On Saturday, President Donald J. Trump emerged from his West Palm Beach voting center, boasting he voted a “straight Republican ticket.” A “straight Republican ticket” in his congressional district—the Florida 21st—is one that includes House candidate Laura Loomer, a QAnon supporter who gained notoriety for being so bigoted that she became, according to herself, the “most banned woman on the planet.” From there, Trump jetted off on Air Force One to dance to the Village People’s “YMCA” at yet another rally amid the pandemic that has struck dead 225,000 Americans.
Four years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine such a vignette—because before Trump became president, most people had no idea what a “coronavirus” was and QAnon didn’t yet exist. Now, though, these hateful mental and physical plagues are inescapable. They are dominant facts of our personal lives and our national politics.
This is America on Trump.
We have become a country where an entire party will go along thinking that anything that reflects poorly on Trump can be connected to a shadowy enemy or evil cabal—the “deep state,” the regime behind the “China virus,” the Obama administration, or the Biden campaign. Connecting the dots is so easy that any redpill addict can do it. One of the main benefits of Trumpism is that it doesn’t require much intellectual work.
Loomer, a self-described “proud Islamophobe” who worked for InfoWars to recast various mass shootings as hoaxes, is hardly an outlier. After she won her primary, Trump tweeted his support: “You have a great chance against a Pelosi puppet!” Loomer bragged that RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel phoned her to call her “a political rock star and a change agent for the Republican party.” Last month, Trump’s daughter-in-law and campaign surrogate Lara Trump campaigned alongside Loomer.
Loomer also has thoughts on COVID. During a recent interview, Loomer said that she doesn’t believe that COVID is worse than the bird flu, doesn’t think that masks stop the spread of the coronavirus, and wouldn’t take a vaccine when it’s available. She called her opponent a “self-hating Jew.” (Mind you, this was an interview with a mainstream news outlet—a local TV station—and not an obscure right-wing website.)
Even with Trump’s vote, Loomer isn’t likely to win her race: The Florida 21st is a blue district, and the one poll conducted to date shows Democratic incumbent Rep. Lois Frankel crushing Loomer among likely voters by 61 to 33. But another QAnon-turned-Trump-famous congressional candidate is all but certain to win on election day: Marjorie Taylor Greene, running in a safe Republican district, the Georgia 14th. She is every bit the bigoted loon Loomer is but hasn’t managed to get herself banned from social media (yet).
Naturally, Trump loves her:
And let’s be clear: Trump is picking winners and losers. The Washington Post reports that Trump privately told donors: “There are a couple senators I can’t really get involved in. I just can’t do it. You lose your soul if you do. I can’t help some of them. I don’t want to help some of them.” Those senators were unnamed, but you can guess they aren’t fluent in Q.
The Daily Beast found that the National Republican Congressional Committee sent the maximum donation to Greene’s campaign last month. Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler has been campaigning with Greene, and the two eagerly showcase their mutual support for one another on social media.
Keep in mind, Loeffler and Greene are candidates in a Republican stronghold state. If anyone was looking for a test case of GOP base politics, this is it. Trump’s instincts could be right, too: A recent poll found that more than one-third of Americans are open to the idea that Hollywood, government, and media elites “are secretly engaging in large-scale child trafficking and abuse.”
If even a few Republican candidates can win by successfully courting the Q vote, it won’t take much for the GOP to officially rebrand as the GQP. They’re much more than conspiracy curious at this point. It’s their new lifestyle.
How did this happen? Much faster and more easily than you think.
Once someone is willing to accept the idea that mass shootings at schools might be false-flag operations, the “unlogic” of conspiracies, as Charlotte Alter memorably put it, takes over. The thrill of whataboutism is all-consuming. To someone of this mindset, COVID isn’t a pandemic; it’s a hoax—or a “planDemic,” as one Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate put it last month:
To anyone breathing the mind-bending ether of Fox News, InfoWars, and the local Facebook Trump group, it’s entirely reasonable for the president to hold potential superspreader events, just as long as he calls them “peaceful protests” to mock those who protested police violence against blacks.
It doesn’t matter that Trump booster Herman Cain died from coronavirus, that Trump surrogate and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spent a week in the hospital after contracting it, or even that Donald Trump got it and needed to be put on oxygen, airlifted to Walter Reed, and dosed with an experimental cocktail. Nothing will stop President Trump, or any of his supporters, from enjoying their COVID joyride now!
You’d be shocked by how easy it is to make arguments when they aren’t bound by logic. The president can say with a straight face that “we’re rounding the turn” on COVID, without caring whether that turn is curving down or up.
Acting defiantly and engaging in the performative art of pissing off the right people is the real point of these exercises, no matter how high the body count gets.
This is why someone such as South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem adopts Trump’s illogical talking points that testing only creates new cases as hospitals in her state are filling up, or that people shouldn’t be “shamed into” wearing a mask as her state breaks COVID records. Noem is fully engaged in the kind of Trumpian magical thinking that leads one to think “More hunting, less COVID” is actually a good slogan and strategy so long as it makes Democrats’ heads explode.
How brainwashed have people become? Here’s a sampling.
Although Christie stared down the barrel of a ventilator during his week-long hospitalization from COVID and emerged begging people to wear masks, he still won’t turn against the president who politicized wearing them in the first place.
Local officials in Minnesota knew that allowing Trump to hold one of his campaign events would pose a risk to public health but they were afraid of antagonizing him if they turned the campaign away. They chose to appease the president rather than protect the public.
Ohio’s lieutenant governor, Republican Jon Husted, pleaded with people to wear masks at a Trump rally in September—and was nearly booed off the stage.
At least five members of Vice President Mike Pence’s inner circle tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. Anyone in their right mind would quarantine for 14 days—but Pence will still keep up his campaign appearances. The White House says he’s an “essential worker,” so CDC guidelines need not apply.
They’ve all learned the secret. Facts and reason are not what Trump’s base wants to hear. Don’t do anything to betray the Big Lie, or else you won’t have an audience anymore.
COVID is beside the point.
Such is the natural conclusion of Trumpism. It’s a loyalty cult, where members risk coronavirus infection as a feat of strength. The president of the United States himself has voted for QAnon, and if anyone wants in, they have to follow his lead.
COVID and QAnon will be Trump’s enduring legacy—a mass poisoning of the American body and mind.