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Opinion Republicans are becoming the QAnon Party

A sign for the QAnon conspiracy theory at a Trump campaign rally in Tampa on July 31, 2018. (The Washington Post)

On Tuesday, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a racist conspiracy-monger, won a Republican primary in Georgia that will almost certainly result in her winning a congressional seat in a deep-red district. The same day, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat notorious for anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic sentiments, beat back a well-funded challenger to win her primary in a blue district in Minnesota.

By juxtaposing these election outcomes, the media can give the impression, wittingly or not, that both major parties are in the grip of extremists. Nothing could be further from the truth. Democrats have the far left under control, while Republicans are being controlled by the far right.

Greene and Omar actually have little in common. The Somali-born member of Congress has gotten into trouble for backing the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and for suggesting that Jewish money controls Congress. (“It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”) But she has apologized for her anti-Semitic statements.

Greene, by contrast, is unrepentant in her racism and conspiracy mongering. She has falsely claimed that George Soros, a liberal Jewish financier, is a “Nazi himself trying to continue what was not finished.” She has described the election of Omar and another Muslim woman to Congress as an “Islamic invasion of our government.” She has suggested that “the most mistreated group of people in the United States today are White males.”

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As if that weren’t bad enough, Greene is also a supporter of QAnon. This cult, which has been linked to acts of violence, believes that President Trump is fighting a secret clique of “deep state” child molesters. Greene said in a video: “There’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it.”

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Some Republican members of Congress have denounced Greene for her “disgusting” comments, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) didn’t lift a finger to block her election, and Trump welcomed her win. He called her a “future Republican Star” who is “strong on everything and never gives up — a real WINNER!”

And why shouldn’t Trump welcome this QAnon wing nut to his party? She fits right in. Media Matters for America found that 53 congressional candidates have promoted QAnon this year. Besides Greene, they include Lauren Boebert, who defeated a Republican incumbent in a congressional primary in Colorado, and Jo Rae Perkins, who won the Republican Senate primary in Oregon. NBC News wasn’t kidding when it suggested Congress could soon have a “QAnon caucus.”

When the Republican Party was under assault from the conspiracy-minded John Birch Society in the 1960s, responsible conservatives such as Richard Nixon and William F. Buckley Jr. marginalized them. That isn’t happening today. Trump has regularly retweeted QAnon accounts, his son Eric posted a giant “Q” as well as the group’s slogan (“Where we go one, we go all”) on his Instagram account, and Donald Trump Jr. has echoed the group’s deranged claims that Joe Biden is a pedophile.

The jockeying for the post-Trump future of the Republican Party has started, says Post columnist Max Boot. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Johnathan Newton/Danielle Kunitz/The Washington Post)

The president might not be a full-fledged QAnon adherent, but he is a racist and a conspiracy-monger in his own right. The conspiracy theories that he has promoted — Joe Scarborough is a murderer, former president Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) father killed John F. Kennedy, etc. — are nearly as nutty as the ones promulgated by QAnon. And Trump is appointing officials with similarly noxious beliefs: His choice for a senior Pentagon post said that Obama is a sleeper agent for Hamas and a “terrorist leader.” His choice for ambassador to Germany said that country has been overrun by “Muslim invaders.” And his choice to run the Office of Personnel Management said Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta took part in satanic rituals. Trump’s first national security adviser — Michael Flynn — has even pledged allegiance to QAnon.

Trump is also becoming increasingly blatant in his appeals to White bigots. He tweeted on Wednesday that “the ‘suburban housewife’ will be voting for me,” because under a Biden presidency “low income housing would invade their neighborhood.” Trump claimed that the person in charge of this plot would be African American Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). This isn’t a racist dog whistle; this is a wolf whistle.

Under Trump, the GOP has become a party of white nationalists and conspiracy-mongers. I had feared that the Republican swing to the far right would lead the Democrats to go to the far left — and Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) brief run as the Democratic front-runner had confirmed my concerns. But the ticket of Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) is as mainstream and moderate as you can get. Trump & Co. can bellow all day long that they are lackeys for Sanders and “the Squad,” but it’s simply not credible. The Republican Party, by contrast, isn’t just catering to extremists — it’s led by one.

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