Alice had to deal with the Mad Hatter in Wonderland. Dorothy was surrounded by Munchkins in Oz.
Now politics is speeding into absurdity.
Let’s start in Arizona.
The GOP-controlled Arizona state Senate hired a group called “Cyber Ninjas,” run by a man with an apparent fondness for conspiracy theories, to do an “audit” of ballots cast in the presidential election in the state’s biggest county.
One of the auditors raised eyebrows when he told a reporter on camera last week that his team is using special cameras to detect bamboo in the paper, because of a conspiracy theory that 40,000 ballots were sent from Southeast Asia where bamboo is commonly grown.
“It makes us look like idiots,” said Paul Boyer, a Republican member of the state Senate.
Now let’s look at the last week of bizarre events in Washington.
At a Congressional hearing last week, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R- Ga.) said the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol resembled a “normal tourist visit” by Trump supporters.
The real villains, in this absurd interpretation, are FBI agents who are arresting people for attacking the Capitol and injuring 140 police officers. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) said the Justice Department’s pursuit of the insurrectionists amounts to “harassing peaceful patriots across the country.”
In reality, the violence forced Congress to adjourn and saw Vice President Pence run for his life.
Last week, the madness continued when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a far-right Republican best-known for her love of guns and conspiracy theories, followed left-wing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) out of the House chamber and began screaming that Ocasio-Cortez is a “radical socialist.”
Adventures in political absurdity have taken to the airwaves.
Listen to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) repeating wisdom from the right-wing media echo chamber. He spoke before House Republicans voted to expel Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from their leadership for refusing to buy into former President Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
Here is Graham talking to Fox News’s Sean Hannity on May 6:
“I’ve always liked Liz Cheney, but she’s made a determination that the Republican Party can’t grow with President Trump. I’ve determined we can’t grow without him.”
Well, senator, there is no reality to your thinking.
Here is the reality:
An NBC News poll late last month had Trump with a paltry 32 percent approval rating among all voters. And more Republicans now say they back the party than say they back Trump, according to the poll.
Trump’s support continues to fall among Republicans and independents, and especially among suburban votes and young voters, according to polls.
President Biden, meanwhile, was at 63 percent approval in an AP-NORC poll released last week.
These polls, available to Graham, are a reminder that ongoing worship of Trump among Republicans on Capitol Hill is way out of touch with political reality.
The party is in the grips of the kind of distorted thinking that compelled the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) to last month hide internal poll findings from its own members, Republicans in Congress.
The polling was a danger because it showed “Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core [battleground] districts,” according to reporters for The Washington Post who read the complete poll.
That poll also found that Biden was far more popular than Trump in those districts.
These reality-based polls threaten to explode the lies propping up Trump as the GOP’s best hope to return to power in Congress and regain the presidency. But Graham and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) keep nodding along, repeating the nonsense to each other.
The findings in the NRCC poll pose a personal danger to 139 House Republicans and 8 Senate Republicans. Why?
They fear the heavy burden of Americans knowing that they acted to undermine American democracy by voting against certifying the proven results of the last presidential election.
But that’s not the view from the former president.
Trump called into Fox News in March to say the insurrection was actually an exercise in “hugging and kissing the police” by people who posed “zero threat.”
Trump is also a fan of the Arizona audit being done by conspiracy theorists.
“Watch Arizona, some very interesting things are happening in Arizona,” the former president told visitors at his Mar-a-Lago resort. “Let’s see what they find, I wouldn’t be surprised if they found thousands and thousands and thousands of votes.”
The distortions coming from Trump are no joke.
But the lack of clear political vision from Republican leaders who continue to support him is best described by late-night comedian Seth Meyers.
The GOP, the comic said, is “obsessed with lies and conspiracy theories and feigned culture war grievances, and they’re still being led in large part by the disgraced, twice-impeached former president who never won the popular vote and who never once cracked 50 percent approval.” The serious and conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page agrees with Meyers.
Trump’s fantasy rewrite of the 2020 election might please some of his supporters, the paper editorialized, “but it won’t appeal to the swing voters the GOP needs to retake the House and Senate.”
Reality says if the 2022 midterm elections are a referendum on Trump instead of Biden, Republicans will not gain control of either chamber.