Life in the small coastal town of Sequim, Washington, was upended last summer when Mayor William Armacost loudly and unapologetically promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory on a local radio broadcast. Six months later, in the aftermath of the U.S. Capitol insurrection, Armacost denied he “endorsed” QAnon. And yet, he had called it a “truth movement” and shared posts related to the conspiracy theory on social media. Residents, a majority of whom voted for President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, were deeply alarmed by his refusal to disavow a fringe and dangerous conspiracy theory, one the FBI has labeled a domestic terrorism threat, and his subsequent efforts to push his critics out of government.
In normal times, publicly supporting the false belief that our government is secretly run by a global cabal of sex-trafficking, blood-drinking, baby-eating pedophile and Satanist elites who can only be stopped by a former president would end the careers of anyone in politics and public service. But it hasn’t been “normal times” for a while now, which has allowed a small number of Republicans up and down the ballot to latch on to QAnon.
A recent Morning Consult poll found that nearly 11% of Americans surveyed believe QAnon delusions are “accurate” or “somewhat accurate.” That number might continue to decrease as the movement’s prophecies — mass executions of the imagined cabal, the restoration of Donald Trump as president — fail to be realized. But the political problem has never been that Q has widespread support. It’s that its small group of adherents are extremely noisy, and the ardent fervor of the movement’s true believers poses a grave challenge to the Republican Party, and through them, the nation as a whole.
“These people are very motivated because they believe these are apocalyptic matters,” said Geoffrey Kabaservice, director of political studies at the libertarian think tank Niskanen Center and author of Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party. “Very motivated people tend to get involved in both the state party structures, for example by running for a precinct committee chair…