As Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman points out, we know exactly what the post-Trumpian GOP looks like. It's the party of dangerous cult conspiracy QAnon, a Christian white supremacist group that promotes lethal terrorist violence against a "global cabal" of Democrats, Hollywood actors, wealthy philanthropists, religious figures and tech business leaders as "pedophiles", who justify deadly attacks on people by saying they have to be put down by any means possible in order to "save children".
Should President Trump lose in November, the Joe Biden presidency will be the target of some kind of angry far-right movement consumed with conspiracy theories. We know this because it’s what always happens when a Democrat gets elected. But how widespread it becomes and how much it affects mainstream politics are uncertain; it could be as influential as the tea party during Barack Obama’s time in office, or as fringe as the militia movement was during Bill Clinton’s.
The leading contender is already taking shape and working its way into the GOP: the lunatic conspiracy theory known as QAnon. It already has its first soon-to-be member of Congress, along with a raft of candidates who have captured Republican nominations for a number of offices, including in the U.S. Senate. And it has establishment Republicans confused and uncertain, aghast at what it represents but too cowardly to purge it from their ranks.
In case you’re not familiar, QAnon began a few years ago with posts on 4chan claiming that an anonymous government insider (“Q") was revealing the hidden forces behind all current events. The theory posits that Trump is a messianic figure at war with an international cabal of satanic, cannabalistic pedophiles; at any moment, the president (who in some tellings was partnering in this effort with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III) will expose his enemies and cart them all off to Guantanamo Bay. The FBI believes QAnon poses a domestic terrorism threat.
At Trump rallies, you could see signs and T-shirts promoting QAnon, and the Trump campaign has courted the movement’s adherents. For a president who is, himself, both a consumer and an advocate of all manner of conspiracy theories, it was an easy fit.
To get some clues about what might happen after the election, we can look at the case of Marjorie Taylor Greene, who this week won a runoff in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, all but guaranteeing her a seat in Congress.
Greene has a lengthy history of not just promoting QAnon but of posting racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim videos online. When she won the runoff, Trump tweeted his congratulations, calling her a “future Republican Star” and “a real WINNER!” Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Douglas A. Collins, competing for a Senate seat in Georgia, both applauded Greene’s victory. “It’s clear that we need more outsiders with business sense in Washington,” said Loeffler.
If Greene were alone, it might not be so important. But QAnon followers have won Republican nominations for U.S. Senate in Oregon and for House seats in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio and Texas. Media Matters for America has identified 70 Republican congressional candidates who have promoted QAnon this year.
And how have Republicans in Congress reacted? Only one, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), had the courage to say that there is “no place in Congress for these conspiracies.” In response, the Trump campaign attacked him. Politico reported that the House Freedom Caucus, the home of far-right congressional Republicans, is “actively supporting Greene and recruited her to run for the deep red seat instead of a more competitive one.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — who had criticized Greene’s views before — released a statement saying he looked forward to her winning in November.
There are some conservatives condemning Greene and what she represents. But that happened during the early days of the tea party, too.
Greene and the QAnon caucus coming in 2021 will be indicative of the kind of violent backlash Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be facing should they (hopefully!) win. Make no mistake though, the Biden presidency is most likely going to be marked by waves of deadly white supremacist terrorist violence from the right.
At the very least, it's going to be marked by these conspiracy nutjobs being all over our screens like the Tea Party was ten years ago.