A Republican Senate candidate recently declared herself “one of the thousands of digital soldiers” in service of QAnon, a convoluted pro-Trump conspiracy theory about a “deep state” of child-molesting Satanist traitors plotting against the president. A congressional candidate in Colorado who made approving comments about QAnon bested a five-term Republican incumbent in a primary last month.
And then there is Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican who is perhaps the most unabashedly pro-QAnon candidate for Congress and has drawn a positive tweet from President Trump. She recently declared that QAnon was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out.”
More than two years after QAnon, which the F.B.I. has labeled a potential domestic terrorism threat, emerged from the troll-infested corners of the internet, the movement’s supporters are morphing from keyboard warriors into political candidates. They have been urged on by Mr. Trump, whose own espousal of conspiracy theories and continual railing against the political establishment have cleared a path for QAnon candidates.
And even as party leaders publicly distance themselves from the movement, they are quietly supporting some QAnon-linked candidates — demonstrating the thin line they are trying to walk between radical elements among their base and the moderate voters they need to win over.
Precisely how many candidates are running under the banner of QAnon is somewhat open to interpretation — estimates range to more than a dozen, with many more defeated in primaries — and nearly all are expected to lose in November. Some candidates have clear connections to the movement and use its language and hashtags on social media and in real-world appearances.
Scores more have cherry-picked some of the movement’s themes, such as claims that Jews, and especially the financier George Soros, are controlling the political system and vaccines; assertions that the risk from the coronavirus is vastly overstated; or racist theories about former President Barack Obama. Many have appeared on QAnon-themed podcasts and in news outlets.
All of the candidates, though, present a fresh headache for Republican leaders. They were already struggling to distance the party from conspiracy theories steeped in racist and anti-Semitic messaging. Now they must contend with candidates whose online beliefs have inspired real-world violence, including the killing of a mob boss.