QAnon’s influence continues to grow and expand in 2022's Trumpified, radicalized GOP

QAnon’s influence continues to grow and expand in 2022's Trumpified, radicalized GOP
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QAnon conspiracy theorists suffered a major disappointment when Donald Trump was voted out of the White House in 2020, but their presence in the Republican Party and the MAGA movement didn’t go away. QAnon’s ideas have been promoted by far-right members of the U.S. House of Representatives such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado — and QAnon devotee Lauren Witzke, who lost to Democratic Sen. Chris Coons in Delaware’s 2020 U.S. Senate race, is a pundit in Christian nationalist media broadcasts.

Moreover, QAnon’s influence in the GOP has grown to the point that a QAnon activist — Wayne Willott, a.k.a. Juan O. Savin — is trying to get MAGA Republicans elected to secretary of state positions so that they will play key roles in the administration of elections. Journalist Will Sommer, in an article published by the Daily Beast on June 1, takes a disturbing look at Willott’s “growing influence” both inside and outside the QAnon cult.

According to Sommer, Willott is doing a lot more than promoting conspiracy theories online. He is the co-founder of a group called the America First Secretary of State Coalition, and his candidates have been running in GOP primaries in the 2022 midterms.

“While the 65-year-old Willott remains all but unknown outside of QAnon,” Sommer reports, “he’s a figure with growing influence in both the conspiracy-theory universe and the broader conservative movement…. The America First Secretary of State Coalition now stands poised to have its candidates win offices in key battleground states. One of the group’s candidates, Kristina Karamo, has already won the Republican nomination for the position in Michigan.”

Sommer adds, “Another candidate, 2020 election denier and Arizona State Rep. Mark Finchem, has won Trump’s endorsement and looks set to win his state’s primary as well. If victorious in the general election, both candidates could play a key role in how electoral votes from their states are allotted in 2024.”

Alex Kaplan, a researcher for Media Matters, warns that Willott’s extremism should not be taken lightly.

Kaplan told the Beast, “If one of these candidates in the future gets elected, there is a QAnon influencer that could help lead to a constitutional crisis.”

QAnon conspiracy theorists have no problem believing ludicrous things. Supporters of QAnon claim that the United States’ federal government has been hijacked by an international cabal of child sex traffickers, Satanists, pedophiles and cannibals and that Trump was elected president in 2016 to fight the cabal. And some QAnon extremists, according to Sommer, believe that Willott is really John F. Kennedy, Jr.

“Thanks to his ties throughout the conspiracy theorist community and rumors that he’s JFK Jr.,” Sommer reports, “Willott’s star shot up on the right in 2020 and 2021. Signed copies of his book promoting QAnon have sold for hundreds of dollars on eBay. With Q, the originator of QAnon, silent since December 2020, Willott quickly became one of the leading sources of QAnon information.”

Sommer adds, “Willott’s rise to the top of the QAnon heap was abetted by the other QAnon promoters’ refusal to take the coronavirus vaccine. In the course of just a few months, two anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists who had promoted Willott, Robert David Steele and Cirsten Weldon, both died of COVID-19.”

A recurring theme with QAnon is that Democrats, including teachers, are “groomers” who are trying to harm children by promoting homosexuality and bisexuality in schools and pushing a transgender agenda. In 2022, anti-trans bills sponsored by far-right Republicans have been plentiful in state legislatures.

Journalist Kristi Pahr, reporting for Fatherly.com in late April, noted that at least 150 anti-trans bills had been introduced in state legislatures in 2022 — many of which were passed and signed into law.

“Given the onslaught of hundreds of bills that are under consideration, it can be hard for parents of trans kids or parents who are transgender themselves to know what’s happening where they live — and how to press lawmakers to fight against anti-trans laws,” Pahr reported. “That’s why one group, the Trans Formations Project, developed a tool for tracking discriminatory legislation so the public can find out what’s happening in their states. The project also lists contact information for state legislators and provides descriptions of any proposed legislation in easy-to-understand language, without all the legal jargon and vagueness that tends to obfuscate what passed laws would actually do to our kids.”

Pahr cited Texas, Utah, West Virginia, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Montana, Arkansas and Mississippi as examples of red states where anti-trans bills have become law. And Florida, a swing state, is the home of what has been widely criticized as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Pahr describes it as the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law, reminding Fatherly readers that the law is not only anti-gay, but also, anti-trans.

The anti-trans laws being introduced by far-right Republicans in state legislatures don’t mention QAnon specifically, but they underscore QAnon’s influence on the Republican Party. When Republicans talk about “groomers” in defense of anti-trans bills, it is right out of QAnon’s Democrats-want-to-harm-your-children playbook.

Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee in Pennsylvania’s 2022 gubernatorial race, is among the far-right MAGA Republicans and conspiracy theorists who hasn’t been the least bit shy about promoting QAnon. In July 2021, Media Matters’ Eric Hananoki reported that Mastriano had promoted QAnon in more than 50 tweets.

Christian nationalist Witzke has been another outspoken QAnon promoter. When Witzke ran for the U.S. Senate seat in Delaware that was once held by now-President Joe Biden, she lost badly: In 2020, Democratic incumbent Coons defeated her by 22%.

But the fact that Delaware Republicans nominated someone as extreme as Witzke in the first place is a frightening example of the GOP’s radicalization. And Witzke hasn’t grown any less extreme or any less kooky since 2020.

These days, Witzke is making her presence felt in Christian nationalist broadcasts. Witzke praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a symbol of Christian piety in February and applauded the invasion of Ukraine. And now, she is implying that Democrats in the federal government and their "RINO" (Republicans In Name Only) allies are behind a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas on May 24 that left 19 children and two teachers dead. Witzke believes that Democrats targeted Robb Elementary School not only to promote gun control, but also, because they are worried about Latinos voting Republican.

Witzke said, “I think about the conspiracy behind all of it. I’m like, OK, what do they gain from it besides the gun control push? But also, Hispanics are starting to vote Republican and conservative. They specifically targeted a school in an area that is majority Hispanic. It’s essentially Mexico is what it is.”

Witzke went on to say, “They’re watching as Hispanics are starting to lean more conservative, and these people are crazy. Midterms are coming up. And there’s no limit to how far they’ll go to change the public narrative on things. So, I think it was multi-faceted. Of course, it was a federal operation in order to implement gun control…. All this stuff is organized and operated.”



The claim that Democrats in the federal government are orchestrating mass shootings of schoolchildren because they believe it will help them politically is exactly the type of ludicrous conspiracy theory QAnon supporters are coming up with. And this type of thinking has become mainstream in the Trumpified, radicalized GOP.

From Willott and Witzke to Mastriano, Boebert and Greene, QAnon is more than a movement of fringe conspiracy theorists who make wacky claims online. It is now a prominent influence in the Republican Party, even influencing anti-trans, anti-gay laws they are passing. And if Republicans enjoy a major red wave in the 2022 midterms, QAnon’s influence will only grow.

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