The long-running gradual consumption of the Republican Party by the authoritarian QAnon conspiracy cult is nearing the terminal takeover phase: A recent survey by Grid found 72 Republican candidates with varying levels of QAnon affiliation. The most salient fact, however, is not only is the cult presence growing, but not a single Republican in any capacity can be found who either denounces the trend or works in any other way than in concert with it.
That reality is terrifying not just because QAnon has a long record of inspiring unhinged, violent behavior with its fantastically vile beliefs and rhetoric. Most of all, QAnon at its core is deeply eliminationist, with an agenda calling for the mass imprisonment and execution of mainstream Democrats for ostensibly running a global child-trafficking/pedophilia cult—which seamlessly fits the people being targeted by Fox News and mainstream Republicans as “groomers” for opposing the right-wing attacks on the LGTBQ community.
Grid’s survey was based on a review of “public records and reporting, social media posts, and campaign materials and events,” which its team of reporters used to identify and confirm QAnon-aligned candidates for public office in 2022. They found at least 78 of them in 26 states, all but six of them Republicans, mostly running against other Republicans in their state primaries.
“They’re running for governorships, secretaries of state, seats in the Senate and House, and in state legislatures,” the study says. “They have raised over $20 million this cycle — and over $30 million since 2018.” Its simple summary: “QAnon appears to be a growing political movement with increasing clout and significant mainstream appeal.”
The highest concentration of these candidates is in Arizona, which has 13 of them; Florida is a close second with 12, while California has 10 and Texas has six. Over a dozen of them are incumbents, including Congressmembers Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado. Another 14 serve at the state level, mostly legislatures.
One of the incumbents, Arizona House member Mark Finchem, participated in the 2021 Capitol insurrection—as did several other QAnon candidates—and has been subpoenaed by the House Jan. 6 committee.
Most of these candidates, indeed, have never held public office and have dubious (at best) records of achievement:
- Shiva Ayyadurai, who has four degrees from MIT and is running for the Massachusetts governorship, runs a website claiming that he is the inventor of email.
- Ryan Dark White, who’s running for a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland and goes by the name Dr. Jonathan Ambrose McGreevey, has also pleaded guilty to illegal weapons charges and to fraudulently obtaining more than 80,000 doses of opioids.
- Carla Spaulding, a candidate seeking to be the GOP nominee to run against Democratic House whip Debra Wasserman Schultz for her Florida seat, pays herself a hefty $60,000 salary out of her campaign contributions while running up a six-figure campaign debt. Nonetheless, she has far outraised her Republican competitors for the nomination; she’s No. 3 on Grip’s QAnon fundraising list.
As Grid notes, “Q himself may be on the ballot this year.” In Arizona, Ron Watkins—the longtime 8kun site administrator who is believed to have authored at least some of the “Q drops” that fueled the cult between 2017 and 2020—is running in for the U.S. House in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, though his candidacy is considered a long shot at best. Watkins vowed to raise $1 million for his bid, but so far appears only to have raised about $50,000.
In a rational world, QAnon would have shriveled up and blown away after all of its cherished predictions and beliefs about “the Storm” led by Donald Trump and his allies that would sweep up these evil pedophiles and put them in prison to await execution were completely demolished by the cold reality of Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election. But instead, it kept spreading and growing, its fanaticism helping fuel the Jan. 6 insurrection, and providing a driving force for the ongoing anti-democratic insurgency that has followed. In states like Oregon, it now fundamentally controls the Republican political apparatus.
QAnon reared its ugly head in the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson. As Alex Shepard observed at The New Republic, much of the questioning from Republicans revolved around the core QAnon beliefs:
The Q-inspired pedophile smear is consuming Republican politics. “The phrase ‘child porn’ (or ‘pornography’ or ‘pornographer’)” was mentioned 165 times during Brown’s confirmation hearings, The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank tallied. “I’m not suggesting she likes what’s happening in child pornography,” Senator Lindsey Graham said Monday. But “she ha[d] a chance to impose a sentence that would deter [child pornography], and she chose not to.” Senator Josh Hawley, meanwhile, referenced QAnon in his own remarks. “Judge Jackson’s view is that we should treat everyone more leniently because more and more people are committing worse and worse child sex offenses,” he said, while also stating that “we’ve been told things like child pornography is actually all a conspiracy, it’s not real.” The lunatics who follow QAnon may just be onto something, in other words: The truth is out there.
Shepard also notes that there are concrete reasons for Republicans to permit themselves to be subsumed by an authoritarian cult: It polls well. “Nearly half of Republicans (49 percent) and 52 percent of Trump voters believe that Democrats run child sex-trafficking rings, per YouGov polling conducted during Jackson’s confirmation hearings,” he reports. “Even though only 18 percent of Republicans had a positive view of QAnon (compared to 16 percent of all respondents), 30 percent of all respondents believed that ‘top Democrats are involved in elite child sex-trafficking rings,’ suggesting the wide reach of the conspiracy theory.”
What all this tells us is that Democrats this fall will be facing a multipronged attack by Republicans, all based on hysterical fantasy: Democrats are soft on crime, they want to push critical race theory and “transgender ideology” on your kids, and they’re pro-pedophile. All three are designed to appeal to the lizard-brained lowest common denominators: the people inclined to violent eliminationism. Candidates should come prepared.