Republicans like to think of themselves as the "Party of Lincoln." Trump's endorsement of bigots and QAnon makes them the party of the internet troll.
- It's possible that President Donald Trump has changed the Republican Party forever, turning the "Party of Lincoln" into the Party of the Paranoid Racist Internet Troll.
- Trump's embrace of far-right fringe candidates and the QAnon conspiracy theory are horrible, but predictable.
- Congressional Republicans refusing to rebuke them is a full-on surrender of any ideals they claim to stand for. They are not conservatives now; they are Trump cultists.
- It's not a terribly high bar Republicans need to reach to ensure their party isn't known for being wholly indecent idiots. They can and should reject these people and ideas.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
There are just six months left in Donald Trump's presidential term. I think it's fair to say the office isn't going to change him.
But it's possible that he just changed the Republican Party forever.
In praising adherents of the deranged QAnon conspiracy theory on Wednesday — as well as publicly endorsing two overt bigots who won their nominations to represent the Republican Party in November's congressional elections — Trump has officially made the GOP the party of the internet scumbag.
The Party of
Mainstream Republicans for the past four years have held their noses during Trump's most embarrassing tantrums, ragestorms, and racist blurts. They've dutifully swallowed their pride and surrendered their spines. In doing so, they've allowed the rot on the fringes of the right to seep further and further into the party's core.
Trump's latest trifecta just puts the stamp of approval on the rot.
Marjorie Green won last week's Republican primary in Georgia's 14th Congressional District. It's a deep-red district, and she is widely expected to be elected to Congress.
Greene is a 9/11 truther and QAnon supporter who posed for a photo with the former Ku Klux Klan leader Chester Doles to help advertise his political group. When asked about the seeming endorsement, Greene said the question was "silly and the same type of sleazy attacks the Fake News Media levels against President Trump."
She wrote in 2018 that "Saudi Arabia, Rothschild and Soros are the puppet masters that fund this Global Evil" — referring to the fictitious global pedophile ring that's central to the QAnon conspiracy theory. In 2019, she stalked the halls of the Capitol looking for Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — the first Muslim women elected to Congress — to badger them into swearing their oath on the Bible rather than the Quran.
On her own campaign's Facebook page she speculated that "Demon possession" and "military grade intelligence developed weapons like Voice of God technology" could be to blame for school shootings. She's also implied that some school shootings could be fakes, according to Jewish Insider. During her victory speech last week, Greene said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was "a hypocrite, she's anti-American, and we're going to kick that b---- out of Congress."
Trump congratulated Greene on Twitter as a "future Republican star" who is "strong on everything and never gives up — a real WINNER!" House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also made it clear Greene was welcome in the House GOP caucus and would be assigned spots on committees.
Separately, Laura Loomer — a self-described "proud Islamophobe" who has cheered the deaths of migrants and called Muslims "savages" — won the Republican primary in Florida's 21st Congressional District. It's a strongly Democratic district, and the seat is almost certainly not in danger of being won by Loomer.
Though she's well-known in far right and ultranationalist internet cadres, the 27-year-old Loomer is basically a B-list exhibitionist troll in the Milo Yiannopoulos mold. She's just as prodigious as he is at getting barred from every social-media platform, as well as by Uber and Lyft for harassing Muslim drivers — but has been unable to even get arrested when flagrantly trespassing.
But rather than ignore this marginal far-right internet performance artist, Trump endorsed her: "Great going Laura. You have a great chance against a Pelosi puppet!" Several GOP congressmen also expressed their support for Loomer.
And on Wednesday, Trump responded to a question about QAnon by calling its supporters "people who love our country" and who "like me very much, which I appreciate."
Each of these endorsements is a presidential seal of approval on an internet culture riddled with racism, overt calls for violence, and a belief that our "culture war" is just an early stage of a coming civil war.
More consequentially, Trump has stamped that same poisonous culture onto the Republican Party itself. That's how it works: Presidents are the head of the party for the time they are in office.
But president aren't kings, not even of their party.
This shouldn't be hard, if you have a spine
All Republican lawmakers in Congress need to decide whether losing their seats is too high a price to pay for having principles.
This isn't a partisan issue. This can't be blamed on antifa or the "SJW snowflakes." This is an easy call.
Prominent conservative commentators such as Rich Lowry and Ben Shapiro have expressed disgust at Trump's embrace of QAnon. The former Bush adviser Karl Rove even called for Trump to disavow the "nuts and kooks" of QAnon.
When the partisan commentariat shrinks with embarrassment, it should be a clue to Joe Q. Republican that they could survive sticking their chins out to ensure that they and their political ideals are not associated with racists, bigots, and sadistic liars trying to incite a civil war.
But GOP lawmakers, with rare exceptions, have been either silent or tacitly supportive.
McCarthy stripped the racist Rep. Steve King of his assignments in 2019. Having set the precedent that rank bigotry is unacceptable in the Republican caucus, there's no justification for putting Greene on committees.
Republicans once prided themselves on being the "Party of Lincoln," or the "Party of Business," or the "Party of Limited Government." Failure to condemn racist paranoid internet trolls bearing their party's imprimatur — even if it means defying the president — is to forever surrender any of the principles for which the party once stood.
When the former Women's March leader Linda Sarsour — who has been credibly accused of anti-Semitism — appeared as a guest of Muslim delegates on a video call during the Democratic National Convention this week, Joe Biden's presidential campaign swiftly condemned Sarsour's views and reiterated that she had nothing to do with the Biden campaign. There's no reason GOP leaders can't clean up their own backyards, as well.
It's not a terribly high bar Republicans need to reach to ensure their party isn't known for being wholly indecent idiots. They can and should reject these people and ideas.
Sure, rebuking Trump invites the likelihood of retribution, but if you can't stand up to this, you can't stand up for anything.