Update: On November 3, Marjorie Taylor Greene — the first candidate to ever openly promote QAnon conspiracy theories — won a House seat in Georgia's 14th district.
This story was originally published on August 12, 2020.
Georgia GOP candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene won the state’s Republican primary in a runoff, making her a shoe-in for a congressional seat representing the strongly conservative district. But the preliminary victory puts national Republicans in a decisive position as they must now consider what it means to have elected a vocal supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Greene competed against John Cowan in the primary for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District. When neither of them succeeded in winning 50 percent of the vote in the initial primary in June, it initiated a runoff which Greene won, reports the Associated Press. Upon winning, President Donald Trump congratulated her on Twitter describing Green as “strong on everything and never gives up - a real WINNER!” Greene will run against Democratic opponent Kevin Van Ausdal in November, though is expected to win given that George is a right-leaning state.
But Greene's storied history of promoting QAnon conspiracy theories will leave a lot for the entire Republican party to reckon with. Throughout her campaign, Greene promoted unsubstantiated conspiracy theory popular among keyboard warriors (and now a growing number of politicians). Some of these theories included how Trump was working secretly to bring down a deep state “cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles” (Greene’s words) that are hiding in plain sight at the highest levels of government, Hollywood, and other elite institutions.
QAnon conspiracists first emerged on 4chan in 2017 and have since been denounced by the FBI. In a memo released last year, the FBI warned that QAnon believers could be possible “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists.” But Greene has repeatedly promoted these theories, praising the mythical Q – the original anonymous 4chan poster who claims to be a high-level government official that broke the story – as a patriot. “He is someone that very much loves his country,” Greene said. “And he’s on the same page as us, and he is very pro-Trump.”
When asked during a debate if she was a follower of QAnon, she responded by saying: “I am committed to my allegiance to the United States of American. I, like many Americans, am disgusted with the Deep State who have launched an effort to get rid of President Trump.”
But this QAnon candidate is not alone: Greene is one of 14 Twitter-verified candidates running in 2020 who have promoted the theory. While Twitter has worked to limit the influence of the QAnon theory by banning accounts and blocking content, political candidates have remained largely untouched. More and more, candidates are touting QAnon support under the party's banner, promoting key themes such as believing that Jews control the political system and vaccines or that the coronavirus risk is greatly overstated.
Republican congressional candidates like Mike Cargile, Angela Stanton-King, and Alison Hayden have all been among the notably pro-Q constituents. Stanton-King, who was imprisoned on conspiracy charges and pardoned by Trump, has denied believing in QAnon though promotes the same rhetoric. Cargile on the other hand is more outright with his endorsement, even going so far as to put the QAnon motto #WWG1WGA in his Twitter bio.
Republican party leaders – at least publicly – distance themselves from the controversial movement. However, those same Republican leaders do not outright discourage voters who may be the most zealous QAnon truthers, which is evidenced by campaign finance filings. Financial backing records showing that while conspiratorial candidates may not have the party’s public support, they have its tacit monetary funding.
While many believe QAnon to be a fringe theory with only a few buying into the movement’s wildest claims, those claims are actually quite dangerous, and now present a very real problem for the Republican party at large. Even a watered-down version of QAnon with its antisemitic and racist undertones poses a threat. The more it is recognized and the more influence its believers get, the more it can continue to undermine reasonable discourse.
While Marjorie Taylor Greene is only one candidate, she is a candidate that is notably supported by the president, and is also an outright QAnon supporter in the most public sense of it. The irony is, these candidates are running on fumes of an anti-government platform and at the same time endorsing perhaps the most dangerous politician of all time: Donald Trump.