Paul Krugman argues Trump has only one way to win — and it involves a conspiracy theory
HERSHEY, PA - DECEMBER 10, 2019:President Donald Trump gestures in total shock during a campaign rally at the Giant Center. (Shutterstock)

After QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene won a Republican congressional primary in Georgia on August 11, President Donald Trump wasted no time congratulating her. And when NBC News reporter Shannon Pettypiece asked him about QAnon the following week, Trump refused to say anything against the conspiracy cult and praised them as “people who love our country.”


Liberal economist Paul Krugman discusses the president’s willingness to embrace QAnon supporters this week in his New York Times column, stressing that at this point in his reelection campaign, Trump needs all the voters he can get — no matter how unhinged they are.

The QAnon cult believes that Trump has been placed in the White House to combat an international ring of pedophiles and Satanists who have infiltrated the U.S. government — and that an anonymous figure named “Q” is giving them online updates about Trump’s battle. But the delusional belief system is sprawling, and its adherents ascribe to many preposterous propositions. QAnon members also believe, for example, that Beyoncé isn’t really African-American, but rather, is passing herself off as black as part of the conspiracy.

Krugman writes that this week’s Republican National Convention “is going to be QAnon all the way,” although he doesn’t mean that everyone speaking at the event will literally be an outright QAnon supporter like Greene.

“I don’t mean that there will be featured speeches claiming that Donald Trump is protecting us from an imaginary cabal of liberal pedophiles, although anything is possible,” Krugman writes. “But it’s safe to predict that the next few days will be filled with QAnon-type warnings about terrible events that aren’t actually happening and evil conspiracies that don’t actually exist. That has, after all, been Trump’s style since the very first day of his presidency.”

Even if a Republican Trump supporter doesn’t actually buy into QAnon’s nonsense, Krugman writes, the Trumpian version of right-wing politics thrives on conspiracy theories. According to Krugman, a “pattern of attempts to panic Americans over nonexistent threats recurs throughout this administration.”

“If you get your information from administration officials or Fox News, you probably believe that millions of undocumented immigrants cast fraudulent votes, even though actual voter fraud hardly ever happens; that Black Lives Matter protests — which, with some exceptions, have been remarkably nonviolent — have turned major cities into smoking ruins; and more.”

While Trump and his allies have done a terrible job dealing with real “American carnage” like the coronavirus pandemic, Krugman stresses, they are great at getting their voters worked up over nonsense.

“At some level both (Trump) and those around him seem aware of his basic inadequacy for the job of being president,” Krugman argues. “What he and they can do, however, is conjure up imaginary threats that play into his supporters’ prejudices, coupled with conspiracy theories that resonate with their fear and envy of know-it-all ‘elites.’ QAnon is only the most ludicrous example of this genre, all of which portrays Trump as the hero defending us from invisible evil.”

Trump, Krugman explains, believes that his path to reelection is not reaching out to the center, but by pandering to the extremists in his far-right base — including QAnon supporters.

“It’s almost certainly not a political tactic that can win over a majority of American voters,” Krugman says of Trump’s reelection strategy. “It might, however, scare enough people that, combined with vote suppression and the unrepresentative nature of the Electoral College, Trump can manage, barely, to hang on to power. I don’t think this desperate strategy is going to work, but it’s all Trump has left.”