Hearing former President Donald Trump insist in a new interview Wednesday that the “real” insurrection took place not on Jan. 6, 2021, but on Election Day 2020 — much like watching Republican officeholders trash-talking their colleagues to earn constituent applause and social-media attention — I’m repeatedly led to wonder: Do the GOP’s elected officials and media cheerleaders believe their own bulls–t? Do they now practice politics entirely as performance art? Or have they passed through the looking glass into an alternative reality seemingly inhabited by a sizable chunk of Republican voters?
I follow and analyze politics for a living, and I honestly don’t know the answers to these questions. We talk of Trump as a liar and bulls–t artist. The word “gaslighting” entered common parlance early in his administration for a reason. But is it all an act? Or a symptom of mass psychosis? The evidence is troublingly indecisive.
Think back to the very start of the Trump administration. There was the president of the United States, a day after his inauguration, insisting before a throng of employees and reporters at CIA headquarters that the crowd gathered the previous day on the Washington Mall was the largest ever for such an event, despite the fact that photographic evidence definitively proved otherwise.