Dispatches from the Empire

Welcome to the Political Era of the Paranoid Delusion

If I had to choose between these two tendencies I would obviously have to choose the blue MAGA over the red. Doing so would protect abortion and environmental regulations and the NLRB, among many other things. It’s not a contest, for me. But of course I’d prefer to choose neither. Blue MAGA is very, very real; the paranoid style has spread like a coronavirus from Republicans to Democrats. Put “The New York Times” into the Twitter search bar on any given day and you’ll find relentless, enraged invective coming from Democratic loyalists who insist that the paper of record is on a mission to reelect Donald Trump. They used to laugh at Republicans when they groused about “skewed polls,” but now they do the exact same thing - any poll that emerges that suggests Biden is losing is a conservative op, run by a firm with a well-known Republican bias.

This, it seems, is where we are: two warring political tribes who share the foundational principle that anything that goes wrong for them is the product of a rigged system. Two angry players, too busy working the refs to concentrate on the game, looking for some higher authority to declare that the other side broke the rules. This isn’t fair. They’re breaking the rules. I’m telling the teacher. They’re denying us what we’re owed. Today the parties are united only in their belief that, on a neutral field and playing a clean game, they cannot lose. If a single voter endorses the opposition, their opponents must be cheating. How could it be otherwise? Surely only conspiracy could defeat us. Surely only The Man could pull the wool over the eyes of millions. This was much more of a Republican thing, and I know that people hate any argument that sounds like “both sides.” But both sides, in fact, are now operating this way. The notion that Democrats cannot fail in a clean election, cannot stumble but through illegitimate outside force, is now fully enculturated into the party. They hate Trump so much they’ve adopted his signature contribution to American politics. And I don’t know how you get out of this without violence, at this point. I really don’t.

The speed with which the paranoid insanity — the same that took hold on the Right a generation or two ago — has consumed the Left is alarming. I can’t quite make sense of how many people refuse to acknowledge Biden’s disaster of a debate performance simply because they’re terrified of Trump.

Trump or no, Biden is unfit for the office.

As a friend put it, “how is it possible we have a choice between two emperors, both of whom insist they’re wearing clothes?”