We are living in an age of political paranoia

Kelly’s analysis applies just as much—perhaps more so—to the Trump era, when the president himself, having won the White House by tapping into a powerful anti-establishment ethos, embodies a skeptical and sometimes paranoid view of government. The notion that an antidemocratic establishment of governing elites has long ruled America, and is even now working to undermine Trump’s electoral victory, is more or less a mainstream view on the right. Elements of this view used to be mainstream on the left, back when it was more concerned with disrupting globalism (like in the 1999 Seattle WTO protests) than staging Antifa battles in the street.

These ideas aren’t without merit. There is in fact a ruling elite in this country that often works against the interests of ordinary Americans, often in an antidemocratic fashion. Trump’s victory was in part a repudiation of that elite, and his supporters are not wrong to conclude that the elite are not happy about it and are working to undermine his administration.

But it’s one thing to recognize the existence of a governing elite, and another thing to posit that globalists are conspiring to enslave the American people. For the Pittsburgh shooter and QAnon followers alike, the line between reality and the surrealism of their grand conspiracy is a matter of degree. Kelly wrote that, “Where the realists see tacit collusion among members of the governing elite, the radicals see flagrant, treasonous plots.”

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