It’s hard to imagine a conspiracy theory so off the rails that it makes people involved with one of the country’s major Tea Party groups throw their hands up in the air and go “whoa, man, this is too much,” but lo and behold, chemtrails rose to the challenge.
Last summer, Arizona State Senator Kelli Ward (R-Lake Havasu City) held a meeting in Kingman at the request of several residents who were concerned about the white streaks in the sky they called chemtrails.
These streaks, of course, are condensation trails, or contrails for short. Contrails are cirrus clouds that form from the warm, moist jet exhaust produced by high-flying aircraft—just as you can see your breath on a cold winter’s day, this jet exhaust condenses when it comes in contact with the bitterly cold, moist air of the upper-atmosphere. If the atmosphere is too dry, the moisture will evaporate and contrails won’t form at all. If the atmosphere is near 100% relative humidity, dozens of contrails can stick around for hours and spread out, covering the sky in a thin, translucent haze.
The tin foil hat crowd believes that physics and natural processes are incapable of producing such a thing (condensed water vapor? in MY sky!?), and that the only logical explanation is that these white streaks are really trails of chemicals (hence, “chemtrails”) being sprayed into the atmosphere on a daily basis by thousands of government airplanes in order to make us sick or control the weather.
Chemtrail activists are working to enshrine their conspiracy theory in as many government records and documents as possible, so they can point to their own work as proof of something that doesn’t exist. Ward indulged these theorists last June, inviting two employees from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to the meeting in Kingman. Instead of taking the opportunity to debunk chemtrails and explain elementary science to the attendees, the employees punted on the issue, telling the crowd that the state has no control over so-called chemtrails, so go talk to someone else:
Sherri Zendri, administrative counsel, and Beth Hager, public affairs director, of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality will make a short presentation at the meeting and focus on the department’s lack of regulatory authority over any type of chemical spraying, according to department communications director Mark Shaffer.
Fast forward ten months, and the world is a much bleaker place— Parks and Recreation is over, Boston broke its all-time winter snowfall record, and John McCain is seeking reelection to his 87th year in the United States Senate. McCain is a mainstream conservative politician—right-of-center, sure, but just not conservative enough for the fine folks who run the many splinter groups that make up the seething ball of elderly rage that is the Tea Party.
It’s not exactly a secret that State Senator Kelli Ward would like to drop the word “state” off of her title, and her name is floating around as one of many Arizona Republicans who would love to contest fellow Republican (but not Republican enough) John McCain in a primary next year. However, some Arizona political activists are concerned that Sen. Ward’s federal aspirations might be derailed by that little chemtrail thing.
So far, the only candidate who appears to be laying the groundwork for a 2016 run is state Sen. Kelli Ward. But she’s struggling to consolidate support among people on the right. Some of her actions in office, such as holding a field hearing on whether chemicals sprayed from airplanes are part of a government plot — known as the chemtrail theory — have prompted conservative groups to keep their distance.
“McCain’s going to call her ‘Chemtrail Kelli,’ or something like that. I worry about that,” said Adam Brandon, CEO of FreedomWorks, a conservative group active in primaries.
@JimSmall I've never believed it - many in my district doApril 15, 2015
Small pointed out that Ward had recently told the Republic that she had no opinion either way, a point she deflected like a skilled politician:
@JimSmall Not sure anyone cares about this - seems like a distraction from the real issues - border, Ocare, out of control spending...April 15, 2015
It remains to be seen if the chemtrail conspiracy theory will play any part in Ward’s bid to unseat McCain and be the one on the plane to Washington in January 2017, but campaigns have been derailed by much stranger things.