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Donald Trump puts the 'con' in 'conspiracy theory'

Donald Trump's love of conspiracy theories is well known, but yesterday marked a turning point: Americans saw Trump hit rock bottom.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Oct. 13, 2016, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Oct. 13, 2016, in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

"The Clinton machine is at the center of this power structure. We've seen this first hand in the WikiLeaks documents, in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends, and her donors."So true."

Actually, no, it's not true at all.Yesterday morning, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a striking speech in New Hampshire, condemning Trump's predatory behavior towards women. Creating an extraordinary contrast, within two hours, the Republican nominee was on a stage in South Florida, telling a group of supporters there are nefarious international forces -- a "global power structure," as he put it -- controlling the media, the finance industry, the government, major corporations, and the political process as part of a vast conspiracy that only he and a select few are aware of.It's worth emphasizing for context that Trump wasn't just spouting stream-of-consciousness nonsense, repeating any weird thought that popped into his mind. On the contrary, the GOP candidate was reading all of this off his trusted teleprompter.In other words, he meant to say all of this.As anyone who's watched the 2016 race closely knows, Trump loves conspiracy theories -- his political persona was long defined by his eagerness to champion the "birther" garbage -- which he uses to help make sense of developments he doesn't understand. Note, for example, that the day after accepting the Republican Party's presidential nomination over the summer, he spoke to reporters about Ted Cruz's father possibly being involved in the JFK assassination.But yesterday was something quite different. This was Trump hitting rock bottom, droning incoherently about "our civilization" being in jeopardy unless he's elected to take "them" on. Who are "they"? The Republican candidate didn't say, exactly, but Trump is nevertheless certain they're up to no good, and they want to crush our "sovereign rights as a nation."Salon's Simon Maloy noted in response, "If that sounds crazy, that's because it was."

Rhetoric like that is sometimes described as "New World Order" conspiracy theories, which posit that there is a coordinated, hiding-in-plain-sight effort underway by "them" -- bankers, secret societies, Jews, socialists, whoever -- to eliminate national boundaries and rule over a totalitarian global state. This sort of nonsense is the meat of much of Alex Jones' lunatic commentary. Trump, representing the Republican Party and finding himself backed into a corner, is now committed to boxing with these shadows.

And with that in mind, let's return to a familiar refrain: are pro-Trump Republicans on board with all of this? Most of the GOP senators, governors, and U.S. House members remain supportive of their party's presidential nominee, and so it hardly seems unreasonable to ask them whether they, too, believe there's a secret "global power structure" pulling the strings of news organizations, banks, the Justice Department, pollsters, et al.Do Republican officials and candidates believe their would-be president is correct or crazy? Inquiring minds want to know.