From Texas to Hawaii, Republican Officials Embrace QAnon and Punish Party Moderates

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QAnon meme showing Trump at the heart of the 'storm' against the 'Deep State cabal' that has enslaved Americans
QAnon meme showing Trump at the heart of the 'storm' against the 'Deep State cabal' that has enslaved AmericansCredit: YouTube screenshot

The Wyoming Republican Party censured Congresswoman Liz Cheney – its sole representative in the House of Representatives – over the weekend. The fact that she’s the third ranking Republican in the House, a lifelong member of the party and the daughter of former GOP Vice President Dick Cheney didn’t matter to state party members. They chose to rebuke Cheney for a move they considered totally unacceptable: her January 13 House vote in favor of impeaching Donald Trump.

That decision is the latest in a series by GOP state chapters that highlights the party’s increasing drift toward complete loyalty to Trump, as well as the embrace of fringe conspiracy theories that are affiliated with the former president.

Read more: Why I now consider Republicans enemies of democracyCheney defiant after censure: GOP not the party of 'QAnon or antisemitism or Holocaust deniers'

These acts show that the battle for control of the Republican Party in the post-Trump era is just beginning, and that far-right forces – some of whom also hold antisemitic views – still yield a lot of influence within the party.

From Oregon to Texas, here are five recent scandals involving state-level GOP actions that highlight the party’s post-Trump crisis.

Oregon

On January 19, the Oregon Republican Party passed a resolution and released a letter, filled with inaccuracies and conspiratorial language, that not only backed Trump but declared that the Capitol attack led by his supporters January 6 was a “false flag” operation by the president’s opponents – a discredited lie. The resolution also condemned the 10 Republican representatives who voted to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection.”

The resolution read: “This [attack] provided the sham motivation to impeach President Trump in order to advance the Democrat goal of seizing total power, in a frightening parallel to the February 1933 burning of the German Reichstag.” 

The letter and subsequent resolutions, which came from the party’s executive committee, were later denounced by the entire Oregon House GOP caucus, demonstrating the divide between the party’s elected leaders and its local officials.

Hawaii

The chairwoman of the Hawaii Republican Party resigned last week after a senior party member used the party’s official Twitter account to defend supporters of the QAnon ideology. QAnon has been described by the Anti-Defamation League as “an amalgam of both novel and well-established [conspiracy] theories, with marked undertones of antisemitism and xenophobia."

Shirlene Ostrov said in a statement that she was stepping down “to allow the party to recover from the controversy.” She added that “we have a stark but important choice to make: either we rededicate ourselves to our Constitution and continue to defend and uphold our best American institutions and traditions, or we get distracted by conspiracy theories and social media wars.” 

Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, noted this was not the first time the GOP Twitter account in his state supported extremist views. Santos-Tam cited several instances in which the account referred to blogger Tarl Warwick – who questioned the actual death toll at Auschwitz – as someone whose “commentary and analysis is generally high quality.”

Texas 

The Texas GOP stirred controversy last week for using “We are the storm” as a slogan on its Twitter account and other official party literature. 

Another QAnon belief, “The Storm” was supposed to be the reckoning when Trump would bring to justice the “deep state” elements conspiring against him. In other words, this was evidence of the Texas GOP – one of the largest local branches of the party in the entire country – using a slogan affiliated with an antisemitic conspiracy theory.

Former Florida Congressman Allen West, who is now chairman of the Texas GOP, has defended the slogan, claiming it comes from a poem he likes: “The devil whispers to the warrior slyly can it withstand the coming storm. The warrior responds, ‘I am the storm.’”

Last December, while Trump was raging against the election results, West suggested Texas secede “and form a union of states that will abide by the Constitution” if the courts continued to reject Trump’s election challenges

Following a backlash to the suggestion, the Texas GOP tweeted a message urging its followers to migrate over to Gab – a social media platform popular with right-wing extremists

Arizona

The Arizona Republican Party did something last week that until recently would have been beyond the realm of anyone’s imagination: it voted to censure Sen. John McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain. The late Sen. McCain represented Arizona in Congress for decades, and was long considered a hero and symbol of the local Republican Party. No more.

Cindy McCain was censured by her former party for the “sin” of supporting Joe Biden over Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Former GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, who represented Arizona in the Senate alongside McCain from 2013 to 2019, was censured for the same reason.

The party also voted to censure Arizona’s GOP governor, Doug Ducey, even though he endorsed Trump ahead of the election. The reason? Because he put in place restrictions to try to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state. Ducey was called a “rino” (Republican in name only) by Trump for refusing to support his attempts to overturn the results of the election, in which Biden became the first Democrat in decades to win Arizona.

Illinois

While all 10 GOP House members who voted to impeach Trump are under fire, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger has remained particularly defiant. The Illinois GOP is widely expected to censure Kinzinger, an air force veteran and former Trump supporter, who decided to vote in favor of impeachment following the violent attack on the Capitol.

Kinzinger is not alone in the GOP doghouse. Last week, South Carolina’s state chapter officially censured Rep. Tom Rice for his impeachment vote. Meanwhile, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who says he is open to voting to convict Trump in his upcoming Senate trial, is also facing a censure vote by his state party.

Sasse released a video over the weekend. “I’m not going to spend any time trying to talk you out of another censure,” he said, adding, “Let’s be clear about why this is happening. It’s because I still believe, as you used to, that politics isn’t about the weird worship of one guy.”

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