My grandmother used to tend a little garden that gradually grew to occupy most of a fairly large backyard. I never knew how she managed to care it for so long. She loved to go weeding, separating the beautiful from plants that just got in the way.
It was a magical place for me. Memories of that magic sometimes provide respite. They have been an occasional sanctuary during this election season, as conspiracy stories grow like those unwanted weeds.
Conspiracies do happen. Most of us of sufficient age to possess vivid memories of the Nixon administration can take a cue from Watergate.
People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook.
– Richard Nixon, President of the United States, November 18, 1973
Over the years, as documents are declassified, evidence has been accumulating of other Nixon conspiracies. A possible negotiated settlement of the Vietnam War in 1968 was exploded as Presidential candidate Nixon, secretly and illegally, sent promises of a better deal down the road if South Vietnam would ensure his election by refusing to make peace.
So we cannot look with complete cynicism on every claim of rigged outcome.
But some theories have deteriorated into tin-hat humor.
No one is prouder to put this birth-certificate matter to rest than The Donald. And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter — like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?
– Barack Obama, President of the United States, April 30, 2011
So how are we to tell the difference between Watergate and stories of a fake moon landing?
The most obvious answer is to look at the evidence. Gut feeling might guide us on where to look for that evidence, but a feeling that something is so won’t make it so. Neither will simply wanting it to be so, yearning with all our hearts that it might be true. Regarding a lack of evidence as evidence itself of a conspiracy will usually lead us into a hall or mirrors.
We might also want to take some level of plausibility into account.
Donald Trump began his trek toward political destiny with that birther story, the theory that President Obama was born in another country. Those who felt that it was just wrong for this particular President to take office very much wanted birtherism to be true. They seemed to want it with all their hearts. If Barack Obama was born in another country, then the American people had no right to choose him for their President. And he had no right to take office.
The fact that they felt that his election was wrong, wrong, wrong had a certain backdoor logic to it, an element of reverse engineering:
If his election was wrong, it must not be legal. If it was not legal, there must be some sort of constitutional prohibition. He was over 35 years old, so age was not it. Race might seem compelling, but the Constitution had been amended since slavery days. That pretty much left the requirement that a President had to be a natural born citizen.
One problem was a lack of evidence. Some elderly relative in Africa did admit, through an interpreter, that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Desperate advocates seized on that scrap, perhaps forgetting that the President’s estranged father, the one who had abandoned him and and his mom, had indeed been born in Kenya, and that his name was Barack Obama.
Plausibility was another problem. A conspiracy to make baby Barack a future President had to involve two newspapers, a hospital in Hawaii, and at least some officials within the Hawaiian state government. If the birth had occurred in an actual hospital in Kenya, records there had to be destroyed and witnesses silenced.
Babies are precious, but that story takes love to an amazing level. Life would have been easier for the future President if those fortunate, farsighted, completely maniacal parents had thought to choose a different middle name.
Since those birther days, Donald has graduated into an avalanche of new conspiracies. In a single speech in October, Mr. Trump managed to list several of those participating in a grand scheme to undermine him.
Likewise, they have essentially corrupted the Director of the FBI.
– Donald Trump October 13, 2016
A small handful of global special interests
This election will determine whether we are a free nation or whether we have only the illusion of democracy, but are in fact controlled by a small handful of global special interests rigging the system.
– Donald Trump October 13, 2016
The International Banking System
Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.
– Donald Trump October 13, 2016
A small platoon of women, recruited by his enemies to make false accusations.
Over time, a gold star parents, whose son was killed in Iraq fighting for the United States, had become part of the conspiracy because they are Muslim.
A Federal judge, back when he was the head of the US Drug Enforcement Agency, had put himself into harms way, going in and out of hiding, dodging assassination squads, leading the battle that brought down a Mexican drug cartel. But now he was part of the anti-Trump conspiracy because his parents had come from Mexico 70 years ago, before he was born. So he is not really an American.
A former Miss Universe was part of it.
A Mexican billionaire joined in.
So have national Republican leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Large media news outlets have taken a break from their ruthless competition against each other. They now come together in a fraternal effort to plot against Mr. Trump.
Even the US Bureau of Labor Statistics now participates, faking rosy employment trends that will trick workers into thinking they have jobs.
A rigged election is in the offing. Mexican immigrants, here illegally, will come out of hiding, march down to official voting stations, present false documents, and vote against him.
Other voters, legal voters, will each illegally vote against him dozens of times by pretending to be someone else. They will risk prison time and huge fines to do so.
It won’t be smart or easy to steal a national election this way. Elections in the past were stolen in backrooms, out of sight, where voting totals could be manipulated. But, as Mr. Trump points out, Mexico doesn’t send us their best, and presumably not their brightest.
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you.
– June 16, 2015
Although some, we assume, are good people.
It is not plausible, and there is no evidence. But Mr. Trump and his supporters have strong feelings that it will happen. That is enough.
My grandmother has been gone for many years. Her magical garden exists only in my mind and in my heart.
Every once in a while I bring up a sweet little blog about adventures in organic gardening. It takes me back, for a few minutes at a time, to happier days of youth and life.
One passage strikes me as accidentally allegorical.
The sky is falling. The Little Red Hen told me that the other day. Ten days in a row, she was right: rain followed by showers with brief, periodic sprinkles leading to downpours. The elements are conspiring against me, around me, generally all over me, and possibly even within me. It’s wet.
The elements conspiring against Mr. Trump, around him, generally all over him, and possibly even within him are varied. The circle grows each rain soaked day.
Rigged elections, Mexican immigrants, people voting multiple times, billionaires, gold star parents, Federal judges, a dozen angry women, a former Miss Universe, international banks, a small handful of global special interests, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the FBI, local election officials.
The drama will end, sort of, on November 8. The arc will complete and circle will close.
We can hope the American people will cast their ballots wisely, united at long last in rejection of Donald Trump and all of that for which he stands:
Voters joining in a final national conspiracy against him.
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or RSS
to get episodes automatically downloaded.