You’ll notice I said that it was a “mostly” boring election, not an entirely boring election. In fact, Oregon Republicans did something very, very odd — and potentially disastrous — in choosing their nominee to take on Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley in November.
What they did is nominate Jo Rae Perkins, a financial adviser and self-professed QAnon conspiracy theorist. In a video posted to Twitter following her victory, Perkins said this:
“Where we go one, we go all. I stand with President Trump. I stand with Q and the team. Thank you Anons and thank you patriots — and together we can save our republic.”
What, you ask, is QAnon? It’s a broad-scale Internet-based conspiracy theory begun in early 2017 that is based on a belief that there is a high-level government official — “Q” — who sprinkles clues on internet message boards like 4chan and 8chan about a massive “deep state” conspiracy (or series of conspiracies) at work in the country.
“Every president before Trump was a ‘criminal president’ in league with all the nefarious groups of conspiracy theories past: the global banking elite, death squads operating on orders from Hillary Clinton, deep-state intelligence operatives, and Pizzagate-style pedophile rings. In an effort to break this cabal’s grip, according to Q, the military convinced Trump to run for president….
…QAnon fans are obsessed with finding proof that whoever is behind Q is actually connected to the Trump administration. During one Trump trip to Asia, Q posted some pictures of islands, which supporters seized on as proof that Q was on Air Force One.”
The phrase “Where we go one, we go all” — or in Q shorthand WWG1WGA — has become the group’s slogan or mantra. (In the Twitter video, Perkins holds up a bumper sticker with “WWG1WGA” on it.) It’s not entirely clear, candidly, what the mantra actually means.
QAnon followers are primarily focused on online activity, but the conspiracy theory has bled into real life as well. In June 2018, for example, a man armed with a rifle blocked traffic at the Hoover Dam demanding the release of a supposed “secret” report from the Office of the Inspector General that would break open the “deep state” cabal in the government. That was a theory heavily promoted on QAnon message boards.
The problem for the state Republican Party is that they now have a nominee for the United States Senate who believes in a wild conspiracy theory — and who will, undoubtedly, use the platform afforded her by being the party’s nominee to promote the QAnon message.
That’s a big problem for the Oregon Republican Party. Not because they had much of a chance to beat Merkley if Perkins wasn’t the nominee — they didn’t — but because associating the Republican Party with this sort of bizarre conspiracy theory could have a negative effect on the party’s image in the state long after Perkins loses in the fall.
It’s a remarkable state of affairs given that as recently as 2018, Republicans ran a competitive candidate — with the amazing name Knute Buehler — who held incumbent Democratic Gov. Kate Brown to just 50% of the vote. (Buehler lost a Republican primary on Tuesday for the 2nd District seat of retiring Rep. Greg Walden.) So enthused were Republicans about Buehler’s surprisingly strong showing that President Donald Trump’s campaign team floated Oregon as a place where they might look to expand the electoral map in 2020 despitethe fact that Ronald Reagan, back in 1984, was the last Republican to carry the state at the presidential level.
That the state party allowed someone like Perkins to win a US Senate nomination — or couldn’t stop it from happening — speaks to a remarkable lack of foresight and/or power within the establishment. Perkins likely won’t win — or come anywhere close. But she could well tarnish the Republican brand in the state for some time to come.
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