“Isn’t it kind of convenient that as soon as impeachment failed, we’ve suddenly got this virus?” she asks, alternating between puffs on a Winston and her inhaler. “This was domestic political terrorism from the Democratic Party. They’ve got all these numbers inflated, especially the deaths. Nobody can explain why nobody’s dying from other causes anymore. Most of these people who are ‘dying from coronavirus’ aren’t actually dying from coronavirus. It’s domestic political terrorism. But Trump will be fine. His voters know better. We aren’t falling for it.”
And so it went Thursday in Ypsilanti. With the president paying special attention to Michigan at a time of unprecedented turmoil in the state, touring a region rich in symbolic value for his reelection campaign, nearly every conversation with his die-hard supporters detoured into the dark and conspiratorial. Sure, there was talk outside the Ford plant of jobs created and regulations slashed and veterans taken care of. But much of that talk was perfunctory, a sort of rhetorical appetizer before digging into the red-blood entrees the president has chosen to serve up for his base.
Having obsessively covered the Republican Party from the ground-up over the past decade, from the twilight of George W. Bush through the first term of Donald Trump, I thought I’d seen it all, heard it all. But this was new. The warp speed at which alarms about voter fraud—and specifically, voting by mail—were synchronized from the president’s Twitter feed to the lips of his voters guarantees a volatile five months ahead, and a potentially volcanic period thereafter.