QAnon is either a far-right political ideology or the fastest growing new religion in America, depending on who you speak to. Despite the fact that its supporters have been repeatedly linked to violence such as the attempted January 6 riot in the United States Capitol, few Republicans in Texas have attempted to distance themselves from the movement.
In short, QAnon is a loose confederation of conspiracy theories allegedly exposed from a source deep within the federal government. These beliefs mainly center on the idea that Donald Trump is a messianic figure who used his presidency to overthrow an evil cabal from the left, some of whom were satanic and pedophile cannibals. The tenets also include allegations of massive election fraud in the 2020 election, as well as the theory that President Joe Biden is secretly a Chinese agent (or a body duplicate for being deeply strange people).
The most prominent QAnon supporter in the federal government is Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican who has repeated many outrageous claims, including that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged and Hillary Clinton murdered JFK Jr. to become a Senator. Her behavior was so egregious that the House of Representatives voted to remove all of her committee duties, essentially cornering her with nothing to do. She was supported in the vote by every single Republican in the Texas delegation.
Van Taylor (R-Plano) said he believed Greene when she said her statements were opinions from her past and not an indication of her current beliefs.
“This idea of breaking off the culture, this idea, ‘Oh, you said some things that we don’t like, you can’t apologize. ‘I don’t think that’s how we should be in the Republican Party, really in America,’ he said. “I think America has to be tolerant of different opinions that we don’t hold ourselves and we have to listen to each other.”
Greene immediately confirmed her adherence to conspiracy theories after the House of Representatives vote.
Most Texas Republicans are very careful not to actually say the word QAnon when expressing themselves, but their actions often make it very clear that their allegiance is in that direction. The most famous of these is Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who was present during the Washington DC uprising. He maintained the QAnon belief that the instigators of the attack were secretly anti-fascists trying to discredit Trump supporters, a common conspiracy theory that has been thoroughly debunked by the arrest of people with long social media histories of far-right loyalty.
The attorney general’s office has put up at least minor resistance to open QAnon connections. In August, Assistant Attorney General Nick Moutos lost his job after reporting on multiple racist and QAnon tweets. He also loved physically threatening Democratic politicians on the platform, including former President Barack Obama’s testimony that he looked forward to seeing him on the battlefield of the Second Civil War.
It seems like the Texas Republicans are trying to play as shyly as possible with their party’s QAnon wing. Texas Republican Party leader Allen West, long known for his predilection for conspiracy theories, sent a coded signal to the QAnon crowd this year when he used “We Are the Storm” in official promotional materials. The storm is a popular part of QAnon mythology, referring to the day Trump will expose charges against the left cabal. West had also used the term in 2020, claiming it was just a phrase instead of a QAnon support signal.
The Republicans in Texas may just be afraid to denounce QAnon. The election for the 16th District of Texas in El Paso was a microcosm of the struggle for the soul of the Republican Party when it comes to conspiracy theories. Although the seat was eventually won by Democrat Veronica Escobar in a landslide, the real battle was in the Republican primary. Eventual candidate Irene Armendariz-Jackson appeared to be a true believer who liked and retweeted several statements from related reports. Her opponent, Sam Williams, also got a little bit into QAnon content but later admitted that he only did it for the followers.
If the battle in El Paso is any indication, there isn’t much political future in keeping the Republican Party bound by QAnon’s increasingly awkward beliefs. It’s clearly not the road to victory, although swimming in these social media waters is a popular pastime for many party officials, such as Rodney Anderson, Dallas County GOP chairman and Skyler Blalock, Zavala County’s Republican Party chairman.
It’s also worth noting that while Governor Greg Abbott has consistently denounced the most racist and egregious QAnon content, he himself is one of the Republicans in Texas who helped the conspiracy theory ecosystem achieve a stable mass. In 2015, he clung to ridiculous claims that the federal government’s military exercise known as Jade Helm was secretly a conspiracy by then-President Barack Obama to somehow take over Texas, and sent the Texas State Guard to oversee the exercises.
The entire conspiracy theory was later shown to be an early proof of concept for the Russian intelligence operation targeting the 2016 elections. Although the incident occurred before QAnon was born, the similarities between him and the thought processes behind Abbott and the actions of his supporters and the failed coup at the Capitol are, in hindsight, shocking. With Republicans in Texas continuing to flirt with extremist nonsense, such synergies are likely to only continue.