The Trump Apocalypse Watch is a subjective daily estimate, using a scale of one to four horsemen, of how likely it is that Donald Trump will be elected president, thus triggering an apocalypse in which we all die.
If your takeaway from Donald Trump’s disgraceful attacks on federal judge Gonzalo Curiel is that Trump is being racist, that’s certainly fine. There’s definitely a lot of racism involved in Trump’s accusation that Curiel is biased against him because Curiel is “Spanish” and/or “Mexican”; the Republican would almost certainly not talk about an American of European ancestry the same way he’s talking about Curiel, whose parents were Mexican, but who himself was born in Indiana in 1953. But I also think the specific logic of Trump’s remarks about Curiel—insofar as we can call it “logic”—is worth examining for the way it seems to rely on a less-remarked-upon aspect of Trump’s personality, namely his affinity for insane conspiracy theories.
The key here, I think, is Trump’s hypothetical border wall. Trump keeps saying that Curiel has it out for him because of the wall. Not because of “political correctness,” or the many other more generally offensive things he’s said about nonwhite people, but because of the wall. But why would Curiel care about the wall? In Trump’s mind, remember, Curiel is not American, but Mexican. And the wall is not just about maintaining orderly border security—it’s about sticking it to the Mexican government, which Trump believes is intentionally sending rapists and other criminals to the United States. According to Trump, the (nonexistent) undocumented-immigrant crime wave isn’t an accident of demographic trends, it’s a plot carried out by Mexican officials who are “smarter” than our leaders. And building the wall won’t just involve keeping out immigrants—it will involve punishing the Mexican government by forcing it to pay for construction.
Naturally, then, Curiel—a sleeper-agent Mexican stooge—would resent Trump for sticking it to his Mexican masters, right?
Or maybe I’m giving Donald Trump too much credit for maintaining internal consistency in his nationalist conspiracy theories. (Either way, in Reality World, Curiel was a Southern California prosecutor who sent drug traffickers to jail and has thus literally done more for the cause of border security than Trump will ever do in his life.) But it’s worth remembering that the world in Trump’s head—in which the Chinese invented the idea of global warming, thousands of Muslims celebrated 9/11 openly in New Jersey, and Barack Obama was born in Kenya—is just as indefensible on an empirical level as it is on a moral one. He doesn’t just think nonwhite people are inferior and suspicious; he thinks they’re all plotting against him.
Anyway, the ongoing news cycle is not a good one for Trump; even craven hacks like Newt Gingrich are calling him out on the Curiel issue. Our danger level stays low.