The Democrats should face the fact sooner rather than later that Hunter Biden will have to be produced in order to put an end to the matter. They should accept a deal for witnesses in the impeachment trial that involves having Hunter Biden testify, too. Not because having him testify is warranted by the evidence. Not because one wants to give credence to a baseless conspiracy theory. But as a service to the country. Conspiracy theories die only when it’s possible to say conclusively, “Nothing to see here, folks.” We are trapped inside the worldview of a conspiracy theorist, and the only way out may be through it.

We need this act of public service to stanch the corruption. Trump’s techniques are spreading. Take as an example Pat Cipollone’s opening statement in the impeachment trial. It was remarkable for the number of times he used the words “ridiculous” and “outrageous.” This was a revealing detail. It didn’t matter that in between those words he strung together a series of misleading statements. No one would follow it all, but what they would take away was two words: “ridiculous” and “outrageous.” Such is the rhetoric of the conspiracy theorist. The opportunity to speak is a vehicle for a message. The words in between the message don’t matter much. All that matters is the chance to repeat the basic message frequently. Obama — no birth certificate; Obama — no birth certificate. Hunter — corrupt; Hunter — corrupt. Impeachment — ridiculous; impeachment — ridiculous.