It was bad enough when right-wing conspiracy theories were just a Thanksgiving ordeal — the telltale sign your cranky uncle had a third beer.
But a stunt in Congress this week crystallized America’s disturbing new reality: Conspiratorial paranoia now affects government’s functioning. When Texas congressman Louie Gohmert displayed a chart purporting to connect Russia to Benghazi to Huma Abedin — basically the grand unification theory of talk radio — it hammered home the impact of years of GOP conspiracy-mongering. Republicans started 2017 dreaming of tax cuts and Obamacare repeal. Instead they’re reaping the consequences of their dalliance with crackpots like Gohmert and President Trump, who obsess over Hillary Clinton instead.
This chart offers a field guide to right-wing conspiracy theories — in all their highly logical glory — to help decode Thanksgiving tirades. But it’s also a (partial) explanation of why the GOP can’t govern. Instead of swatting down conspiratorial nonsense over the years, the GOP indulged it out of expedience — and now has been captured by cranky uncles.
Let it be a warning for both parties: The short-term gain from plumping the base with conspiracy talk comes at a price. Those who expect to ride zaniness to power, then pivot back to reality, risk a rude surprise.