WASHINGTON — Between QAnon and outlandish misinformation about the pandemic, Republicans are increasingly becoming the party of conspiracy theories, and the trend has percolated to elected officials that hold considerable power over their constituents' lives. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently asked all 139 GOP members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly if they believed in QAnon or that the coronavirus was a hoax, and not one of them was willing to go on the record to reject these dangerous lies.
“Republican lawmakers across the country have refused to disavow these dangerous conspiracy movements and many even believe them themselves,” said Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post. “How can you trust your elected officials to tackle the problems in your community when they believe outrageous lies and spread misinformation? It’s a scary prospect. Increasingly, GOP state legislators are proving themselves unfit for office and showing that they are courting the support of conspiracy theorists — if not being conspiracy theorists themselves. It’s a problem that extends to the very core of today’s Republican Party.”
Republicans’ embrace of conspiracy theories and brazen lies has terrifying implications for policymaking. The current push for voter suppression bills in states like Georgia is based entirely on a myth, and their disinformation about the election inspired the insurrection on Capitol Hill. If legislative leaders believe that the coronavirus is a hoax, then they may do nothing to tackle a crisis that has claimed the lives of over half a million Americans.
And while the Pennsylvania GOP’s reticence is particularly shocking, they’re hardly alone in a party that has become a big tent for people that are increasingly out of touch with reality:
- Arizona Senate President Karen Fann spread a debunked myth claiming the United States Postal Service threw out pro-Trump ballots. Fann hired a company run by a “Stop the Steal” acolyte to conduct a bogus election “audit” in Maricopa County.
- Arizona Senator Wendy Rogers is a member of the far-right Oath Keepers and has maintained that Donald Trump won Arizona. She also claimed that antifa was responsible for the violence in Washington.
- Arizona Representative Mark Finchem attended the insurrection in DC and refused to disclose records that could shed light on his activities that day. He continues to baselessly claim that there was fraud in Arizona and recently announced a campaign for secretary of state.
- Colorado Representative Mark Baisley argued that antifa was responsible for the violence in Washington and had previously suggested, without evidence, that state officials were inflating the death toll from covid.
- Iowa Representative Jeff Shipley regularly rails against Bill Gates’s mandatory digital tattoos and vaccine & depopulation agenda, the danger of 5G satellites, the coronavirus vaccine, the flu vaccine and vaccination generally.
- Michigan Senate Republican Leader Mike Shirkey has ties to militia groups that were linked to the plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer. He also claimed the insurrection was a staged hoax and insinuated that Mitch McConnell may have been involved.
- Minnesota Senator Roger Chamberlain follows neo-Nazis on Twitter, thanked the author of a racist, neo-fascist, and misogynistic manifesto, and has defended the Proud Boys.
- North Carolina Senator Bob Steinburg promoted an absurd conspiracy theory about Democrats “extend[ing] the pandemic” to steal an election by expanding voting rights and attacked health officials for not revealing who they were testing during the state’s spike in COVID-19 cases.
- Pennsylvania Senator Doug Mastriano appeared on a QAnon radio program where he spread #StoptheSteal theories. He was also present at the Capitol insurrection.
More than 600 Republican state legislators spread misinformation about the election or signed on to efforts to overturn the results. It’s apparent that the GOP can’t be trusted to tackle the challenges Americans face; indeed, they are not really living in the same reality.