"Happiness," wrote Jonathan Swift in 1704, "is a perpetual Possession of being well Deceived." If so, the United States under the blundering misrule of Donald J. Trump should be the happiest nation on earth. But instead, many of his warmest supporters appear consumed with anger and tempted by preposterous make-believe.
None more than the president himself, of course.
As usual, the Irish satirist was being savagely ironic, writing in mock praise of political and religious extremism (identical in his time). Like a Fox News personality condemning "elitists," Swift pretended to denounce people guided by "the vulgar Dictates of unrefined Reason." "How fading and insipid do all Objects accost us, that are not conveyed in the Vehicle of Delusion?"
But enough nostalgia.
When it comes to delusion, Trump is hard to top. Just last week, he informed a West Virginia audience that "in many places, like California, the same person votes many times. ... They always like to say, 'Oh, that's a conspiracy theory.' Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people."
Needless to say, adepts of this cult-like belief — Trump included — have never produced a particle of evidence. Democrats struggle to get much of their constituency to vote at all, much less multiple times. What's true is that the president remains very unpopular in California, whose citizens are considerably underrepresented due to the inequities of the Electoral College.
But then mere reality counts for little in Trump world. Consider the president's near-meltdown over news that FBI agents dispatched by the Republican U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York raided the office, home and hotel suite of his personal attorney/fixer Michael Cohen.
"It's an attack on our country, in a true sense," Trump blustered. "It's an attack on what we all stand for." Because what we all stand for isn't the rule of law —prosecutors have to jump through multiple hoops to secure a search warrant to raid any attorney's office, much less Trump's attorney — but for the president and his cronies.
Because Trump is America, and America is Trump.
And if America wants to launder foreign loot to pay hush money to a porn star, that's none of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's business. "So they find no [Russian] collusion," the president added "and then they go from there and they say, 'Well, let's keep going.' "
Except it wasn't Mueller who persuaded a federal magistrate that probable cause existed that evidence of serious crimes would be found in Michael Cohen's papers. It was the U.S. attorney. Legally speaking, it's a heavy lift. Even removing Mueller — should Trump risk setting the U.S. Constitution ablaze to create a political smokescreen — wouldn't cause the investigation of Cohen to go away.
It's also false for Trump to claim that the Mueller investigation has found no evidence of collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign. More than 70 separate meetings have been documented between Trump staffers and Russian operatives — many of which the principals initially denied. There have been multiple indictments, and several guilty pleas.
Most observers expect further bombshell indictments, possibly sooner rather than later. Should he make a move against Mueller, nobody's fool, odds are the president would learn that it's already too late.
If Trump/America were a casino or a scam "university," its proprietor could simply declare bankruptcy and walk away. But his vanity might not let him quit the presidency.
So where does that leave Trump/America denialists? Many resemble the extremely virile fellow I noticed insulting a journalist friend on Facebook. Man-hating feminists, he wrote, have rendered "effeminate domesticated males" lacking in "animal instincts."
"Here's the deal my diminutive lisping friend, [Real Americans] don't ever care if Trump gets any legislation passed, we don't care about his political work, we just want him to continue to frustrate people like you ... so that you run around like chickens with their heads cut off, your panties in a bunch and hysterically flailing Your Arms. Trump has a knack for scaring snakes like you out of the grass and forcing you to lose your credibility."
Snakes in the grass wearing panties, running around like chickens and waving their arms! These Real Americans have a gift for vivid imagery!
But he's broadly right; it's all culture war. Trump may look like a flabby old poser to you, but to millions he's a virile he-man.
Putting the wood to Stormy only proves it.
Then there are the seriously delusional cranks behind QAnon, an online conspiracy group. Urged on by cranks like Alex Jones and Jerome Corsi, Michelle Goldberg writes, many supposedly believe that "Trump only pretended to collude with Russia in order to create a pretext for the hiring of Robert Mueller ... who is actually working with Trump to take down an inconceivably evil and powerful network of coup-plotters and child sex traffickers that includes Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and George Soros."
Top that, Vladimir Putin!