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Tag: qanon

Boebert Trolls Charity Event With QAnon-Style Attack On Biden

Reprinted with permission from alternet

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) decided to turn a local D.C. Boys & Girls Club into a tool of her relentless attacks against President Joe Biden Thursday morning, after Wednesday's annual Congressional Baseball Game.

Every year for the past 112 years (except for 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic) members of Congress have joined together to participate in the national pastime – these days a rare moment of sportsmanship and bipartisanship.And it's all for charity.

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How Conspiracism Incites Bloody Violence, Damaging Democracy And Society

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The stories come in dribs and drabs, popping up irregularly but often, seemingly out of nowhere, always the same basic narrative arc: Someone gets sucked down the rabbit hole of right-wing conspiracy theories, built on endless streams of disinformation, so deeply that they not only fully believe the violent premises underlying all such belief systems, but they act on them in real life—in predictably violent ways, and with inevitably tragic outcomes.

Many may seem minor or of limited interest and often are only covered locally and regionally. Yet cumulatively, these stories have a profoundly toxic effect, manifesting one of the subtler ways that the conspiracism/disinformation industry undermines democracy and our social stability.

There has been a steady drumbeat of these stories in recent years. In some cases, such as the March 2019 attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, or the August 2019 attack on a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, both by radicalized far-right extremists, become prominent news stories and are readily understood as instances of domestic terrorism. However, many such cases involve fewer casualties—and some none at all—and receive considerably less news focus.

Yet this drumbeat has its own kind of terroristic effect. Most terrorists act out violently as a way of undermining the larger social and political order, a means of persuading the public that civil authorities are incapable of keeping them safe and providing security. It's powerfully effective for right-wing extremists because creating an atmosphere ripe with fear is a proven way of inducing authoritarianism among the general public as a psychological response. As these lesser incidents accumulate—especially when they begin happening with greater frequency—they have the same effect on public sensibilities.

This lower-level drumbeat has become intense over the past several months, particularly as unhinged authoritarian Trump followers revolt against the reality of Joe Biden's 2020 election victory:

  • An El Paso, Texas, man named Joseph Angel Alvarez was arrested last week for the November 2020 murder of a prominent local attorney and the shooting of her husband at their home in the historic Manhattan Heights neighborhood. Prosecutors say Alvarez believed the couple voted for Biden and was part of a "satanic Jewish cabal" abducting local children.

At about 7:35 p.m. the night of Nov. 14, 2020, Alvarez gunned down Georgette G. Kaufmann in the garage of her home, then shot her husband, Daniel L. Kaufmann, five times when he came to the door to check out the noises. Alvarez fled the scene while Daniel Kaufmann crawled to a neighbor's home for help.

Alvarez sent a message to a U.S. Army email address on the night of the killing, claiming there were satanic rituals at the park, that he had determined the people living in four houses at an intersection near the park were responsible, and that he planned to kill them all. The email also demanded that people "stop all murder of babies."

According to prosecutors, he also said in the email that he targeted the Kaufmanns' house because he believed they had voted for Biden and possessed a Biden "flag and a doll of Trump hanging." He said he was "executing and exterminating the pro-choice Jewish Satan worshippers" when he chose the Kaufmanns' home.

"The defendant's belief was 'to end the Satanic activity' near the crime scene (Memorial Park) and acted out his manifesto by killing and shooting the Kaufmanns and by mentally fabricating the connection he believed the four corner houses on Raynor and Copper to have been involved in 'satanic activity,' because of their relative geographic location to the park," the affidavit filed in the case states.

  • In early September, a 41-year-old Port Angeles, Washington man went on an armed rampage in Olympic National Park, threatening park rangers and parkgoers and eventually engaging in an armed standoff that lasted for three days—all because he believed "the revolution" was imminent, and he intended to help spark it.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 29, Caleb Jesse Chapman got into a heated argument with his girlfriend while camping at the national park's Deer Park campground, not far from Port Angeles and near popular visitor sites like Hurricane Ridge. He had told her she would probably die in "the revolution," and when she objected, he became threatening.

When he found out that she had dialed 911, he threw an unopened soup can at her, lacerating her leg, and beat her head against a car seat, prosecutors say. Before police could arrive, however, he set out on a terrorist rampage directed at the national park's rangers and visitors, dressed in a tactical vest and armed with a semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and multiple handguns "while yelling and screaming," the woman told authorities.

He is believed to have set an estimated 1,000-square-foot fire off Hurricane Ridge Road earlier that morning, before the assault. After leaving the campground, he cut down a tree that blocked access on Deer Park Road to the campground. According to court documents, he disabled the park's Blue Mountain Summit repeater site's emergency radio communication system, allegedly removing power and antenna cables.

Authorities shut down public access to Hurricane Ridge Road and Deer Park campground. Area trailheads were closed to the public from the time the incident was reported until after Chapman was captured, three days later. Parks officials at first did not release his name, and described the situation as "an ongoing law enforcement incident." Chapman reportedly shot at a drone which had spotted him on Aug. 31.

When he was finally apprehended, FBI agents and park rangers seized a significant weapons cache: four semi-automatic pistols, two semi-automatic rifles, a 20-gauge pump-action shotgun and 500 rounds of ammunition, along with two chainsaws and multiple boxes of ammunition found in Chapman's truck. They said they also found a loaded semi-automatic pistol, radio repeater components, a park radio frequency list, a radio microphone, food, water, knives, general survival equipment, and identification cards, in addition to a baggie of what was believed to be methamphetamine.

A manifesto of sorts was uncovered by investigators and introduced in court documents. "My name is not important," Chapman said at the beginning of a 240-word letter. "I am trying to warn all Americans who believe in Freedom … Freedom from wars fought on our land," it said.

It continued:

"This country has lost its way and needs to get the freedom [and] rights of free speech, shooting guns because our Ancestors fought for those rights! Those freedoms [and] many others SHOULD NOT BE GOTTEN THROUGH A REVOLUTION!!! For a year ammunition could not be bought barely, the white house was overrun, lots of media propaganda [and] countless weeks spent on B.S.
"DO IT RIGHT AMERICANS [and] WHEN THE ONES WHO SAY THEY ARE PROUD [and] WANT THOSE FREEDOMS BACK AS THEY POINT A GUN AT YOU … LOOK THEM RIGHT BACK [and] SHOOT THE SNEAKY, COWARDLY, TREASONESS PUNKS!!!"

Chapman now faces federal domestic violence assault charges. Earlier this week, Magistrate Judge Theresa L. Fricke of Tacoma Federal District Court determined that Chapman is a flight risk and danger to the community, and ordered his detention at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac to continue. She ruled he cannot be released while under electronic home monitoring to the custody of his mother in Forks.

  • In early August, a onetime surfing-school owner from California who had become obsessed with QAnon and other conspiracy theories—particularly the related "serpent people" conspiracies popularized by David Ickes—transported his two children over the border into Mexico, where he proceeded to murder them with a speargun because he believed they were programmed to become monsters.

Matthew Taylor Coleman, 40, of Santa Barbara, was arrested at the border after the children's bodies—a 3-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy—had been discovered earlier by a ranch worker near Rosarita in Baja California. He had spirited the children out of the country without their mother's consent.

According to the far-right conspiracy theory, Coleman was apparently convinced that his wife was part of the secret reptilian society that controls the world and that she had passed on her "serpent DNA" to the children. He thought the children "were going to grow into monsters, so he had to kill them," federal officials alleged.

According to the complaint, Coleman said he knew what he did was wrong but that "it was the only course of action that would save the world."

We process all these stories—which are disturbing in profound ways, because they often involve nightmarish violence befalling ordinary people in ordinary places, often perpetrated by seemingly ordinary people unhinged by seemingly ordinary interactions on the Internet—and then quickly file them away down the memory hole, one after the other. The ordinariness of it all creates an unsettling sense of fear.

The more often and more regularly they happen, the faster we process them. But the drumbeat creates a cumulative effect similar to mass terrorism events intended to spread a general sense of fear in the public and undermine confidence in authorities to keep people safe.

As Kos' Laura Clawson observed, writing about my book Red Pill, Blue Pill: How to Counteract the Conspiracy Theories That Are Killing Us:

The contours of these conspiracy theories, ever shifting but drawing on so many of the same ideas and building on each other, make clear what a big, big problem we're looking at. Any one such theory may seem fringe (until it doesn't anymore), but the constant churn of them shouldn't be underestimated. And understanding the degree to which they're interconnected shows both the difficulty of breaking their hold and the importance of preventing them from taking root to begin with.

Beltway Press Fawned Over Trump Voters — Now They’re COVID Zombies

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Willfully risking death by refusing to take the miraculously safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine, Trump voters nationwide have embarked on one of the deadliest and most illogical movements in American history — they've morphed into QAnon-fueled, brainwashed, Covid zombies, immune to rational thought.

Fresh off of backing a deadly insurrection and trying to overturn free and fair elections, they have set their sights on extinguishing American norms.

President Joe Biden addressed the nation Thursday in hopes of creating a path forward out of the pandemic entirely because Covid zombies, a radical menace, refuse to get vaccinated. They, along with local Republican officials, help fuel the Delta surge, which has shuttered school districts nationwide and set off local mayhem as Trump voters wage war on mask mandates. "Fights broke out and at least one person was handcuffed after a Missouri school board voted unanimously to mandate masking in schools amid a surge of coronavirus cases in the area," read a recent dispatch.

The zombies are part of a deep-pocketed political and media crusade determined to keep the pandemic going, and gladly risking infections by embracing anti-science demagoguery.

What's telling is that while Trump was in the White House and the Beltway press glowingly profiled his supporters, preferably in red state diners, that's not the story the media were telling. Anxious to brush off claims of liberal media bias, reporters fanned out to Trump bastions to eagerly record every utterance from his supporters. We witnessed a conveyor belt of stories about blue-collar voters in virtually all-white counties inside red states announcing that they really, really like Trump. ("Hitting it out of the ballpark"; "I think he's doing a great job.")

Yet virtually none of that gentle coverage hinted at a radical, conspiratorial dark side at play. Routinely depicted as hard-working folks in search of a political path, and thankful for Trump leadership, the Trump voter coverage deliberately failed to pull back the curtain and reveal even small glimpses of today's manic, anti-mask and anti-vaccine mobs. Instead, the press presented a gauzy fantasy about what was going on in conservative America.

Committed to the idea that Trump's white voters were the most important, and most authentic, voices in American politics, the media spent years celebrating them, marveling at their loyalty in the face of Trump's erratic behavior.

It was relentless. Over the span of just four days in early 2017, the New York Times published a long profile on women who voted for Trump, a piece on Trump fans who traveled to the inauguration, and an adoring profile of a Trump voter who lied about Hillary Clinton during the campaign and profited from his fake news business. Later, even a Trump supporter who had nice things to say about Nazis received a gentle Times profile. (Actual Trump voter Times headlines: "These Guys Really Like Trump"; "Trump's Fights Are Their Fights. They Have His Back Unapologetically")

Today, those Trump voters have mobilized as Covid zombies and gone from insisting the pandemic was a hoax in 2020, to embracing every illogical anti-vaccine trope that Tucker Carlson regurgitates. And they still think the vaccine is more dangerous than the virus.

Trump voters have collectively lost their minds as the virus runs wild in red states. Even as some prominent anti-vaccine zealots kill themselves off, the close-minded hysteria intensifies as fanatics now physically assault local school board members, lodge countless death threats, and cause chaos for teachers and students. This is a kind of cult-like mania rarely seen in modern American history.

There have been unhinged right-wing political mobs before — think back to the Tea Party movement, which flourished as soon as America elected its first Black president. That however, was fueled by a willful misreading of Obama's economic policy and bailout strategy. The current day right-wing madness is more akin to the Salem witch trials, where hysterical, organized mobs conjure up imaginary demons and then set out to administer vigilante justice.

"Community groups within our conservative stronghold thought they could buck the Fox News narrative and persuade reluctant Republicans to get vaccinated," explained Dr. Rob Davidson, an emergency room physician in western Michigan. "They recruited local Republican leaders to encourage their supporters to get their shots. But instead of getting more people vaccinated, these public servants got death threats."

Yet the press is still normalizing the insanity. After documenting several instances of Trump voters storming school board meetings and comparing mask mandates to sex trafficking and to Hitler's rise to power ("This is what Hitler wants. Hitler wants everybody divided. If we all stay divided, who wins? Hitler wins"), the New York Times' Michelle Cottle insisted that what the Covid Zombies are doing "is nothing new." In reality, it's unprecedented.

In The Atlantic, Elizabeth Bruenig tsk-tsked liberals for "shaming" Trump voters who are bypassing an FDA-approved vaccine in order to ingest horse paste.

Five years ago, the press made excuses for Trump's bigoted base during the campaign by claiming they were motivated by "economic anxiety." Then news outlets spent four years courting Trump voters in cozy diners and presenting them as authentic voices from the heartland. Now they're Covid zombies, and the press missed the story.

Bannon Recruits QAnon Supporters As GOP Precinct Chairs

Reporting by Doug Bock Clark, Alexandra Berzon, and Anjeanette Damon

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

One of the loudest voices urging Donald Trump's supporters to push for overturning the presidential election results was Steve Bannon. "We're on the point of attack," Bannon, a former Trump adviser and far-right nationalist, pledged on his popular podcast on Jan. 5. "All hell will break loose tomorrow." The next morning, as thousands massed on the National Mall for a rally that turned into an attack on the Capitol, Bannon fired up his listeners: "It's them against us. Who can impose their will on the other side?"

When the insurrection failed, Bannon continued his campaign for his former boss by other means. On his "War Room" podcast, which has tens of millions of downloads, Bannon said President Trump lost because the Republican Party sold him out. "This is your call to action," Bannon said in February, a few weeks after Trump had pardoned him of federal fraud charges.

The solution, Bannon announced, was to seize control of the GOP from the bottom up. Listeners should flood into the lowest rung of the party structure: the precincts. "It's going to be a fight, but this is a fight that must be won, we don't have an option," Bannon said on his show in May. "We're going to take this back village by village … precinct by precinct."

Precinct officers are the worker bees of political parties, typically responsible for routine tasks like making phone calls or knocking on doors. But collectively, they can influence how elections are run. In some states, they have a say in choosing poll workers, and in others they help pick members of boards that oversee elections.

After Bannon's endorsement, the "precinct strategy" rocketed across far-right media. Viral posts promoting the plan racked up millions of views on pro-Trump websites, talk radio, fringe social networks and message boards, and programs aligned with the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Suddenly, people who had never before showed interest in party politics started calling the local GOP headquarters or crowding into county conventions, eager to enlist as precinct officers. They showed up in states Trump won and in states he lost, in deep-red rural areas, in swing-voting suburbs and in populous cities.

In Wisconsin, for instance, new GOP recruits are becoming poll workers. County clerks who run elections in the state are required to hire parties' nominees. The parties once passed on suggesting names, but now hardline Republican county chairs are moving to use those powers.

"We're signing up election inspectors like crazy right now," said Outagamie County party chair Matt Albert, using the state's formal term for poll workers. Albert, who held a "Stop the Steal" rally during Wisconsin's November recount, said Bannon's podcast had played a role in the burst of enthusiasm.

ProPublica contacted GOP leaders in 65 key counties, and 41 reported an unusual increase in signups since Bannon's campaign began. At least 8,500 new Republican precinct officers (or equivalent lowest-level officials) joined those county parties. We also looked at equivalent Democratic posts and found no similar surge.

"I've never seen anything like this, people are coming out of the woodwork," said J.C. Martin, the GOP chairman in Polk County, Florida, who has added 50 new committee members since January. Martin had wanted congressional Republicans to overturn the election on Jan. 6, and he welcomed this wave of like-minded newcomers. "The most recent time we saw this type of thing was the tea party, and this is way beyond it."

Bannon, through a spokesperson, declined to comment.

Tracking a Wave of New GOP Officers

Note: Hover over the pins for details on the increase or for information about other GOP activism there.

While party officials largely credited Bannon's podcast with driving the surge of new precinct officers, it's impossible to know the motivations of each new recruit. Precinct officers are not centrally tracked anywhere, and it was not possible to examine all 3,000 counties nationwide. ProPublica focused on politically competitive places that were discussed as targets in far-right media.

The tea party backlash to former President Barack Obama's election foreshadowed Republican gains in the 2010 midterm. Presidential losses often energize party activists, and it would not be the first time that a candidate's faction tried to consolidate control over the party apparatus with the aim of winning the next election.

What's different this time is an uncompromising focus on elections themselves. The new movement is built entirely around Trump's insistence that the electoral system failed in 2020 and that Republicans can't let it happen again. The result is a nationwide groundswell of party activists whose central goal is not merely to win elections but to reshape their machinery.

"They feel President Trump was rightfully elected president and it was taken from him," said Michael Barnett, the GOP chairman in Palm Beach County, Florida, who has enthusiastically added 90 executive committee members this year. "They feel their involvement in upcoming elections will prevent something like that from happening again."

It has only been a few months — too soon to say whether the wave of newcomers will ultimately succeed in reshaping the GOP or how they will affect Republican prospects in upcoming elections. But what's already clear is that these up-and-coming party officers have notched early wins.

In Michigan, one of the main organizers recruiting new precinct officers pushed for the ouster of the state party's executive director, who contradicted Trump's claim that the election was stolen and who later resigned. In Las Vegas, a handful of Proud Boys, part of the extremist group whose members have been charged in attacking the Capitol, supported a bid to topple moderates controlling the county party — a dispute that's now in court.

In Phoenix, new precinct officers petitioned to unseat county officials who refused to cooperate with the state Senate Republicans' "forensic audit" of 2020 ballots. Similar audits are now being pursued by new precinct officers in Michigan and the Carolinas. Outside Atlanta, new local party leaders helped elect a state lawmaker who championed Georgia's sweeping new voting restrictions.

And precinct organizers are hoping to advance candidates such as Matthew DePerno, a Michigan attorney general hopeful who Republican state senators said in a report had spread "misleading and irresponsible" misinformation about the election, and Mark Finchem, a member of the Oath Keepers militia who marched to the Capitol on January 6 and is now running to be Arizona's top elections official. DePerno did not respond to requests for comment, and Finchem asked for questions to be sent by email and then did not respond. Finchem has said he did not enter the Capitol or have anything to do with the violence. He has also said the Oath Keepers are not anti-government.

When Bannon interviewed Finchem on an April podcast, he wrapped up a segment about Arizona Republicans' efforts to reexamine the 2020 results by asking Finchem how listeners could help. Finchem answered by promoting the precinct strategy. "The only way you're going to see to it this doesn't happen again is if you get involved," Finchem said. "Become a precinct committeeman."

Some of the new precinct officers were in the crowd that marched to the Capitol on January 6, according to interviews and social media posts; one Texas precinct chair was arrested for assaulting police in Washington. He pleaded not guilty. Many of the new activists have said publicly that they support QAnon, the online conspiracy theory that believes Trump was working to root out a global child sex trafficking ring. Organizers of the movement have encouraged supporters to bring weapons to demonstrations. In Las Vegas and Savannah, Georgia, newcomers were so disruptive that they shut down leadership elections.

"They're not going to be welcomed with open arms," Bannon said, addressing the altercations on an April podcast. "But hey, was it nasty at Lexington?" he said, citing the opening battle of the American Revolution. "Was it nasty at Concord? Was it nasty at Bunker Hill?"

Arizona activist Daniel J. Schultz, who developed the precinct strategy, appears on Steve Bannon's podcast and weekly conference calls with organizers around the country. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: Bannon's War Room/YouTube; Network America/YouTube

Bannon plucked the precinct strategy out of obscurity. For more than a decade, a little-known Arizona tea party activist named Daniel J. Schultz has been preaching the plan. Schultz failed to gain traction, despite winning a $5,000 prize from conservative direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie in 2013 and making a 2015 pitch on Bannon's far-right website, Breitbart. Schultz did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In December, Schultz appeared on Bannon's podcast to argue that Republican-controlled state legislatures should nullify the election results and throw their state's Electoral College votes to Trump. If lawmakers failed to do that, Bannon asked, would it be the end of the Republican Party? Not if Trump supporters took over the party by seizing precinct posts, Schultz answered, beginning to explain his plan. Bannon cut him off, offering to return to the idea another time.

That time came in February. Schultz returned to Bannon's podcast, immediately preceding Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO who spouts baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

"We can take over the party if we invade it," Schultz said. "I can't guarantee you that we'll save the republic, but I can guarantee you this: We'll lose it if we conservatives don't take over the Republican Party."

Bannon endorsed Schultz's plan, telling "all the unwashed masses in the MAGA movement, the deplorables" to take up this cause. Bannon said he had more than 400,000 listeners, a count that could not be independently verified.

Bannon brought Schultz back on the show at least eight more times, alongside guests such as embattled Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, a leading defender of people jailed on Capitol riot charges.

The exposure launched Schultz into a full-blown far-right media tour. In February, Schultz spoke on a podcast with Tracy "Beanz" Diaz, a leading popularizer of QAnon. In an episode titled "THIS Is How We Win," Diaz said of Schultz, "I was waiting, I was wishing and hoping for the universe to deliver someone like him."

Schultz himself calls QAnon "a joke." Nevertheless, he promoted his precinct strategy on at least three more QAnon programs in recent months, according to Media Matters, a Democratic-aligned group tracking right-wing content. "I want to see many of you going and doing this," host Zak Paine said on one of the shows in May.

Schultz's strategy also got a boost from another prominent QAnon promoter: former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who urged Trump to impose martial law and "rerun" the election. On a May online talk show, Flynn told listeners to fill "thousands of positions that are vacant at the local level."

Precinct recruitment is now "the forefront of our mission" for Turning Point Action, according to the right-wing organization's website. The group's parent organization bused Trump supporters to Washington for January 6, including at least one person who was later charged with assaulting police. He pleaded not guilty. In July, Turning Point brought Trump to speak in Phoenix, where he called the 2020 election "the greatest crime in history." Outside, red-capped volunteers signed people up to become precinct chairs.

Organizers from around the country started huddling with Schultz for weekly Zoom meetings. The meetings' host, far-right blogger Jim Condit Jr. of Cincinnati, kicked off a July call by describing the precinct strategy as the last alternative to violence. "It's the only idea," Condit said, "unless you want to pick up guns like the Founding Fathers did in 1776 and start to try to take back our country by the Second Amendment, which none of us want to do."

By the next week, though, Schultz suggested the new precinct officials might not stay peaceful. Schultz belonged to a mailing list for a group of military, law enforcement and intelligence veterans called the " 1st Amendment Praetorian" that organizes security for Flynn and other pro-Trump figures. Back in the 1990s, Schultz wrote an article defending armed anti-government militias like those involved in that decade's deadly clashes with federal agents in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas.

"Make sure everybody's got a baseball bat," Schultz said on the July strategy conference call, which was posted on YouTube. "I'm serious about this. Make sure you've got people who are armed."

Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., speaks to the Macon County GOP while holding an autographed shotgun that was being raffled off. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Video: Macon County Republican Party/Facebook

The sudden demand for low-profile precinct positions baffled some party leaders. In Fort Worth, county chair Rick Barnes said numerous callers asked about becoming a "precinct committeeman," quoting the term used on Bannon's podcast. That suggested that out-of-state encouragement played a role in prompting the calls, since Texas's term for the position is "precinct chair." Tarrant County has added 61 precinct chairs this year, about a 24% increase since February. "Those podcasts actually paid off," Barnes said.

For weeks, about five people a day called to become precinct chairs in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, southwest of Green Bay. Albert, the county party chair, said he would explain that Wisconsin has no precinct chairs, but newcomers could join the county party — and then become poll workers. "We're trying to make sure that our voice is now being reinserted into the process," Albert said.

Similarly, the GOP in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, is fielding a surge of volunteers for precinct committee members, but also for election judges or inspectors, which are party-affiliated elected positions in that state. "Who knows what happened on Election Day for real," county chair Lou Capozzi said in an interview. The county GOP sent two busloads of people to Washington for Jan. 6 and Capozzi said they stayed peaceful. "People want to make sure elections remain honest."

Elsewhere, activists inspired by the precinct strategy have targeted local election boards. In DeKalb County, east of Atlanta, the GOP censured a long-serving Republican board member who rejected claims of widespread fraud in 2020. To replace him, new party chair Marci McCarthy tapped a far-right activist known for false, offensive statements. The party nominees to the election board have to be approved by a judge, and the judge in this case rejected McCarthy's pick, citing an "extraordinary" public outcry. McCarthy defended her choice but ultimately settled for someone less controversial.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, more than 1,000 people attended the county GOP convention in March, up from the typical 300 to 400. The chair they elected, Alan Swain, swiftly formed an "election integrity committee" that's lobbying lawmakers to restrict voting and audit the 2020 results. "We're all about voter and election integrity," Swain said in an interview.

In the rural western part of the state, too, a wave of people who heard Bannon's podcast or were furious about perceived election fraud swept into county parties, according to the new district chair, Michele Woodhouse. The district's member of Congress, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, addressed a crowd at one county headquarters on August 29, at an event that included a raffle for a shotgun.

"If our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, it's going to lead to one place, and it's bloodshed," Cawthorn said, in remarks livestreamed on Facebook, shortly after holding the prize shotgun, which he autographed. "That's right," the audience cheered. Cawthorn went on, "As much as I'm willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there's nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American, and the way we can have recourse against that is if we all passionately demand that we have election security in all 50 states."

After Cawthorn referred to people arrested on January 6 charges as "political hostages," someone asked, "When are you going to call us to Washington again?" The crowd laughed and clapped as Cawthorn answered, "We are actively working on that one."

Arizona lawmaker Mark Finchem speaks on Bannon's podcast, and former President Donald Trump speaks at a July rally in Phoenix. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: Bannon's War Room/Rumble; CSPAN

Schultz has offered his own state of Arizona as a proof of concept for how precinct officers can reshape the party. The result, Schultz has said, is actions like the state Senate Republicans' "forensic audit" of Maricopa County's 2020 ballots. The "audit," conducted by a private firm with no experience in elections and whose CEO has spread conspiracy theories, has included efforts to identify fraudulent ballots from Asia by searching for traces of bamboo. Schultz has urged activists demanding similar audits in other states to start by becoming precinct officers.

The Number of Republican Precinct Committee Members in Maricopa County Surged After Steve Bannon's Call to Action

"Because we've got the audit, there's very heightened and intense public interest in the last campaign, and of course making sure election laws are tightened," said Sandra Dowling, a district chair in northwest Maricopa and northern Yuma County whose precinct roster grew by 63% in less than six months. Though Dowling says some other district chairs screen their applicants, she doesn't. "I don't care," she said.

One chair who does screen applicants is Kathy Petsas, a lifelong Republican whose district spans Phoenix and Paradise Valley. She also saw applications explode earlier this year. Many told her that Schultz had recruited them, and some said they believed in QAnon. "Being motivated by conspiracy theories is no way to go through life, and no way for us to build a high-functioning party," Petsas said. "That attitude can't prevail."

As waves of new precinct officers flooded into the county party, Petsas was dismayed to see some petitioning to recall their own Republican county supervisors for refusing to cooperate with the Senate GOP's audit.

"It is not helpful to our democracy when you have people who stand up and do the right thing and are honest communicators about what's going on, and they get lambasted by our own party," Petsas said. "That's a problem."

Far-right lawyer Lin Wood faces off with South Carolina GOP chair Drew McKissick. An operative involved in Wood's campaign tackles a protester at a speech by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in Greenville. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: MyrtleBeachSC News/YouTube; Breaking Video/YouTube

This spring, a team of disaffected Republican operatives put Schultz's precinct strategy into action in South Carolina, a state that plays an outsize role in choosing presidents because of its early primaries. The operatives' goal was to secure enough delegates to the party's state convention to elect a new chair: far-right celebrity lawyer Lin Wood.

Wood was involved with some of the lawsuits to overturn the presidential election that courts repeatedly ruled meritless, or even sanctionable. After the election, Wood said on Bannon's podcast, "I think the audience has to do what the people that were our Founding Fathers did in 1776." On Twitter, Wood called for executing Vice President Mike Pence by firing squad. Wood later said it was "rhetorical hyperbole," but that and other incendiary language got him banned from mainstream social media. He switched to Telegram, an encrypted messaging app favored by deplatformed right-wing influencers, amassing roughly 830,000 followers while repeatedly promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Asked for comment about his political efforts, Wood responded, "Most of your 'facts' are either false or misrepresent the truth." He declined to cite specifics.

Typically, precinct meetings were "a yawner," according to Mike Connett, a longtime party member in Horry County, best known for its popular beach towns. But in April, Connett and other establishment Republicans were caught off guard when 369 people, many of them newcomers, showed up for the county convention in North Myrtle Beach. Connett lost a race for a leadership role to Diaz, the prominent QAnon supporter, and Wood's faction captured the county's other executive positions plus 35 of 48 delegate slots, enabling them to cast most of the county's votes for Wood at the state convention. "It seemed like a pretty clean takeover," Connett told ProPublica.

In Greenville, the state's most populous county, Wood campaign organizers Jeff Davis and Pressley Stutts mobilized a surge of supporters at the county convention — about 1,400 delegates, up from roughly 550 in 2019 — and swept almost all of the 79 delegate positions. That gave Wood's faction the vast majority of the votes in two of South Carolina's biggest delegations.

Across the state, the precinct strategy was contributing to an unprecedented surge in local party participation, according to data provided by a state GOP spokeswoman. In 2019, 4,296 people participated. This year, 8,524 did.

"It's a prairie fire down there in Greenville, South Carolina, brought on by the MAGA posse," Bannon said on his podcast.

Establishment party leaders realized they had to take Wood's challenge seriously. The incumbent chair, Drew McKissick, had Trump's endorsement three times over — including twice after Wood entered the race. But Wood fought back by repeatedly implying that McKissick and other prominent state Republicans were corrupt and involved in various conspiracies that seemed related to QAnon. The race became heated enough that after one event, Wood and McKissick exchanged angry words face-to-face.

Wood's rallies were raucous affairs packed with hundreds of people, energized by right-wing celebrities like Flynn and Lindell. In interviews, many attendees described the events as their first foray into politics, sometimes referencing Schultz and always citing Trump's stolen election myth. Some said they'd resort to violence if they felt an election was stolen again.

Wood's campaign wobbled in counties that the precinct strategy had not yet reached. At the state convention in May, Wood won about 30% of the delegates, commanding Horry, Greenville and some surrounding counties, but faltering elsewhere. A triumphant McKissick called Wood's supporters "a fringe, rogue group" and vowed to turn them into a "leper colony" by building parallel Republican organizations in their territory.

But Wood and his partisans did not act defeated. The chairmanship election, they argued, was as rigged as the 2020 presidential race. Wood threw a lavish party at his roughly 2,000-acre low-country estate, secured by armed guards and surveillance cameras. From a stage fit for a rock concert on the lawn of one of his three mansions, Wood promised the fight would continue.

Diaz and her allies in Horry County voted to censure McKissick. The county's longtime Republicans tried, but failed, to oust Diaz and her cohort after one of the people involved in drafting Wood tackled a protester at a Flynn speech in Greenville. (This incident, the details of which are disputed, prompted Schultz to encourage precinct strategy activists to arm themselves.) Wood continued promoting the precinct strategy to his Telegram followers, and scores replied that they were signing up.

In late July, Stutts and Davis forced out Greenville County GOP's few remaining establishment leaders, claiming that they had cheated in the first election. Then Stutts, Davis and an ally won a new election to fill those vacant seats. "They sound like Democrats, right?" Bannon asked Stutts in a podcast interview. Stutts replied, "They taught the Democrats how to cheat, Steve."

Stutts' group quickly pushed for an investigation of the 2020 presidential election, planning a rally featuring Davis and Wood at the end of August, and began campaigning against vaccine and school mask mandates. "I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery," Stutts had previously posted on Facebook, quoting Thomas Jefferson. Stutts continued posting messages skeptical of vaccine and mask mandates even after he entered the hospital with a severe case of COVID-19. He died on Aug. 19.

Salleigh Grubbs alleges 2020 election fraud while testifying to state lawmakers. She was elected the Cobb County party chair, and she dedicated her first meeting to "the battle for freedom that Americans have before them today." Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: DogEars/YouTube; Cobb County Republican Party/Facebook

The hubbub got so loud inside the Cobb County, Georgia, Republican headquarters that it took several shouts and whistles to get everyone's attention. It was a full house for Salleigh Grubbs' first meeting as the county's party chair. Grubbs ran on a vow to "clean house" in the election system, highlighting her December testimony to state lawmakers in which she raised unsubstantiated fraud allegations. Supporters praised Grubbs' courage for following a truck she suspected of being used in a plot to shred evidence. She attended Trump's Jan. 6 rally as a VIP. She won the chairmanship decisively at an April county convention packed with an estimated 50% first-time participants.

In May, Grubbs opened her first meeting by asking everyone munching on bacon and eggs to listen to her recite the Gettysburg Address. "Think of the battle for freedom that Americans have before them today," Grubbs said. "Those people fought and died so that you could be the precinct chair." After the reading, first-time precinct officers stood for applause and cheers.

Their work would start right away: putting up signs, making calls and knocking on doors for a special election for the state House. The district had long leaned Republican, but after the GOP's devastating losses up and down the ballot in 2020, they didn't know what to expect.

"There's so many people out there that are scared, they feel like their vote doesn't count," Cooper Guyon, a 17-year-old right-wing podcaster from the Atlanta area who speaks to county parties around the state, told the Cobb Republicans in July. The activists, he said, need to "get out in these communities and tell them that we are fighting to make your vote count by passing the Senate bill, the election-reform bills that are saving our elections in Georgia."

Of the field's two Republicans, Devan Seabaugh took the strongest stance in favor of Georgia's new law restricting ways to vote and giving the Republican-controlled Legislature more power over running elections. "The only people who may be inconvenienced by Senate Bill 202 are those intent on committing fraud," he wrote in response to a local newspaper's candidate questionnaire.

Seabaugh led the June special election and won a July runoff. Grubbs cheered the win as a turning point. "We are awake. We are preparing," she wrote on Facebook. "The conservative citizens of Cobb County are ready to defend our ballots and our county."

Newcomers did not meet such quick success everywhere. In Savannah, a faction crashed the Chatham County convention with their own microphone, inspired by Bannon's podcast to try to depose the incumbent party leaders who they accused of betraying Trump. Party officers blocked the newcomers' candidacies, saying they weren't officially nominated. Shouting erupted, and the meeting adjourned without a vote. Then the party canceled its districtwide convention.

The state party ultimately sided with the incumbent leaders. District chair Carl Smith said the uprising is bound to fail because the insurgents are mistaken in believing that he and other local leaders didn't fight hard enough for Trump.

"You can't build a movement on a lie," Smith said.

The Hillsdale County Republican Party's new leaders organized sending buses of people to the Trump rally on Jan. 6. Now, activists dedicated to the stolen election myth are recruiting precinct delegates at regular events. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: Jon Smith/Facebook; Debra Ell/Facebook

In Michigan, activists who identify with a larger movement working against Republicans willing to accept Trump's loss have captured the party leadership in about a dozen counties. They're directly challenging state party leaders, who are trying to harness the grassroots energy without indulging demands to keep fighting over the last election.

Some of the takeovers happened before the rise of the precinct strategy. But the activists are now organizing under the banner "Precinct First" and holding regular events, complete with notaries, to sign people up to run for precinct delegate positions.

"We are reclaiming our party," Debra Ell, one of the organizers, told ProPublica. "We're building an 'America First' army."

Under normal rules, the wave of new precinct delegates could force the party to nominate far-right candidates for key state offices. That's because in Michigan, party nominees for attorney general, secretary of state and lieutenant governor are chosen directly by party delegates rather than in public primaries. But the state party recently voted to hold a special convention earlier next year, which should effectively lock in candidates before the new, more radical delegates are seated.

Activist-led county parties including rural Hillsdale and Detroit-area Macomb are also censuring Republican state legislators for issuing a June report on the 2020 election that found no evidence of systemic fraud and no need for a reexamination of the results like the one in Arizona. (The censures have no enforceable impact beyond being a public rebuke of the politicians.) At the same time, county party leaders in Hillsdale and elsewhere are working on a ballot initiative to force an Arizona-style election review.

Establishment Republicans have their own idea for a ballot initiative — one that could tighten rules for voter ID and provisional ballots while sidestepping the Democratic governor's veto. If the initiative collects hundreds of thousands of valid signatures, it would be put to a vote by the Republican-controlled state Legislature. Under a provision of the state constitution, the state Legislature can adopt the measure and it can't be vetoed.

State party leaders recently reached out to the activists rallying around the rejection of the presidential election results, including Hillsdale Republican Party Secretary Jon Smith, for help. Smith, Ell and others agreed to join the effort, the two activists said.

"This empowers them," Jason Roe, the state party executive director whose ouster the activists demanded because he said Trump was responsible for his own loss, told ProPublica. Roe resigned in July, citing unrelated reasons. "It's important to get them focused on change that can actually impact" future elections, he said, "instead of keeping their feet mired in the conspiracy theories of 2020."

A crowd tries to push back cops guarding the back door to a high school theater where the Clark County GOP tried to hold a leadership election. At least one Proud Boy was riling up the crowd. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: Veterans in Politics/YouTube; Paul Bodine/YouTube

Jesse Law, who ran the Trump campaign's Election Day operations in Nevada, sued the Democratic electors, seeking to declare Trump the winner or annul the results. The judge threw out the case, saying Law's evidence did not meet "any standard of proof," and the Nevada Supreme Court agreed. When the Electoral College met in December, Law stood outside the state capitol to publicly cast mock votes for Trump.

This year, Law set his sights on taking over the Republican Party in the state's largest county, Clark, which encompasses Las Vegas. He campaigned on the precinct strategy, promising 1,000 new recruits. His path to winning the county chairmanship — just like Stutts' team in South Carolina, and Grubbs in Cobb County, Georgia — relied on turning out droves of newcomers to flood the county party and vote for him.

In Law's case, many of those newcomers came through the Proud Boys, the all-male gang affiliated with more than two dozen people charged in the Capitol riot. The Las Vegas chapter boasted about signing up 500 new party members (not all of them belonging to the Proud Boys) to ensure their takeover of the county party. After briefly advancing their own slate of candidates to lead the Clark GOP, the Proud Boys threw their support to Law. They also helped lead a state party censure of Nevada's Republican secretary of state, who rejected the Trump campaign's baseless claims of fraudulent ballots.

Law, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment, has declined to distance himself from the Las Vegas Proud Boys, citing Trump's "stand back and stand by" remark at the September 2020 presidential debate. "When the president was asked if he would disavow, he said no," Law told an independent Nevada journalist in July. "If the president is OK with that, I'm going to take the presidential stance."

The outgoing county chair, David Sajdak, canceled the first planned vote for his successor. He said he was worried the Proud Boys would resort to violence if their newly recruited members, who Sajdak considered illegitimate, weren't allowed to vote.

Sajdak tried again to hold a leadership vote in July, with a meeting in a Las Vegas high school theater, secured by police. But the crowd inside descended into shouting, while more people tried to storm past the cops guarding the back entrance, leading to scuffles. "Let us in! Let us in!" some chanted. Riling them up was at least one Proud Boy, according to multiple videos of the meeting.

At the microphone, Sajdak was running out of patience. "I'm done covering for you awful people," he bellowed. Unable to restore order, Sajdak ended the meeting without a vote and resigned a few hours later. He'd had enough.

"They want to create mayhem," Sajdak said.

Soon after, Law's faction held their own meeting at a hotel-casino and overwhelmingly voted for Law as county chairman. Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald, a longtime ally of Law who helped lead Trump's futile effort to overturn the Nevada results, recognized Law as the new county chair and promoted a fundraiser to celebrate. The existing county leaders sued, seeking a court order to block Law's "fraudulent, rogue election." The judge preliminarily sided with the moderates, but told them to hold off on their own election until a court hearing in September.

To Sajdak, agonizing over 2020 is pointless because "there's no mechanism for overturning an election." Asked if Law's allies are determined to create one, Sajdak said: "It's a scary thought, isn't it."

House Panel Dramatically Expands Jan. 6 Investigation

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Just two days after demanding a massive trove of records from the federal government, the bipartisan House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack is indicating it is expanding its investigation even further. On Friday Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) sent letters to 15 social media companies requesting a massive amount of data on disinformation, extremism, and foreign influence.

The letter details a list of 14 topics to be included, including data and documents on "Misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation relating to the 2020 election"; efforts to overturn the certification of the election; "Domestic violent extremists"; and "foreign malign influence," among many other topics, according to Forbes' Andrew Solender.

Among the 15 companies or platforms are Facebook, Gab, Google, Parler, Reddit, Snapchat, Telegram, Tik-Tok, Twitch, Twitter, and YouTube, Solender adds. Also included are message boards 4chan and 8kun that have been popular with QAnon cultists and other conspiracy theorists, and thedonald.win, a pro-Trump message board that has since been scrubbed of its content. And Zello, a walkie-talkie app which "hosted far-right groups who stormed Capitol," The Guardian reported earlier this year.

Solender posted the letter. Click on each of the four images to expand:

Poll Shows Devout Evangelicals More Likely To Join QAnon Cult

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Although QAnon isn't a religious movement per se, the far-right conspiracy theorists have enjoyed some of their strongest support from white evangelicals — who share their adoration of former President Donald Trump. And polling research from The Economist and YouGov shows that among those who are religious, White evangelicals are the most QAnon-friendly.

The Economist explains, "One prominent theory is that Americans who have no religious affiliation find themselves attracted to other causes, such as the Q craze. Another, posited by Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska, is that modern strains of Christian evangelicalism which 'run on dopey apocalypse-mongering' do not entirely satisfy all worshippers — and so, they go on to find community and salvation in other groups, such as QAnon. Using The Economist's polling with YouGov, an online pollster, we can test both of these theories."

Sasse's willingness to call out "dopey apocalypse-mongering" among some white evangelicals shouldn't be taken as a criticism of religion in general. The conservative Nebraska Republican draws a distinction between extremists and non-extremists within Christianity. And the Economist/YouGov poll underscores the fact that among Christians, one finds a variety of opinions where QAnon is concerned.

"From July 10 to July 13, 2021, YouGov asked Americans their racial and religious affiliations, whether they thought of QAnon favorably or unfavorably and whether they believed in a variety of popular conspiracy theories," The Economist notes. "Those theories included old stand-bys, such as whether the moon landing in 1969 was faked."

The Economist continues: "According to YouGov's recent polling, which we combined with an earlier survey from March to obtain a larger sample size, Americans who attend church the least are also the least likely to have a favorable view of QAnon. Among those who say they 'never' go to church, just nine percent who have heard of the QAnon conspiracy view it favorably. Fully 92 percent of these respondents view it unfavorably — a net favorability of minus 83 percentage points."

According to The Economist, "The rating among people who attend church the most — once a month or more — is minus 52 points."

"We ran a statistical model to control for potential links between attitudes towards QAnon and other demographics — such as race, age, gender, education, party affiliation and vote choice in 2020," The Economist notes. "Our model confirmed that the relationship between church attendance and QAnon was not a statistical fluke: adults who attended church at least once a month were eight percentage points more likely than we predicted to rate QAnon favorably."

The Economist didn't find that QAnon is universally loved within Christianity by any means, but it did find that among Christians, white evangelicals are the most likely to be QAnon-friendly.

"White evangelicals, the most religiously devout group among those surveyed by YouGov, are particularly susceptible to supporting QAnon and believing other conspiracy theories," The Economist reports. "They also tend to attend church frequently. Twenty-two percent of evangelicals who know about QAnon view it favorably, according to YouGov's numbers — compared with 11 percent among the rest of the adult population. At the other end of the spectrum, 24 percent of evangelicals rate QAnon as 'very unfavorable,' compared with 58 percent among other people."

QAnon believes that the U.S. government has been infiltrated by an international cabal of child sex traffickers, pedophiles, Satanists and cannibals and that Trump was elected president in 2016 to fight the cabal. And as extreme as QAnon's beliefs are, some of their supporters are serving in Congress. Republican QAnon supporters who have been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives include Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado — and Michael Flynn, who briefly served as national security adviser under Trump in 2017, was a featured speaker at a QAnon event in Dallas.

Among white evangelicals, The Economist observes, a fondness for conspiracy theories isn't limited to those promoted by QAnon.

"White evangelicals are 34 percentage points more likely than other Americans to believe that 'millions of illegal votes' were cast in the 2020 election," according to The Economist. "These adults also tend to be more conservative, and vote for Republican politicians more often than non-whites and members of other religious groups do. Evangelicals are influenced by the official party line on issues of the day — even if they are conspiratorial. And adoption of one wild theory, perhaps made more persuasive by a politician's avowals, tends to lead to the adoption of others."

The Capitol Riot Aftermath Bodes Ill For Democracy

Someday, the past year or so may be remembered as a bout of temporary insanity among a large share of the American people. This group refused to take basic precautions against a devastating pandemic, swallowed the lies of a president who had lost an election, and excused a violent mob that attacked the Capitol to prevent Congress from doing its constitutional duty.

Or maybe not. Maybe it will come to seem perfectly normal. Maybe this period will be known as the time when we lost our bearings for good, dooming us to a catastrophic national unravelling.

The rise in insanity is hard to overstate. A recent poll found that 20 percent of Americans — including half of those who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 — believe the inoculation implants a microchip that the government can use to track them. Nearly half of Republicans don't plan to get vaccinated.

Even as the Delta variant fuels a surge in infection, governors in some red states have rejected mask requirements in public schools, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowing to "provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely."

Right-wing politicians and their media allies have spread the preposterous claim that massive fraud deprived Donald Trump of reelection. A May Reuters-Ipsos poll showed that 61 percent of Republicans believe it. An April Reuters-Ipsos poll found that a majority of them agree that "the January 6 riot at the Capitol was led by violent left-wing protestors trying to make Trump look bad."

It gets worse. A poll sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute found that the lunatic QAnon movement has gained a significant following, with 23 percent of Republicans affirming that "the government, media and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation." GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado have praised QAnon.

This week's hearings on the Capitol insurrection were another reminder of the alarming radicalization of the Republican Party, something exploited and encouraged by Trump.

The mob set up a gallows, chanted "Hang Mike Pence," forced both Republican and Democratic members to flee for their lives and savagely beat police officers. But congressional Republicans now want to move on, treating it as a minor incident grossly exaggerated by Democrats and the media — rather than an extremist effort to block a legitimate transfer of power.

GOP senators blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the attack. House Republicans tried in vain to stock a House committee with Trump henchmen who could be counted on to disrupt the inquiry.

Many Republican politicians are too infatuated with Trump — or too afraid of him — to admit the terrifying scope of the danger the insurrection represents. The party's elected officials have become a coalition of crazies and cowards.

It fell to a lonely pair of GOP conservatives, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, to join the House investigative committee and decry the events of January 6 as a horrific attack on the nation and the Constitution.

Kinzinger did something else, debunking the pernicious claim that the Capitol attack was not as bad as the riots that erupted in cities last summer over the police murder of George Floyd.

"I was called on to serve during the summer riots as an Air National Guardsman," he said. "I condemned those riots and the destruction of property that resulted. But not once did I ever feel that the future of self-government was threatened like I did on January 6. There is a difference between breaking the law and rejecting the rule of law, between a crime — even grave crimes — and a coup."

In Tuesday's hearing, Kinzinger struck a hopeful note: "Democracies are not defined by our bad days. We're defined by how we come back from bad days."

But the response of Republicans to the attack is even more ominous than the attack itself. The aftermath offered a moment for them to confront the cancer that has embedded itself in the party and act to cut it out. They refused.

The majority of GOP voters have insisted on rationalizing or defending the insurrection while staying loyal to the defeated president who did so much to incite it. By indulging them, Republican leaders are inviting more of the same — and worse.

What kind of democracy is defined by its bad days? A dying one.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

McCarthy Weirdly Parrots QAnon Rhetoric: ’The Storm Is Coming’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

"The storm" is a term that the far-right conspiracy theorists of QAnon are fond of using, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy used that term during a July 29 press conference when he was criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's support of a mask mandate for the U.S. House of Representatives.

The mandate came from Capitol Physician Brian Monahan, and Pelosi has said that she will "honor it." But McCarthy, obviously pandering to anti-masker extremists and coronavirus deniers in the MAGA movement, is vehemently opposed to the mandate. Monahan is calling for the House mask mandate in response to the COVID-19 surge that has been attacking the United States, especially in red states with low vaccination rates.

McCarthy, during his July 29 speech, was standing near Rep. Elise Stefanik — who chairs the House Republican Conference — when he said, "If you are vaccinated and you get the variant, there's .003 percent you'd go to the hospital. There's a greater chance you'd get hit by lighting. For some reason, Pelosi thinks the storm is coming."

The fact that McCarthy used a QAnon term was not lost on Vox's Aaron Rupar, who tweeted:

Pelosi expressed her frustration with McCarthy's anti-masker views when, on July 28, she told reporters, "He's such a moron."