Donald Trump issued a breathtaking call to arms Thursday as he emphatically denied allegations that he groped and kissed multiple women without their consent, charging that his accusers were part of a global conspiracy to extinguish his outsider movement.
Scrambling to turn around his floundering campaign, Trump declared war on the media and multinational corporations, alleging they are colluding with Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton to orchestrate “the single greatest pile-on in history” and undermine his campaign, which he said was an “existential threat” to the global establishment.

This sounds somewhere between Alex Jones and David Duke. It’s the kind of alarmist language that disgraced evangelicals, or perhaps an extra-caffeinated Rush Limbaugh, might use.

Trump framed his candidacy in epic, global terms. He said the Nov. 8 election represents “a crossroads in the history of our civilization,” with his populist movement fighting to upend “radical globalization and the disenfranchisement of working people.”

Do we think Reince Priebus or Kellyanne Conway — or Ivanka Trump — really buy this? This is the emotional and mental meltdown we have been expecting. Trump cannot win, and he knows it. Aside from paid staff and blood relatives, he has virtually no genuine support outside the Kool-Aid drinkers and ambitious cynics. (It’s not clear which Mike Pence is.) Beset by critics, Trump sees his created image as a great and powerful man crumbling before his eyes; he therefore needs a grand explanation to explain his downfall.

It cannot be emphasized enough how much damage was done on the right before Trump showed up. The right wing has marinated for years in a soup of paranoia (Sen. Mitch McConnell is betraying us!), catastrophic exaggeration (Gay marriage is the end of Western civilization!), policy illiteracy (Immigrants are stealing our jobs; global warming does not exist, etc.) and ludicrous accusations (Vince Foster was murdered!). Even “respectable” conservative outlets, media figures and politicians parrot the right-wing myths and fail to challenge the rampant nonsense.

In other words, the right’s intellectual rigor was frayed long before Trump came along. When he did, he didn’t sound so nutty to many ears on the right. A party that has been watching nothing but Fox News for 10 years, reading Breitbart (and no actual news or other serious nonfiction, thank you) and listening to Laura Ingraham gets loopy and downright dumb. Collectively the right-wing base (the Conservative Political Action Conference, talk radio, Heritage Action) has lost its common sense and respect for evidence. Wave your hands, shout some buzzwords and accuse the usual suspects (liberal media) — that is what has passed for political discussion for far too long. Trump is the natural and inevitable result of dumbing down politics and policy for decades. (Contrast that with the lists of real conservative intellectuals and foreign-policy mavens who have disowned Trump.)

That’s how a major party winds up nominating a ranting lunatic.

Trump’s remarks, which he read from teleprompters, were laced with the kind of global conspiracies and invective common in the writings of the alt-right, white-nationalist activists who see him as their champion. Some critics also heard echoes of historical anti-Semitic slurs in Trump’s allegations that Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty” and that media and financial elites were part of a soulless cabal to destroy “our great civilization.”

It is as if the John Birchers are back — crazier than ever. Unfortunately, there is no Bill Buckley Jr. around to throw them out. They have so polluted the conversation on the right that it will take decades to wean the GOP off the nonsense. It is why the sane center-right is better off starting over with a new label, a new agenda, new intellectual and ethical standards, new public values — and a new base. Walk away from the nuttery, present a better product and let the political marketplace select the best ideas and leaders. That’s the only way the right will get past this dark age.