“Jade Helm 15” is a planned military exercise slated to take place across the Southwest this summer, orchestrated by the Pentagon.
But to conspiracy theorists on the far right, it’s the planned takeover of Texas by the federal government. Walmart’s even involved, or so the paranoid fantasy goes, closing five of its stores to use as food-distribution centers and house invaders from China. Oh, and each of these Walmarts is also connected to one another by secret underground tunnels (Matthew Yglesias at Vox has a full explanation of the Jade Helm 15 Conspiracy.)
This is a UFO hunter’s fever-dream. But rather than treat this crazy conspiracy with scorn, Republican governor Greg Abbott is lending it legitimacy by having the state guard monitor the exercises. Even Texas senator Ted Cruz (R), who is running for president, asked the Pentagon about the planned takeover.
Rachel Maddow sees the fate of the Republican Party in the 2016 election writ large in the Jade Helm 15 controversy.
“This is one of those issues that is hilarious to the real world but is totally serious business in Republican world,” Maddow said on her show Wednesday night.
Maddow went on to point out the irony of accusing the military and Walmart — two institutions more often venerated than not on the right — of conspiracy, then said the Jade Helm 15 controversy has nonetheless made it into mainstream Republican politics.
“To most Republican politicians, particularly those competing for the Republican presidential nomination, where only Republican base voters will decide who’s allowed to run, if you have a choice between seeming insane to normal people and seeming righteous to the base, which are you going to pick?” Maddow said.
“There’s an incentive to pick seeming righteous to the base even if it is seeming nutty to everybody else,” she added.
And that, folks, is the GOP’s 2016 problem.