Lauren Boebert and other QAnon supporters are winning Congressional primaries

“Where we go one, we all go” is a frequent slogan of followers of QAnon, a marginal conspiracy theory that raises the existence of a pedophile “deep state” working against President Donald Trump.

Now, it seems like at least a couple of them could go to Washington.

On Tuesday, restaurateur Lauren Boebert defeated incumbent incumbent Scott Tipton for the Republican nomination in the Third District of Colorado. Boebert is a conservative gun rights activist who promotes her support for Trump, as well as her belief in “personal freedom, the rights of citizens, and the defense of the United States Constitution” on her campaign website. .

Apparently he’s on board with QAnon too: In May, he told far-right personality and QAnon advocate Ann Vandersteel that theory is not really his “thing,” but then added: “I hope [Q] it’s real, because it just means that the United States is getting stronger and better and people are going back to conservative values. “

And in Colorado’s traditional third Republican district (Tipton won by about 8 points in 2018), Boebert is also the favorite to win in November.

If you do, chances are good that you won’t be alone in your familiarity with QAnon when you get to Congress. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, nearly won her primary in Georgia’s District 14, which lacks a headline, and is on track to win again in the second round of August. Greene is even more outspoken in her support of the conspiracy theory: in a 2017 video discussing it, one of the first to be discovered by Politico, told supporters that “there is a once in a lifetime opportunity to take this global clique of Satan. ” worshiping pedophiles, and I think we have the president to do it. “

Boebert and Greene are the two candidates who support QAnon who are most likely to make it to Congress in November, but they are not the only ones who stand a chance. According to Media Matters, there are at least eight other congressional candidates who are friendly to QAnon who have already won their primaries, as well as one more (in addition to Greene) who is headed for a runoff.

It is surprising that many people successfully run for office while adopting an objectively savage conspiracy theory. But maybe not that Surprising: After all, one of the President’s sons posted a QAnon chart to Instagram last month.

Candidates do not need to explicitly endorse conspiracy theories to elevate them

According to Travis View, a QAnon expert and co-host of the podcast Anonymous QAnonPart of this is only political, although it is a particularly Faustic variety. The fanatical dedication to QAnon that characterizes many of the conspiracy acolytes turns out to be very effective when it comes to spreading the message of a particular candidate, or, at least, if they think a candidate is on their side.

Of Boebert, View says, “I feel like she’s being very cunning because she seems to be aware of what she needs to say to give the QAnon community enough wink and appreciation without endorsing it.”

Boebert has continued to walk that fine line since his victory Tuesday. “I’m glad that the [inspector general] and the [attorney general] They are investigating deep state activities that undermine the president, “he said in a statement to Vox.” I am not following QAnon. “

But Graham Brookie, a disinformation expert and director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Laboratory, says that if candidates like Boebert officially claim the conspiracy theory, it doesn’t matter much.

“She may not identify herself as an adherent to the QAnon conspiracy theories,” Brookie, a native of the Third District of Colorado, said in an interview with Vox, “but she certainly amplified them demonstrably, and the impact is the same in the audience”.

QAnon supporters, and believers in other conspiracies, are “prepared to believe in keywords and secrets,” as Jane Coaston of Vox explained:

Conspiracy theories create order out of chaos, trying to make sense of events that don’t make sense. And investigators have discovered that factual arguments against him only serve to reinforce them in the minds of believers. That is what makes the trickery of QAnon or Sandy Hook or any other conspiracy theory so difficult to combat: since conspiracy theories are not based on facts, conspiracy theorists are also not receptive to them.

However, not all QAnon-friendly candidates are like Boebert – some exist much closer to the Greene end of the spectrum.

Specifically, View describes some QAnon supporters as “pragmatists” in their acceptance of the conspiracy theory: “Cynical scammers who view the QAnon community as a group of people who can be exploited for money or online audiences”, or even to win a republican primary.

But in other cases, he says, “you see people who are radicalized by the QAnon story.” For example, View says, Jo Rae Perkins, who won the Republican nomination for the Oregon Senate, appears to be a “true believer”; She even made explicit reference to Q in her victory speech in May.

Tacit support for QAnon makes sense for some candidates in today’s Republican Party

When it comes to the recent surge in candidates supporting QAnon, the majority of its voters, and there are around 600,000 of them, according to a calculation by the Washington Post, don’t vote directly for Q. In fact, just over three-quarters Parts of Americans have never heard of QAnon. But while QAnon encompasses many truly savage conspiracies, at its heart, View says, lies “widespread institutional mistrust” – the belief that “all major media outlets, the entire political system is totally hopelessly corrupt.”

And in the Donald Trump era, those kinds of populist messages play very, very well with the Republican primary constituency. (Not only with Republicans, as David A. Graham of the Atlantic points out, voters of all stripes may be prone to conspiracy, and our current political environment is not helping. But the satanic pedophilia issue is basically just one thing. in the extreme fringes of the Republican Party.)

Tipton, the Republican incumbent defeated by Boebert, was endorsed by Trump, but Brookie argues that that endorsement was in name only.

“From an ideological point of view, candidates like Boebert tend to play with the kind of lower parts of Trump’s base that his rhetoric has constantly promoted, endorsed, and amplified,” said Brookie. “Therefore, the victory of a candidate like Boebert cannot be seen as more than an extension of Donald Trump’s influence in the Republican Party.”

In other words, the elements of the worldview underpinning QAnon don’t look all that different from what comes from the top of the ticket, which would explain the prevalence of QAnon signs in Trump’s protests.

The result is a fairly widespread acceptance of, or at least an openness to, and other conspiracy theories. For example, a Yahoo News / YouGov poll in late May found that “half of all Americans who name Fox News as their primary television news source believe in the conspiracy theory (that Bill Gates wants to use the mass vaccination to implant microchips), and 44 percent of voters who voted for Trump in 2016 also do so. “

As NBC’s Ben Collins points out, that’s not a theory Fox has pushed. But the channel has “passed the pandemic, sowing constant mistrust in disease experts, leaving room for the responses that have been filled by searchers of opportunistic online algorithm games.”

And it’s not a huge leap from a conspiracy theory about Bill Gates and vaccines to QAnon. According to View, QAnon functions as “a theory of metaconspiracy that can be connected to any other type of conspiracy narrative,” regardless of what may exist.

Republicans have also not been especially proactive in condemning QAnon when he arises in the candidates. After Boebert’s victory, the Republican National Committee of Congress reiterated its support for her. When asked by the Democratic Congress Campaign Committee if he intended to reject Boebert, the NRCC said in a statement shared on Twitter by Huffington Post reporter Kevin Robillard that “we will contact you when Cheri Bustos and the DCCC reject dangerous conspiracy theorists like Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff.

View says failure to strongly condemn the conspiracy theory means that QAnon is likely to stay in the Republican Party: “Anything less than a clear and forceful rejection,” he said, “will be taken as acceptance.”

However, it is unclear how Boebert’s hardline populism and flirtations with QAnon could resist in November. It worked well for her in the primaries: She becomes one of the few candidates to successfully expel a incumbent from her own party this cycle, but Anand Sokhey, professor of political science at the University of Colorado Boulder, is not. So sure the same will be true in the general election.

“I think it is very competitive now,” said Sokhey. “It seems certainly possible that Democratic candidate Diane Mitsch Bush is running strong in that district where we normally would not have thought it would have been possible.”

Support Vox explanatory journalism

Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience worldwide, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is right now: empowering you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism requires resources, particularly during a pandemic and economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but will allow our staff to continue offering free articles, videos and podcasts with the quality and volume required at this time. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.