Trump train is fu­eled by con­spir­acy

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Michael Ger­son

— Watch­ing the ex­cel­lent doc­u­men­tary “Ebola in Amer­ica: Epi­demic of Fear” is to re­live the con­fu­sion and con­tro­ver­sies of the sum­mer of 2014: the ini­tial pub­lic health mis­takes, the di­vided and un­clear re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, the hys­ter­i­cal cov­er­age on ca­ble TV. But it is the po­lit­i­cal role played by Repub­li­cans and con­ser­va­tives that stands out, and not in a good way.

At ev­ery stage, el­e­ments of the right made a rea­son­able, sci­ence-based re­sponse to Ebola more dif­fi­cult. Against the ad­vice of the Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Preven­tion (CDC), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie quar­an­tined a nurse re­turn­ing from West Africa who had tested neg­a­tive for the disease. Some con­ser­va­tive me­dia out­lets spread false in­for­ma­tion about the disease to ex­ag­ger­ate an im­pres­sion of pub­lic health in­com­pe­tence.

But it was Don­ald Trump who led the op­po­si­tion. He tweeted: “The U.S. must im­me­di­ately stop all flights from EBOLA in­fected coun­tries or the plague will start and spread in­side our ‘bor­ders.’ Act fast!” And: “Ebola is much eas­ier to trans­mit than the CDC and gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives are ad­mit­ting.”

Health of­fi­cials were not ly­ing. Travel to and from West Africa was es­sen­tial for med­i­cal per­son­nel and aid work­ers to de­feat the disease at its point of ori­gin. Trump’s ban would have made Ebola ma­te­ri­ally more likely to spread be­yond con­trol.

What kind of pol­i­tics is as­cen­dant in Amer­ica? A dis­trust of in­sti­tu­tions that bor­ders on con­spir­a­to­rial. Here is Trump again: “Healthy young child goes to doc­tor, gets pumped with mas­sive shot of many vac­cines, doesn’t feel good and changes — AUTISM.” And: “I am be­ing proven right about mas­sive vac­ci­na­tions — the doc­tors lied.” And: “So many peo­ple who have chil­dren with autism have thanked me — amaz­ing re­sponse. They know far bet­ter than fudged up re­ports!”

Ly­ing doc­tors. Fudged re­ports. It would all be dis­turb­ing — if it were not con­spir­a­to­rial non­sense. No con­nec­tion has ever been demon­strated be­tween vac­ci­na­tions and autism. And this par­tic­u­lar non­sense is po­ten­tially deadly. Trump is un­der­min­ing a con­sen­sus for vac­ci­na­tion that builds up “herd im­mu­nity” and saves the lives of chil­dren.

Who else is plot­ting against us — I mean, other than pub­lic health of­fi­cials and your lo­cal pe­di­a­tri­cian? Well, the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment, be­cause “they send the bad ones over be­cause they don’t want to pay for them.” And how does Trump know the “cun­ning” Mex­i­cans are pur­posely ex­port­ing crim­i­nals? Be­cause some un­spec­i­fied “Border Pa­trol peo­ple” told him.

Even more dis­turbingly, there are the “thou­sands and thou­sands” of Mus­lims in New Jersey who Trump claims cel­e­brated af­ter the Twin Tow­ers col­lapse. For proof of this, he linked to an ar­ti­cle at the In­fowars web­site, run by Alex Jones, who has fa­mously ar­gued that the U.S. gov­ern­ment was be­hind the 9/11 at­tacks. Trump has pledged that, if he is elected, “you will find out who re­ally knocked down the World Trade Cen­ter.”

And then there are the black crim­i­nals who are re­spon­si­ble, ac­cord­ing to a Trump retweet, for 81 per­cent of homi­cides against whites. Ex­cept that this turned out to be a racist myth from a white su­prem­a­cist source.

And then there is the death of Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia. “They say they found a pil­low on his face,” re­sponded Trump, “which is a pretty un­usual place to find a pil­low.”

Does Trump re­ally be­lieve that lib­er­als may have or­dered a hit on a Supreme Court jus­tice? Who knows? We do know he finds such ideas use­ful. Trump emerged in con­ser­va­tive cir­cles by ques­tion­ing Barack Obama’s cit­i­zen­ship, and thus the le­gal­ity of his pres­i­dency. This re­quired the ex­is­tence of a con­spir­acy to hide the cir­cum­stances of Obama’s birth. “They can­not be­lieve what they’re find­ing,” he said of “peo­ple that have been study­ing it.” Hav­ing ac­tu­ally dis­cov­ered noth­ing, Trump dou­bled down on a de­cep­tion.

As a leader, Trump has suc­ceeded by ap­peal­ing to stereo­types and ugly ha­treds that most Amer­i­can lead­ers have strug­gled to re­press and con­tain. His po­lit­i­cal uni­verse con­sists of de­cep­tive ex­perts, of schem­ing, of crim­i­nal Mex­i­cans, of ly­ing politi­cians and bu­reau­crats and of dis­loyal Mus­lims. Asked to re­pu­di­ate David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, Trump hes­i­tated, later claim­ing a “bad ear­piece.” Asked to re­pu­di­ate the vi­cious anti-Semitism of some of his fol­low­ers, Trump re­sponded, “I don’t have a mes­sage to the fans.” Wouldn’t want to of­fend “the fans.”

This is not flirt­ing with the fringes; it is French kiss­ing them. Ev­ery Repub­li­can of­fi­cial en­dors­ing to en­dorse Trump should know: This is the com­pany he keeps. This is the com­pany you now keep.

Michael Ger­son is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at michael­ger­son@ wash­post.com.

WASH­ING­TON

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