How crazy are things getting? This gripping story tells us

If my computer monitor hadn’t gone kerflooey, I’d have told you about this stunning piece of journalism last week, when the Times published it. I read every word; half the time my mouth was hanging open. I got very thirsty.

But this isn’t one of those (mistakenly) excoriated diner interviews in MAGA-land. Not at all. Instead, this story takes its time to tell us what happened in a tiny Nevada county in the middle of nowhere.

The great reporter, Eli Saslow, crisply summarizes what happened in one of his initial paragraphs:

[O]ne clerk in Nevada told me about an unusual situation unfolding in tiny Esmeralda County, home to a population of 980. There, a Republican clerk named Cindy Elgan faced accusations from her friends and neighbors of being a “deep state operative” who had skimmed votes away from Donald J. Trump in the 2020 election.

Esmeralda County is a beautiful place, where wild horses gallop across two-lane roads, and the jagged rock formations of Desert Valley bank up against the snow-capped peaks of the High Sierra. It’s also one of the most desolate places in America, and people tend to be wary of outsiders — especially when those outsiders are a photographer and a reporter for The Times. More than 80 percent of voters in Esmeralda County voted for Mr. Trump in 2020, and many of them distrust the media. In my first interview attempt, a county employee said he wouldn’t talk to me because The Times was “the Devil’s mouthpiece.”

Saslow details every movement in this odd story about Cindy Elgan who becomes a sort of hero as she calmly explains to her neighbors, caught up in conspiracies I can barely digest, how elections work and how ballots are counted, somehow without raising her voice.

It is a group portrait of one tiny segment of our country which has become utterly weird,  speaking, it seems, in tongues. It’s impossible to grasp how twisted their brains have become. It could be science fiction, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Except I don’t think it is.

A must read. With terrific photos by Erin Schaff.




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