I asked several clinical psychologists I know a simple question, based on IQ. I wanted to understand if someone with average intelligence-- let's say between a 90 and a 110 IQ-- actually believe in the conspiracy theories coming out of QAnon. To one degree or another, they all said yes. That's particularly scary since people with IQs between 90 and 110 make up a majority of the voting population. My psychologist buddies all said there's little difference between believing in QAnon and believing in a religious cult and that intelligence per se isn't a salient factor in either case. Wikipedia defines QAnon like this:
QAnon or simply Q, is a disproven and discredited American far-right conspiracy theory alleging that a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles was running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotted against former U.S. president Donald Trump while he was in office. QAnon is commonly called a cult.
QAnon commonly asserts that Trump has been planning a day of reckoning known as the "Storm", when thousands of members of the cabal will be arrested. QAnon supporters have accused many liberal Hollywood actors, Democratic politicians, and high-ranking government officials of being members of the cabal. They have also claimed that Trump feigned conspiracy with Russians to enlist Robert Mueller to join him in exposing the sex trafficking ring and preventing a coup d'état by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and George Soros. The QAnon conspiracy theories have been amplified by Russian state-backed troll accounts on social media, as well as Russian state-backed traditional media.
Michigan's third congressional district is a pretty average place in south-central Michigan, a bit whiter and a bit redder. Most of the inhabitants live in Kent County, although there are significant numbers of votes that come out of Calhoun, Barry and Ionia counties as well. There are two cities in the district, Grand Rapids (pop- 569,935) and Battlecreek (pop- 51,000). Since Democrat Howard Wolpe retired from Congress in 1992, MI-03 has sent a series of mainstream Republicans to Congress, Paul Henry, Vern Ehlers, Justin Amash and, now, Peter Meijer. It isn't the kind of area you would expect to find a lot of QAnon believerss, some... but not a lot.
Trump won the district both times he ran, with 51.6% against Hillary and with 50.7% against Biden. Biden beat him in Kent County (52.0% to 45.9%) but Trump won all the other more rural and small town counties. With Trump having driven Amash to retire, the Democrats decided their best chance to win the seat would be to back a GOP-lite conservative, Hillary Scholten. But why should voters elect a Republican-lite candidate when they have an actual Republican running? She lost to GOP primary winner, Peter Meijer, a wealthy supermarket heir, 213,649 (53.0%) to 189,769 (47.0%).
And then Meijer voted to impeach Trump. Can he win another Republican primary? So far he has two declared primary opponents-- Audra "MAGA bride" Johnson, a bona fide sociopath and QAnon devotee, and another extremist, Tom Norton, who has been trying to prove he is as insane as Johnson. No doubt whatsoever that the DCCC and EMILY's List will team up top recruit another worthless conservative as their candidate... which is a shame, since if Meijer is defeated in the primary, many voters would be uncomfortable voting for either Johnson or Norton.
Yesterday, CNN reported that Meijer has been urging his fellow Republicans to disassociate themselves from QAnon. And he's one of the only Republicans in Congress with the guts to do so publicly. "The fact that a significant plurality, if not potentially a majority, of our voters have been deceived into this creation of an alternate reality could very well be an existential threat to the party... When we say QAnon, you have the sort of extreme forms, but you also just have this softer... [He said he believes conspiracy theories fuel] "incredibly unrealistic and unachievable expectations" [and] "a cycle of disillusionment and alienation" that could lead conservative voters to sit out elections or turn to political violence. Another Republican who shares these thoughts about their party heading down a disastrous path is Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who Trump has also targeted for defeat in 2022.
He recently launched a political action committee as part of an effort he's calling "Country First" that seeks to counter the GOP's embrace of conspiracy theories and the former President. The congressman has endorsed the nine other House Republicans who voted to impeach over the Capitol attack as they now face down the potential threat of primary challenges.
He has also endorsed a Texas GOP congressional candidate, Michael Wood, who is running in a crowded field in the state's sixth district on a platform calling for Republicans to turn away from Trump and reject conspiracy theories. Wood is running in a special election taking place on May 1 to fill the House seat previously 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 spread of conspiracy theories within the party, and believes Republicans must repudiate Trump to defeat QAnon. Trump has long embraced conspiracy theories, including birtherism. He forcefully pushed the lie that the election was stolen from him and while he was in office, 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 said in an interview. "The big lie that he promulgated after Election Day did a whole lot of harm to our civic institutions."
Kinzinger hopes that whatever the outcome in the special election, his endorsement will show like-minded Republicans they're not alone and encourage others to run for office on a similar 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 said. "It's a long-term battle for the soul of the party."
The Illinois congressman describes the danger he believes QAnon poses in stark terms, saying he's concerned its corrosive impact threatens to pull apart the very fabric 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 said.
..."It does feel lonely sometimes in terms of being the outspoken voice," Kinzinger said. "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 frustrated that, in his view, most GOP congressional leaders have not done enough to denounce QAnon conspiracy theories.
"I've been incredibly disappointed by Republican leadership both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate," he said, though he praised Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, who voted to impeach Trump over the attack on the Capitol and has said the GOP "cannot become the party of QAnon."
Too late. Charlie Sykes: