Far-right activist Laura Loomer is not exactly the kind of person that you want representing your political party. In 2017, ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft both banned her from their services after she went on an anti-Muslim tirade on Twitter. She’s also gotten herself banned from nearly every social media platform you can think of, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. She routinely disseminates conspiracy theories about mass shootings, pals around with notable alt-right figures, and even got herself kicked out of last year’s CPAC convention for heckling CNN’s Oliver Darcy. She is the personification of almost every unflattering characteristic that devout leftists ascribe to Trumpian conservatism.
And now she’ll be representing the Republican Party in this year’s race for Florida’s 21st Congressional District.
The odds are stacked heavily against Loomer, but she won’t be the only certifiable extremist on the ballot this November. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who emerged victorious in the Republican primary for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District and is a lock to defeat her Democratic opponent in November, shares Loomer’s antipathy for the Islamic community. She also happens to be a proud believer in the conspiracy theory known as QAnon.
The QAnon conspiracy theory emerged online in 2017 after a shadowy figure who goes by “Q” began posting on the anonymous message board 4chan, alleging that President Trump is leading a secret fight against a “deep state” network of powerful individuals operating an international child sex trafficking ring. The theory has since evolved into a bona fide political movement and boasts a disturbingly large online following. Last year, the FBI deemed QAnon a domestic terrorism threat.
Theresa Raborn, the Republican nominee vying for Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District, has spoken about QAnon and suggested that there may be some truth behind the theory. Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert, a political newcomer whose primary victory over incumbent Representative Scott Tipton came as something of a surprise, told Axios last month that while she does not personally follow QAnon, she is "glad the IG and the AG are investigating deep state activities that undermine the President."
Mike Cargile, who will be facing off against California Democratic Representative Norma Torres this year, is on the QAnon train as well. His candidacy is also tainted by racist remarks he’s made on social media, and the California Republican Party has wisely scrubbed their endorsement of his campaign from their website.
If even just a small handful of these candidates win their races, it will light a fire in the Republican party that will be impossibly difficult to extinguish. Emboldened by the electoral victories of their QAnon-supporting comrades, other radical right-wingers will eagerly try to expand the size of their collective footprint on Capitol Hill by running for public office, at which point the GOP as a whole may become embroiled in an intraparty conflict that could last well beyond Trump’s departure from the White House.
Whether or not that happens depends largely on the results of this year’s presidential election. If Trump gets trounced by Biden and Harris, Republicans will have no choice but to run home, lick their wounds, and start the long, arduous process of rebuilding their party. But if Trump wins and is welcomed back to D.C. by a new generation of QAnon-supporting, anti-Muslim, far-right extremists, it will send the GOP down a much darker path than the one they are on right now.
Trump’s extremism revolves more around his own ego than a coherent political philosophy. At the end of the day, he just wants to be loved, and he will do whatever he thinks he needs to do to make that happen. His willingness to change course if he is convinced it will boost his popularity gives Republicans in Congress some influence over his actions. But Loomer and her merry band of agitators are cut from a different cloth. They are genuine zealots who delight in playing the role of the martyr. If they do manage to pick up a few seats in Congress, they will not take their cues from savvy veterans like Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, or John Thune. They have their own agenda that they’re going to bring straight to President Trump. And if they’re willing to indulge his insatiable appetite for adoration, there is a very good chance that he will happily lend them both of his ears.
Republican leaders can’t let it go that far. They can’t risk giving a bunch of far-right radicals full access to a president who has already indicated a willingness to pull out a chair for QAnon in exchange for their loyalty. These delusional conspiracists do not have the party’s best interests at heart. They are not invested in repairing the GOP’s image or expanding its base. They see themselves as courageous soldiers fighting a war against an imaginary existential threat, and they will not hesitate to burn the party to the ground—and the country, too—if that is what it takes to get what they want.
The smart way out of this mess is for Republican leaders to simply turn their backs on these candidates. It is not necessary to go on the offensive; in fact, if they get a little too aggressive in their denunciations of QAnon, it could backfire and feed into the martyrdom complex that motivates Loomer and her pals. Instead, they should just move out of the Democrats’ way and let Pelosi and company run roughshod over the candidacies of bigoted, QAnon-supporting nominees. Conceding any race to the opposition might feel counterintuitive, especially when the GOP is facing the threat of an electoral drubbing in November. But when it comes time to pass the torch to a new crop of conservative leaders, Republicans will be thanking themselves for preemptively driving a stake through the heart of the QAnon wing of their party before it ever even had the chance to will itself into existence.