Particularly since the election of Barack Obama, we have witnessed on the Republican side the rise of fear, anger and apocalyptic rhetoric. It didn’t have to be this way, but we’ve also seen the growing appeal of conspiracy theories, with the most poisonous and revealing being that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States.
In 2011, I wrote a column in The Wall Street Journal criticizing Mr. Trump’s embrace of birtherism, warning that “when prominent figures in a party play footsie with peddlers of paranoia, the party suffers an erosion of credibility.” I also pointed out that “people are generally uneasy about political institutions that give a home to cranks.” But I never for a moment imagined that Mr. Trump, as the chief apostle of this crazed, racist conspiracy theory, would become the nominee of the Republican Party five years later. Yet he did, and he did it in large part not despite but because he has championed one conspiracy theory after another. When conspiracy theories gain wide currency within a political party, it means it is losing — or has lost — contact with reality.
Peter Wehner, “Is There Life After Trump?”, The New York Times (6 November 2016), SR5.