Inside Trump's Paranoid Mind

Before he ran for president, Trump was judged “more or less normal,” at least by the standards of the eccentric rich. Not anymore.
President Donald Trump speaks to the media after the Congressional Republican Leadership retreat at Camp David, Maryland, on January 6.
01_12_Trump Source: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Upated | In 1963, the eminent professor Richard Hofstadter stepped to a podium at Oxford University and delivered a lecture that became the basis for one of the most influential articles in political science history. In “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Hofstadter argued that “American politics has often been an arena for angry minds” which fueled populist movements based on conspiracy theories to explain why they had been “shut out of the political process.”

At the time, such forces were coalescing around Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, a right-wing Republican whose presidential campaign drew members of the John Birch Society and other extremists convinced that the party’s leaders, including President Dwight Eisenhower, were “under operational control of the Communist party.”

Goldwater lost the 1964 election in a landslide to Lyndon Johnson, but the notion of a secret cabal at the center of the government never went away. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was revived by the left, this time positing a secret CIA-Pentagon conspiracy to explain everything from the war in Vietnam and U.S.-backed coup d’états around the world to the assassination of President John Kennedy. Its urtext was The Secret Team, by L. Fletcher Prouty, a disillusioned former Pentagon special operations colonel who laid out a conspiracy of CIA agents, military contractors and powerful hidden business interests to explain America’s moral, economic and political decline.

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