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‘An existential threat’: The Republicans calling for their party to reject QAnon

“When we say QAnon, you have the sort of extreme forms, but you also just have this softer, gradual undermining of any shared, collective sense of truth,” Meijer said. The Michigan freshman 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, in a worst-case scenario, turn to political violence, like what happened on January 6.

How deeply far-right conspiracy theories take hold within the Republican Party, and what the party does to either embrace or reject them, will have major consequences for the future of the GOP and American politics.

Meijer is far from the only Republican in Congress disturbed by the rise of QAnon, but he is one of a rare few willing to publicly and repeatedly denounce it.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger is seen during a hearing on Capitol Hill in September.
Republicans who speak out risk a backlash, and many would rather dismiss, downplay or ignore the issue. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, famously signaled outright support for the conspiracy theory before she was elected to office, though she has recently attempted to distance herself from it.

CNN reached out to the offices of more than a dozen GOP members of Congress to request interviews for this story, and only two agreed to participate.

The lonely voices within the GOP who continue to take a stand must now grapple with what it would take for the party to turn away from conspiracy theories.

Most recognize they face a difficult fight, but some hope they may be able to grow their ranks in Congress in the future, and one upcoming congressional election in Texas will serve as an early test of whether an anti-conspiracy theory message can resonate in a red district.

‘A long-term battle for the soul of the party’

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who also voted to impeach Trump, may be the loudest voice within the Republican Party taking on QAnon.

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.
Kinzinger is on a mission to save the Republican Party. The question is whether the party wants saving
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.”

Michael Wood is running in the Republican primary for a US House seat in Texas.

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…

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