Updated: Oct 16, 2021
Writing for Bloomberg about end of the quarter FEC reports today, Bill Allison and Mark Niquette noted that 3 House Republicans targeted by Señor Trumpanzee "raised more money in the third quarter than his hand-picked candidates to defeat them." I doubt if this fundraising prowess is going to come down to who wins the most votes but corporate whores Liz Cheney, Fred Upton and Jaime Herrera Beutler "were among the 10 House Republicans who infuriated Trump by voting against him during his second impeachment proceeding. So far, Republican donors haven’t followed him in backing their challengers." Trump's vow to defeat all 9-- one, Anthony Gonzalez already ran away with his tail between his legs-- "worries' GOP officials. If Trump's crackpot fascists replace Upton and Herrera Beutler, Democrats could win the districts. (Wyoming is a lost cause for America.)
The real point for the GOP, though-- and one most of the party seems to be openly embracing-- is that Señor Trumpanzee's Big Lie will dominate the 2022 ballot. NBC News reporters Jane Timm and Henry Gomez noted this afternoon that "in next year’s races for governor and secretary of state, for Congress and all the way down to state legislative seats, Republicans eager for Trump’s support have embraced [his] baseless claims. Democrats, eager to rally their base in a potentially unfavorable political climate, have branded GOP candidates as propagators of 'the Big Lie.' The issue is particularly animating campaigns for secretary of state-- the office that in many states oversees elections-- in electoral battlegrounds that narrowly backed Biden over Trump in 2020 and will be hotly contested again in the 2024 presidential election. Consciously or not, voters could render a final judgment on the conspiracy theories that Trump and his allies have spent 11 months nurturing."
“I'm the only candidate in this race who's willing to stand up all over Ohio, and all over America, and say that I believe the election was stolen from Donald J. Trump,” Josh Mandel, a Republican Senate candidate in Ohio who has made the stolen election lie central to his campaign, told NBC News.
“It’s the right thing to do for our country,” Mandel added, when asked if he worried his position might hurt him in a general election. “And I don't care how it impacts me politically.”
In Arizona’s race for secretary of state, Trump has endorsed Mark Finchem, a state legislator who promoted a partisan review of Maricopa County’s election results that reaffirmed Biden’s victory. In Georgia, Trump is supporting Rep. Jody Hice in a Republican primary to oust Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state who resisted Trump’s pressure to rig the state’s 2020 vote in his favor.
“We’re no longer looking at candidates who are attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election,” Bee Nguyen, a Democratic state representative and candidate for secretary of state in Georgia, said of Republicans running in 2022. “They’re setting us up for 2024.”
Governors’ races have also caught Trump’s attention. In a crowded GOP primary in Arizona, he recently endorsed Kari Lake, a former TV news anchor who has said she would not have certified Biden’s victory. And although he has not yet endorsed a candidate in Georgia, he has vowed to unseat Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who like Raffensperger refused Trump’s calls to undermine the 2020 result.
“We have people who are running explicitly on the platform that the election results would have turned out different if they were in power in 2020, and I think it’s going to be up to the voters in the place where they do elect their election officials to say, regardless of party, it’s not acceptable to politicize the elections,” Larry Norden, director of the election reform program at the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, said.
In Georgia, Hice has held himself up as an unabashed Trump defender.
“Nobody understands the disaster of the lack of election integrity like the people of Georgia, and now is our hour to take it back,” Hice told the crowd after Trump invited him on stage at his rally last month in the state. “We've got incredible leadership from President Trump, and we need this kind of leadership again.”
Trump also is backing Kristina Karamo, a Detroit poll challenger during the 2020 election, for secretary of state in Michigan, where Democratic incumbent Jocelyn Benson and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are top GOP targets next year. Karamo headlined a rally Tuesday at the Michigan Capitol, where speakers spread disproven voter fraud theories and demanded an Arizona-style election review.
Steve Bannon, the former Trump adviser who hosts a podcast with a large right-wing audience, has described a candidate’s position on the 2020 election results as a “litmus test” for 2022.
Bannon has welcomed to his show candidates like Finchem and taken an interest in Ohio’s crowded Senate primary, where Trump hasn’t endorsed, but Mandel and other GOP hopefuls have worked strenuously to impress the former president. Mandel, for example, visited Maricopa County during the audit and has won endorsements from Wendy Rogers, an Arizona state senator who championed the audit, and Jenna Ellis, a former Trump attorney known for promoting false election claims.
Mandel, a former state treasurer, also has called for 2020 election reviews in all 50 states, including Republican-controlled Ohio, which Trump won by 8 points. He downplayed the suggestion that, by questioning the validity of election results everywhere, he risks discouraging Republicans from voting.
Trump himself has fed this uncertainty, raising doubts without evidence about whether future elections will be conducted fairly and sending mixed messages about whether Republicans should bother casting ballots.
“If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020, Republicans will not be voting in ʼ22 or ʼ24,” Trump said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”
Nate Persily, an election expert and professor at Stanford Law School, doesn’t believe that the false claims of widespread voter fraud will depress GOP turnout.
“The allegations of voter fraud are more about defining a set of beliefs for a political tribe than it is about persuasiveness, trying to persuade a group about the utility of their vote,” Persily said. “I have not seen evidence in the U.S. that those kinds of messages lead to demobilization.”
Meanwhile, Cosmo is reporting that thousands of people are trying to leave QAnon... but getting out is almost impossible. "After the 2020 presidential election," reported Andrea Stanley, "followers disillusioned by Q’s false predictions of an overwhelming Trump victory flocked to Reddit message boards like QAnonCasualties and ReQovery, their posts tinged with vulnerability and desperation. They swapped articles, books, podcasts (commonly the New York Times’ Rabbit Hole series), and tips on how to let go of conspiratorial beliefs. They numbered more than 200,000. Theirs is the QAnon story you haven’t yet heard-- the one about the people left struggling and psychologically vulnerable in its wake. Who can’t move on. Who feel duped, angry, and confused. 'How do I recover from Q?' wrote a Reddit user in June. 'I just don’t know what to do anymore can someone help I have tried everything.'"
Conspiracy theories have been around as long as America itself, but last year’s particular combination of social unrest, social isolation, and pandemic-related fear created the perfect conditions for them to flourish, says Diane Benscoter, founder of Antidote, an organization that works with people who have been psychologically manipulated. Q was the first internet super-conspiracy, rising from arcane origins on 4chan to achieve mainstream popularity on social media and morphing as it went from a specific story about Donald Trump saving trafficked children into an accumulation of anxieties about vaccines, lockdowns, anti-racism, and the government in general. “It feels grounding in an unsettling time to have a simple answer and a clear enemy,” adds Benscoter. “Those wanting control can create a sense of community around mistrust and hatred of ‘the other.’” Once someone is hooked, the feeling of knowing a secret truth “can trigger the brain like a drug,” says Rachel Bernstein, a licensed therapist in California. “The high they get from this is very much like an addiction.
Cue the brutal comedown, or “hangover of paranoia,” as Bernstein calls it, which many former Q followers are currently experiencing. Of course, some hard-core believers have only doubled down since the election, shifting their attention to the government’s alleged COVID-19 lies (in their universe, the Delta variant is the “scariant,” a ploy to trick more people into getting vaccinated, aka microchipped) or to new dates on which Trump will supposedly reclaim power. They repeat the kind of clichés commonly used by cults to discourage critical thinking, like “trust the plan” and “all will be revealed.”
But plenty of others have struggled to reconcile the things they were led to believe with the things they’ve seen unfold with their own eyes: Trump’s loss, the certification of the election on January 6 (despite the violent storming of the Capitol), Biden’s inauguration. Yet they “can’t just flip a switch and go back to their life unaffected,” says Benscoter. Q was much more than a hobby or an internet fixation. It was (and is) a support network that isolated followers from friends and family, becoming a close virtual community and impenetrable echo chamber. “You have to rebuild your entire identity, so it’s a psychological, emotional, and oftentimes interpersonal crisis.”
Extrapolate that to hundreds of thousands of distraught former acolytes, and we may be facing “the next public health crisis,” Benscoter warns-- one that could lead to the rise of new conspiracy theories and even more violence. “People are focusing on the problem of QAnon but not on the solution,” she says. “We’re in the forest-is-on-fire kind of situation.”
Bernstein and Benscoter are part of a small but growing vanguard of mental health professionals and organizations that are rushing to help. Bernstein has specialized in treating Q patients trying to leave the movement since 2018, using techniques similar to cult exit counseling to help them see how they’ve been manipulated and to explore the trauma or thought patterns that left them vulnerable to manipulation in the first place. The approach was developed in the late ’70s and ’80s as a gentler alternative to the more coercive deprogramming techniques that had been used to help people escape the Children of God, a religious group that was accused of sexual abuse. But this kind of counseling has always been a niche therapy with few trained practitioners. Fast-forward to the present, when social media has enabled psychological manipulation on a massive scale. “I don’t think there’s a widely distributed body of knowledge in the mental health community for when someone is leaving hate or violence or conspiracy theory thinking,” says Shannon Foley Martinez, a reformed extremist in Athens, Georgia, who helps people exit groups like QAnon. In 2020, Bernstein says her practice “went from steady to busy to overbooked at a very fast clip.”
...Therapists who specialize in treating Q patients don’t often prescribe pills or rush to a diagnosis. Instead, they rely on three big tenets of cult exit counseling: building trust while not trying to convince the person to change their beliefs, exploring the life experience that led them to these beliefs, and supporting them once they arrive at the moment of realizing they’ve been lied to and psychologically manipulated. These methods have worked even with people who are initially dragged to therapy by their families and are agitated about being there. Mostly, though, they work when someone is just…tired... “The people who aren’t finding any safety in the conspiracy theory, who are disillusioned, those are the people who actively begin to seek help,” says Bernstein.
If hundreds of thousands of people are rescued/rescue themselves from the clutches of the QAnon cult, what happens to the QAnon members of Congress, 3 crackpots-- Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), Lauren Boebert (CO) and Mary Miller (IL)? And what happens to the QAnon big-wig/possible creator, Ron Watkins, currently running for Congress in an Arizona swing district against sad sack Blue Dog Tom O'Halleran?