The Conspiracy Theories (and Theorists) of 2020 Have to Stop

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

We live in insane times.

I feel I don’t have to say it, as you all know how insane these times are, but it feels somewhat cathartic to say it nonetheless. We live in insane times, and they aren’t getting any saner. Everyone, it seems, has some conspiracy theory or other clouding their judgment.

Donald Trump and/or various allies have now decided that the DOJ and Bill Barr could possibly be involved in stealing the election, an entire Dominion “server” in Georgia just up and went missing, and have latched on to every wild allegation as proof that Trump really won the election and that it was stolen. All this despite the fact that no one can produce one email or text message verifying this massive multi-state conspiracy, nor can the people who have made allegations seem to keep their stories straight.

Even Bill Barr’s DOJ has found no evidence of widespread fraud.

There is almost always election fraud, and there is almost always voter suppression. Republicans overplay the fraud and downplay the suppression while Democrats downplay the fraud and overplay the suppression. There has never, though, but enough votes cast fraudulently that could swing a national election on the scale that it would require to have changed 2020.

Some of the President’s allies don’t seem to be able to break themselves away from this conspiracy theory, and they are constantly finding themselves at odds with reality (as most conspiracy theorists do).

Conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden (AP/Reuters Feed Library)

But let’s not kid ourselves, either. It’s not as though the other side of the aisle hasn’t been pushing conspiracy theories since Trump won the presidency in 2016. There were multiple polls, some conducted as recently as this year, showing a not-insignificant number of Democratic voters really believe that Russia stole the election for Trump.

Joe Biden has selected one of these Democrats to be his director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Along with once outing a victim of sexual harassment, Neera Tanden frequently pushed the theory that the Russian government was responsible for the election of Donald Trump. She accused columnist Byron York of running interference for Russia when he cast (well-founded) doubts on the Steele Dossier.

The Washington Examiner has more:

Tanden launched the “Moscow Project” in 2017, and after Buzzfeed published Steele’s dossier in January 2017, Tanden’s think tank released a statement saying, “The intelligence dossier presents profoundly disturbing allegations; ones that should shake every American to the core.” Tanden went on to defend the Steele dossier repeatedly on Twitter, attacking those who critiqued the FBI for relying on its claims to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authority against former Trump campaign associate Carter Page and implying that critics of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation were doing Russia’s bidding.

“Make Chris Steele the next James Bond,” Tanden tweeted in January 2017.

[…]

Tanden’s “Moscow Project” also released a flawed critique of the Republican FISA memo, with Tanden defending the FBI’s surveillance. In addition, Tanden tweeted in April 2018 that the dossier was “started with funding by a GOP megadonor.”

Although the conservative Free Beacon had hired the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, it said in October 2017 that it “had no knowledge of or connection to the Steele dossier.” It later emerged that Steele was not commissioned by Fusion GPS (and did not begin compiling his dossier) until Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias hired Fusion.

“What parts of the dossier have been disproven?” Tanden tweeted in January 2019. “I will wait.”

The fact is the FBI made a ton of errors launching an investigation based on that dossier, which appears to have been crafted specifically by the Russian government to destabilize American politics (it worked!!!).

Nearly all the FISA signatories — Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, fired FBI Director James Comey, and fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe — indicated under oath they wouldn’t have signed off on the surveillance if they knew then what they know now, and a declassified FBI spreadsheet showed the lack of corroboration for Steele’s claims.

Tanden has a fight ahead of her if she wants the job. If the Senate races in Georgia stay in Republican hands, then a Republican-controlled Senate will absolutely hammer her over her past statements on the Steele dossier, as well as her somewhat checkered pasted at the Center for American Progress. If the GOP keeps hold of the Senate, I’m not sure I see her making it through.

Partisan conspiracy theories aren’t anything new, but they seem to be getting crazier as time goes on, and largely because we’ve become so divided over the last twelve years. For whatever reason, the elitist arrogance of Barack Obama and the conservative backlash that gave us Donald Trump have broken a lot of people beyond repair. Going back to what I wrote yesterday, the problem is that everyone has written this complex, overly-exciting plot to their political realities when the true reality is honestly just boring.

Reality isn’t exciting. None of these grand conspiracy theories can change that. It’s boring. Elections are routine, they are rarely (if ever) world-shattering, and any lingering effects from them can be largely undone in the next political term.