Ben Sasse Blasts QAnon: The GOP Must Reject Conspiracy Theories or Be Consumed by Them

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Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. questions Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017.
Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. questions Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017.Credit: Alex Brandon/AP

Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse took aim at the antisemitic, right-wing conspiracy theory known as QAnon in a blistering editorial in The Atlantic published Saturday. 

The op-ed titled "QAnon is Destroying the GOP From Within" argues that the deadly pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was not the result of a "few bad apples" but the result of a "seed" planted inside the Republican Party that allowed disinformation and conspiracy to take root. 

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"It is the blossoming of a rotten seed that took root in the Republican Party some time ago and has been nourished by treachery, poor political judgment, and cowardice," Sasse wrote.

Sasse argues that once Donald Trump leaves office, the Republican Party will have a choice to either return to the values of the U.S. Constitution or "become a party of conspiracy theories." 

"When Trump leaves office, my party faces a choice: We can dedicate ourselves to defending the Constitution and perpetuating our best American institutions and traditions, or we can be a party of conspiracy theories, cable-news fantasies, and the ruin that comes with them," Sasse wrote. 

“The GOP must reject conspiracy theories or be consumed by them. Now is the time to decide what this party is about,” he concluded.

Corporate backlash

Sasse’s warning comes as Republicans are worried that a corporate backlash stirred by the deadly Capitol insurrection could crimp a vital stream of campaign cash, complicating the party’s prospects of retaking the Senate in the next election.

The GOP already faces a difficult Senate map in 2022, when 14 Democratic-held seats and 20 Republican ones will be on the ballot. That includes at least two open seats that Republicans will be defending because of the retirements of GOP Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Richard Burr of North Carolina.

But some in the party say the problem may be bigger than the map. Eight Republican senators voted to reject Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, even after the ransacking of the Capitol by a mob of Donald Trump supporters who were exhorted by the president to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. Five people died in the mayhem, including a Capitol Police officer.

Recriminations were swift, with more than a dozen corporate giants — including AT&T, Nike, Comcast, Dow, Marriott, Walmart and Verizon — pledging to withhold donations to Republican lawmakers who voted to reject the outcome of the election in Arizona or Pennsylvania. One of those lawmakers, Florida Sen. Rick Scott, is the new chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a post that makes him the public face of the Senate Republican fundraising efforts.

“That’s the crux of the issue: Is this a storm that will blow over, or is ... challenging (Biden’s) Electoral College certification a scarlet ‘A’?” said Republican donor Dan Eberhart, who has contributed at least $115,000 to Senate Republican efforts in recent years.

The lost contributions aren’t disastrous on their own. Political action committees controlled by corporations and industry groups are limited to giving $5,000 to a candidate per year, a sliver of the typical fundraising haul for most Senate candidates.

But two senior Republican strategists involved in Senate races say the cumulative effect of the companies’ decisions could have a bigger impact.

Both of the strategists, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal party deliberations, say companies that suspended political giving are also sending a powerful signal to their executives, board members and employees about whom they should donate to. And with Scott at the helm of the NRSC, that could affect the committee’s cash flow, they said.

Adding to the worries, other pillars of GOP fundraising — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association and groups tied to the Koch brothers — can no longer be counted on for robust financial support.

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