Where will Trump’s be­liev­ers go when he im­plodes?

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Leonard Pitts Jr. The Mi­ami Her­ald Leonard Pitts is syn­di­cated by Tri­bune Me­dia Ser­vices.

I used to love “The XFiles.”

Like mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, I un­fail­ingly fol­lowed FBI agents Mul­der and Scully in their search for the truth in a labyrinth of con­spir­acy. But a few years on, af­ter one too many red her­rings and blind al­leys of plot, it be­gan to be ob­vi­ous to me the con­spir­acy would never be un­rav­eled — could never be un­rav­eled — be­cause unraveling it was not the point of the show. No, the con­spir­acy it­self was the point, the need to main­tain a sense of un­set­tle­ment and un­ease, of our he­roes buf­feted by malev­o­lent, unseen forces.

What was once tele­vi­sion has now be­come pol­i­tics.

Or has no one else no­ticed how the Repub­li­can can­di­date for pres­i­dent, his sur­ro­gates and his vot­ers, have put forth a se­ries of in­ter­lock­ing con­spir­acy the­o­ries so byzan­tine and con­fused as to make “The X-Files” seem like “Scooby-Doo” by com­par­i­son?

Com­bined and dis­tilled, these the­o­ries go some­thing like this: Pres­i­dent Obama is a gay Kenyan Mus­lim who, with the trans­ves­tite Michelle and two kid­napped chil­dren mas­querad­ing as his fam­ily, usurped the White House and now plans to hand it off to the cor­rupt and mur­der­ous liar Hil­lary Clin­ton, who plot­ted with the Commission on Pres­i­den­tial De­bates to sched­ule two of their face-offs against NFL games and who has rigged next month’s elec­tion to de­feat Don­ald Trump and keep him from mak­ing Amer­ica great again, even as his taxes are be­ing au­dited be­cause he’s a “strong Chris­tian” and the ly­ing me­dia con­tinue to treat him with un­fair mean­ness.

There’s more, but you get the gist. The com­mon de­nom­i­na­tors: un­set­tle­ment and un­ease; our hero — and, by ex­ten­sion, the peo­ple he rep­re­sents — buf­feted by malev­o­lent, unseen forces.

Con­spir­a­cies are not ex­actly un­heard of in pol­i­tics. Con­sider the meet­ing of GOP lead­ers to plot a pol­icy of ob­struc­tion­ism against Pres­i­dent Obama, or the Demo­cratic National Com­mit­tee schem­ing against Bernie San­ders.

But what we are see­ing in Trump is some­thing else en­tirely — an ut­terly amoral will­ing­ness to feed and ex­ploit a fright­ened para­noia un­hinged from any­thing re­sem­bling re­al­ity. That’s why ul­ti­mately the big­gest ob­ject of con­cern here is not Trump, but his be­liev­ers. Con­spir­acy the­o­ries are of­ten the way fright­ened peo­ple or­ga­nize their fears, ra­tio­nal­ize the fact that things are not go­ing for them as they feel they should.

So, say Trump loses next month. He re­tires to one of his tro­phy houses with his tro­phy wife, his con­sid­er­able ego banged up, but oth­er­wise none the worse for wear. Why not? Af­ter all, for him, this crazy talk was never more than a way to work the refs, game the sys­tem, di­min­ish his ri­vals. For him — as for the folks at “X-Files,” — the con­spir­acy was both means and end.

But what about the peo­ple who be­lieved this garbage, the ones for whom it was a life­line in a world they no longer rec­og­nize or un­der­stand? What about the ones for whom it ex­plained their anger and en­no­bled their re­sent­ment at a cul­ture that has changed with­out their per­mis­sion, a na­tion to which they feel less con­nected — and in which they feel less rel­e­vant — with ev­ery sun­rise? Where do they go and what do they do when Don­ald Trump im­plodes?

Any hope of Amer­i­can co­he­sion re­quires the ur­gent search for a con­struc­tive an­swer to that ques­tion. If cur­rent polling trends hold, the forces of para­noia and dis­or­dered think­ing Trump has rid­den to po­lit­i­cal rel­e­vance will be de­feated next month. But de­feat is not dis­ap­pear­ance. And any sigh of relief if Clin­ton is sworn in as pres­i­dent would be mis­taken and pre­ma­ture.

Be­cause that’s when the hard part be­gins.

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