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A fire-in-dry-grass conspiracy theory: 'Obamagate'

Since Trump’s presidential campaign, I have been perpetually surprised at the disparity between what seems so blatantly obvious when observing the man and the unequivocal embrace of his unabashed supporters.

To think about this canyon of difference can be jarring, and even now, when I reflect on new poll numbers, surprise still slips into my reaction. For example, a recent CNN poll found Biden leading Trump by five points, but trailing by seven points among voters in crucial battleground states. Not only does this poll indicate that, like Hillary Clinton, Biden could win the popular vote, but he could lose in the Electoral College. Good grief. And even that five points seems puny.

In a Marquette University Law School poll of Wisconsin voters, Biden has only a three-point lead over Trump. Three? Really? And then there’s this: in the same poll among liberal voters, 33 percent say they are less enthusiastic than usual about voting in this year’s election; conservative voters, however, were only 12 percent less enthusiastic. The CNN poll mirrored these results. Has no one been watching how the White House has responded to this global pandemic?

First, I admit to being astonished that Trump is even close to Biden regarding doing a better job. But I’m even more disturbed by Democrats stating that they lack enthusiasm. I mean, isn’t this a high-stakes election? Isn’t this a democracy-is-on-the-table moment? Is enthusiasm, all things considered, something the Dems have to search to find? Are MLK’s words, “the fierce urgency of now” not to be written in italics or caps?

A sense of abiding urgency feels about right. And if you doubt that, well, you don’t have to look far for one more exhibit of the chaos and conflict set in motion by him who inhabits the Oval Office: “Obamagate.”

The essence of this latest fable, saturated with disinformation and distortions, is Trump’s fire-in-dry-grass conspiracy theory, which is breathtaking when delivered with a straight face. He alleges that Obama, Biden, the FBI and members of the intelligence community plotted before and after the inauguration to take down his presidency via the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s interference into the 2016 election.

The details of the conspiracy are deeply arcane, and involve national security advisor Michael Flynn, who was actually fired by Trump for lying to Vice President Mike Pence and to the FBI about his conversations with the Russians about sanctions. In the mix is also the fact that Flynn pleaded guilty in court to lying to the FBI, a plea he has of late withdrawn.

Regarding this baroque conspiracy, Trump recently tweeted, “If I were a Senator or Congressman, the first person I would call to testify about the biggest political scandal and crime in the history of the USA, by FAR, is former President Obama.”

Trump has resurrected the perverse racial tones and false allegations that permeated his “birther” conspiracy, which was a blatant attempt to delegitimize Obama while questioning his birthplace. It’s a meme that recently gained traction in conservative media, though factually incoherent, while Trump and allies refuse to identify exactly what the crime was.

“You know what the crime is,” Trump said to a reporter when asked. “The crime is very obvious to everybody.” This is a familiar Trumpian strategy of opaqueness, using the anonymous “everybody,” thereby avoiding any semblance of proof.

The attacks on Obama and Biden demonstrate, once again, Trump’s willingness to use every tool at his disposal as president to sell to the electorate his sinister delusions, that so obviously define the man and his presidency.

I will continue to nurture the hope that the Dems soon find their bare-knuckles passion and enthusiasm, for both and more will be needed if we are going to rescue our nation from this deeply incompetent, conspiratorial autocrat.

Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.