“When we say QAnon, you have the sort of extreme forms, but you also just have this softer, gradual undermining of any shared, collective sense of truth,” Meijer stated. The Michigan freshman believes conspiracy theories gasoline “incredibly unrealistic and unachievable expectations” and “a cycle of disillusionment and alienation” that would lead conservative voters to sit out elections or, in a worst-case situation, flip to political violence, like what occurred on January 6.

How deeply far-right conspiracy theories take maintain throughout the Republican Party, and what the party does to both embrace or reject them, could have main penalties for the way forward for the GOP and American politics.

Meijer is way from the one Republican in Congress disturbed by the rise of QAnon, however he’s one among a uncommon few keen to publicly and repeatedly denounce it.

Republicans who communicate out danger a backlash, and plenty of would quite dismiss, downplay or ignore the difficulty. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, famously signaled outright support for the conspiracy theory earlier than she was elected to workplace, though she has recently attempted to distance herself from it.

CNN reached out to the workplaces of greater than a dozen GOP members of Congress to request interviews for this story, and solely two agreed to take part.

The lonely voices throughout the GOP who proceed to take a stand should now grapple with what it might take for the party to flip away from conspiracy theories.

Most acknowledge they face a troublesome battle, however some hope they could have the option to develop their ranks in Congress sooner or later, and one upcoming congressional election in Texas will function an early check of whether or not an anti-conspiracy principle message can resonate in a purple district.

‘An extended-term battle for the soul of the party’

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who additionally voted to impeach Trump, often is the loudest voice throughout the Republican Party taking up QAnon.

He not too long ago launched a political action committee as a part of an effort he is calling “Country First” that seeks to counter the GOP’s embrace of conspiracy theories and the previous President. The congressman has endorsed the 9 different House Republicans who voted to impeach over the Capitol assault as they now face down the potential menace of major challenges.
Kinzinger is on a mission to save the Republican Party. The question is whether the party wants saving
He has additionally endorsed a Texas GOP congressional candidate, Michael Wood, who’s operating in a crowded discipline within the state’s sixth district on a platform calling for Republicans to flip away from Trump and reject conspiracy theories. Wood is operating in a particular election happening on May 1 to fill the House seat beforehand held by the late Republican Rep. Ron Wright, who died in February after contracting Covid.
“We are not the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon. We can be again the party of ideas,” Wood says in a video on his campaign website.
Wood blames Trump for the unfold of conspiracy theories throughout the party, and believes Republicans should repudiate Trump to defeat QAnon. Trump has lengthy embraced conspiracy theories, together with birtherism. He forcefully pushed the lie that the election was stolen from him and whereas he was in workplace, he praised QAnon followers for supporting him and refused to denounce the conspiracy theory.

“I think he bears direct responsibility for the rise of conspiratorial thinking in the Republican Party and the conservative movement as a whole,” Wood stated in an interview. “The big lie that he promulgated after Election Day did a whole lot of harm to our civic institutions.”

Michael Wood is running in the Republican primary for a US House seat in Texas.

Kinzinger hopes that regardless of the consequence within the particular election, his endorsement will present like-minded Republicans they are not alone and encourage others to run for workplace on the same platform.

“I think what’s important is that people see there are people out there that support you, that will back you if you do the right thing,” he stated. “It’s a long-term battle for the soul of the party.”

The Illinois congressman describes the hazard he believes QAnon poses in stark phrases, saying he is involved its corrosive affect threatens to pull aside the very material of American democracy.

“Do I think there’s going to be a civil war? No. Do I rule it out? No. Do I think it’s a concern, do I think it’s something we have to be worried about? Yeah,” he stated.

‘We’re facts-based pariahs’

Former GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia is outspoken in his opposition to QAnon, and he believes that’s a part of the rationale he was voted out of workplace.

While serving in Congress, Riggleman co-sponsored a bipartisan decision condemning QAnon that passed in the House overwhelmingly, although seventeen Republicans voted in opposition and 34 did not vote in any respect. But he thinks most Republican lawmakers “want to have it both ways” when it comes to the difficulty of conspiracy theories.

The former congressman stated Republicans often attempt to make it seem like they’re standing up for precept, whereas on the identical time “winking and nodding” at conspiracy theories in an effort to get extra votes.

It’s troublesome to pinpoint precisely how widespread perception in QAnon is within the Republican Party. According to the Pew Research Center, roughly 1 / 4 of Republicans who find out about QAnon view its supporters favorably, although almost half of Republicans say they know nothing in any respect concerning the conspiracy principle.
Then Rep. Denver Riggleman, of Virginia is seen with his Republican colleagues in September on Capitol Hill.

Riggleman believes a significant downside proper now’s that there is a robust “contingent of GOP voters who have completely lost themselves in the rabbit hole of conspiracies, disinformation and grievance politics,” and most Republican lawmakers “want to get re-elected so they would rather have people like me shut the hell up, even though they know I’m right.”

“It’s almost like we’re facts-based pariahs that are trying to sort of rein in this insanity that’s gone on,” he stated.

“It does feel lonely sometimes in terms of being the outspoken voice,” Kinzinger stated. “The reality is I think if you’re a sitting member of Congress it’s easy to say, I’m going to ignore this.”

Wood, the Texas congressional candidate, is annoyed that, in his view, most GOP congressional leaders haven’t achieved sufficient to denounce QAnon conspiracy theories.

'Q: Into the Storm' seeks to pull back the curtain on QAnon's origins
“I’ve been incredibly disappointed by Republican leadership both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate,” he stated, although he praised Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, who voted to impeach Trump over the assault on the Capitol and has said the GOP “cannot become the party of QAnon.”
CNN reached out to House and Senate GOP management workplaces for remark. McConnell’s workplace pointed to the Senate Minority Leader’s past criticism of Greene the place he stated earlier this 12 months that “looney lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican party and our country.”
Wood particularly takes concern with House GOP chief Kevin McCarthy’s decision to meet with Trump to discuss efforts to take back the House majority after the riots, and believes the transfer demonstrated each an absence of braveness and a shedding technique.

“Kevin McCarthy has been a giant disappointment. He was elected leader for a reason and he hasn’t acted like a leader at all over the past few months,” he stated.

‘An apocalyptic, messianic conspiracy principle’

As the GOP charts a path ahead after Trump misplaced the White House, Kinzinger stated he doesn’t need to see Republicans push voting legal guidelines primarily based on false claims of widespread election fraud.

“The narrative is almost we have to tighten our election system so that the next election isn’t stolen again, and that is garbage,” he stated.

Republicans in Georgia recently sped a sweeping elections bill into law, making it the primary presidential battleground to impose new voting restrictions following Biden’s victory within the state. Republicans solid the measure, which has sparked intense nationwide controversy, as essential to increase confidence in elections after the 2020 election noticed Trump make repeated and unsubstantiated claims of fraud.

The Illinois congressman stated that he hasn’t adopted the small print of the Georgia legislation intently and thinks that among the Democratic pushback has been “overblown,” however he additionally believes there’s legitimate criticism that it was enacted in response to false claims of widespread voter fraud.

From left, Rep. Pete Meijer, Rep. Adam Kinzinger and former Rep. Denver Riggleman.

Kinzinger hopes that the January 6 Capitol assault will in the end show to be a “turning point” for the Republican Party, however thinks it might take fairly a while to undo the injury that was achieved.

“I think it will be a turning point in the long run. I think in the short-term there were a number of people who have kind of woken up to it, but there’s a number who haven’t,” he stated.

Riggleman thinks QAnon has taken maintain as a result of it provides individuals one thing to consider in. “It’s an apocalyptic, messianic conspiracy theory that allows people to almost play act in this good versus evil battle against the global forces of evil,” he stated, including that individuals turn into “wrapped up in that” and it turns into “difficult to disentangle them from those theories.”

Is the GOP's extremist wing now too big to fail?

Meijer is worried that embracing conspiracy theories like QAnon may make it more durable for the GOP to recalibrate and rebuild after shedding the White House and being within the minority in each chambers.

“I think it’s all part of this broader trend of blame casting,” the congressman stated. “In the case of QAnon, it’s well, why am I in the position I’m in? Well, it’s because others are holding me down. Why did we lose this election? Well, it wasn’t because our candidate wasn’t the best or had made mistakes, it was because it was stolen. It’s these ways of distancing oneself from responsibility and accountability.”

As one of many Republicans warning concerning the risks of QAnon and conspiracy principle considering, Meijer understands what he is up in opposition to, however he says he is decided to preserve talking out.

“It’s important to not let the record go uncorrected and to continue to speak the truth,” Meijer stated. “It’s something I definitely do at my peril, both politically and otherwise, but I didn’t run for office to seek the easy path and I’m certainly not going to cower away from what I think is an important responsibility.”

CNN’s Kelly Mena contributed to this report.



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