six that killed Osama bin Laden was somehow killed by Joe Biden to cover up the faked death of one Osama bin Laden.
“I know nothing about it,” said the lamest of strongmen leaders.
“That was a retweet. That was an opinion of somebody. That was a retweet. I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves. I don’t take a position.”
“I don’t get that,” said an exasperated Guthrie. “You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever.”
Donald Through the Looking Glass is the story of a small, inadequate boy who walks into a fantasy world where he is the leader of a very large nation.
It’s a world where everything is back to front: where the right is wrong, and the left is fascist. Where presidents are kings, enemies are friends, and white lives are the only ones that matter.
Trump is leaving his party with a QAnon core that cannot be challenged
It’s a world where he knows nothing about something unknowable that he happens to know a lot about. And so do you – if you’re in the know.
This is the legacy he bequeaths to Republicans even more than three supreme court justices, who – in all likelihood – will be balanced by the addition of two additional justices by President Biden.
Trump is leaving his party with a QAnon core that cannot be challenged, just in case they challenge the incumbents in the 2022 primaries of the paranormal.
We’re not just talking about retweets. Back in August, one of the people introducing Trump at a rally in Cincinnati recited one of QAnon’s rallying cries. Several Q-nuts were photographed wearing Q-gear in the crowd.
That was just the day after news broke about an FBI bulletin identifying QAnon as a domestic terrorist threat.
It’s easy to lose sight of the trees in the forest of Trump’s disinformation. After all, the day after he embraced QAnon – about which he knows nothing – Trump claimed that the Bidens are “an organized crime family”.
But under his leadership, and with his support, QAnon candidates like Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia are on a fast track to elected office.
The New York Times reported that Trump campaign lawyers are working for Greene, who has questioned whether the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon was real and whether George Soros controls the world. This is a candidate that Trump has called “a future Republican star”.
Long after Trump is booted from the Oval Office, his brand of crazy will still linger in the body of his party like the weird symptoms of a dormant pandemic. Every now and again, the party’s toes will swell, or it will lose its sense of taste. The fever may break for a short time, but this wingnut virus will just wait for its next outbreak.