In a piece for The Atlantic, columnist Peter Nicholas took a hard look at Donald Trump’s continuing propagation of ludicrous conspiracy theories, and said the embattled president uses them as both a defense mechanism when confronted with his crimes as well as a way to feed his ego.
As Nicholas explains the president’s actions, “A product of tabloid culture, Trump has long trafficked in conspiracy theories. But as chief executive, he’s used the machinery of government to give the ones especially useful to him the stamp of official validation. (That’s the main reason he now faces impeachment in the House.)”
With presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University, telling Nicholas, “We’ve never had a president who trades in conspiracy theories, who prefers lies instead of fact,” the columnist attempted to cut through the mystery of Trump’s actions.
“These baseless theories are a way for Trump to explain away his problems and undercut opponents,” he wrote. “Beyond that, though, they seem to serve distinct emotional needs, feeding a narcissistic ego that cold reality won’t satisfy. His efforts to persuade the public to go along with these self-protective myths have already corroded democratic institutions. The wreckage from that destructive legacy won’t be easily repaired after he leaves the stage.”
According to the columnist, Trump’s Ukraine scandal has been the perfect storm of conspiracy-mongering, writing, “The Ukraine fiction is so alluring. It’s a twofer. If Ukraine covertly interfered in the election for Clinton’s benefit, as Trump has suggested, that would both exonerate Russia and cement his 2016 victory. Trump apparently finds that theory so compelling that he risked his presidency to see if he could give it traction.”
“This propensity for self-soothing combines with an anti-intellectualism that seems part of Trump’s makeup. He’s skeptical of elite opinion and not convinced that he has anything still to learn,” he explained. “Trump’s mind is thus fertile soil for bogus ideas to take root.”
According to Nancy Rosenblum, a government professor emerita at Harvard, we have never seen a president like Trump before.
“There’s no answer for it,” she explained, “which is why it is so seriously disorienting to people. We’ve never seen anything like it. We don’t know how to meet it. It’s an attempt to construct a reality, and when it comes from the president, he has the capacity to impose that reality on the nation.”
“Trump’s imprint will be hard to erase. Trump acolytes inside the Republican caucus are aping his methods and standing with him as he advances his fact-free claims about Ukraine’s complicity in the 2016 election,”Nicholas wrote before concluding, “One day, the conspiracist in chief will leave office. His successors will face a choice: Exploit the damage he’s done to democratic institutions and norms, or see if it can be fixed.”
You can read more here.