When Republicans Feel Threatened, They Resort to Conspiracy Theories

Here is a hypothesis for you to consider: The more Trump and Republicans feel threatened in the 2018 midterm elections, the more they ramp up their fear-mongering conspiracy theories.

Recent history would suggest that the hypothesis is true. Last year we watched as even so-called “establishment” Republican candidates like Ed Gillespie went on a tear as their races heated up in an attempt to scare voters about their opponents.

Let’s take a look at what Trump has been saying lately.

This morning’s conspiracy du jour is about Middle Easterners in the caravan of refugees that is now working its way through Mexico.

Need I remind you that the president has zero basis for any of the above claims and that he simply makes them up out of whole cloth? It’s true that we’ve been inundated with these kinds of things for a few years now, but even for Donald Trump, they’re coming at a faster pace recently.

However, it isn’t just the president who is spreading deplorable fear-based lies. His congressional enablers are just as complicit. I’ll give you one example that I think is the most egregious.

Democrat Dan Feehan is running to fill the Minnesota congressional seat that was formerly held by Tim Walz, who is currently the Democratic nominee for governor. The 1st congressional district is primarily rural, but does include the city of Rochester, home of the Mayo Clinic. Given that Trump won the district by 15 points in 2016, it is one of the few seats that Republicans hope to flip from blue to red. Unfortunately, they nominated Jim Hagedorn, a candidate that even the Washington Examiner labeled “the worst Republican candidate in America.” As a result, the race is listed by most prognosticators as a tossup.

The Democratic nominee served two combat tours in Iraq, earning the Bronze Star, and was also acting Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon. In between those two positions, he taught first grade and middle school in Chicago and Gary, Indiana. I say all of that as a way to introduce you to an ad the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) put out about him a couple of weeks ago.

If any of you remember what Republicans did to Max Cleland and John Kerry, you’ll know that the GOP is certainly not above questioning the patriotism of military veterans. But to demonstrate that the NRCC is worried about this race, their latest ad upped the ante on deplorable.

So now, in addition to the racism of claiming that black athletes who protest police brutality are unpatriotic, and the sexism of “angry mobs” after the Kavanaugh hearings, you’ve got the anti-semitism of claiming that Feehan is Soros funded. For those of you who are interested in actual facts, this is the D.C. organization Feehan works with:

That would be the centrist Center for a New American Security (CNAS), whose president is John McCain’s former senior aide Richard Fontaine and whose board director was Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ initial choice for his deputy. CNAS was indeed highly close to Barack Obama’s Pentagon—but often to the chagrin of progressive foreign-policy experts who questioned its bellicosity. For good measure, CNAS’ defense program is run by Elbridge Colby, who recently departed the Trump Pentagon.

When it comes to Feehan’s position on the issues, let’s just summarize by saying that he’d be no darling of the progressive left.

For further evidence of my hypothesis that the more Republicans feel threatened, the more we see of this kind of thing, there is another race in Minnesota that the NRCC hopes to flip from blue to red. It is the 8th district where the Republican is slightly ahead. So far, the NRCC hasn’t produced a single ad in that race.

Looking at the evidence in favor of my hypothesis, the distorted fear mongering coming from Republicans leads to mixed feelings. On the one hand, their conspiracy theories are despicable. But on the other, it is a sure sign that they feel threatened.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.