So, why is Team MAGA — inside and outside the White House — so determined to attack Fauci and denigrate his credibility? Partly, of course, it is reflex: Fauci is an unelected expert who disagrees at times with the president, so he fits neatly into the “Deep State” framework. But what is implied and sometimes stated aloud is more nefarious: the idea that scientists and Democratic officials are engaged in some sort of conspiracy to bring down Trump by keeping the economy suppressed through the election. This makes sense as a public argument only if you already expect Trump to lose, and are trying to build a narrative of excuse and alibi for his defeat that knits everything into a shady cabal. After all, if Trump is simply tied in knots by a hostile conspiracy, that makes him look weak, and it undermines any claim that things will go better under more Trump than under Biden, whose election would presumably end the need for any such conspiracy.

Framed in those terms, this is nuts. It is of course true that politicians and other political actors and commentators on both sides are apt to view everything — including the economic effects of lockdowns and closings — through the lens of how it affects presidential politics. Political animals are political animals. Naturally, that biases Republicans in favor of wanting things open and prosperous; just as naturally, it biases Democrats in favor of wanting the economy hobbled and sputtering until November 3. It is impossible to read or listen to a lot of commentators on both sides and not catch a strong whiff of this. Undoubtedly, that bias colors the lenses that people use to evaluate the scientific and economic cases for reopening.

The problem comes when you move from “the other guy is rooting for me to fail” to “the other guys are actively engaged in a nationwide conspiracy to spike the economy.”