It’s good that he said so, but don’t forget that he’s partly to blame for why the GOP is suddenly stuck answering questions on this subject. McCarthy had a chance last month to throw his weight behind Marjorie Taylor Greene’s primary opponent in Georgia’s 14th District. If you believe The Hill’s sources, he told her opponent personally that resources were coming from party leadership to help him win that race — and then did nothing. Greene went on to victory, she’s now a near-lock to be a member of Congress next year, and the media’s in a feeding frenzy about the growing influence of QAnoners within the party. McCarthy tried to undo some of the damage last night:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Thursday night said that "there is no place for QAnon in the Republican party. I do not support it." The GOP lawmaker also took aim at the Democratic party for what he sees as failures to denounce anti-Semitic remarks. pic.twitter.com/t5F9eYRRE3
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) August 21, 2020
His point about Omar and Tlaib is sharp and well-taken. Part of the reason they have cover from Democratic leaders is that they’re hardcore ideologues; crack down hard on them and they’ll screech that you’re against progressivism. A better analogue to them on the right than QAnon was the Ron Paul movement circa 2010. My objection to McCarthy steering the conversation around to Omar and Tlaib isn’t that he’s wrong to condemn them. It’s that, within the context of a discussion of QAnon, that sort of deflection operates as permission for the wackos on one’s own side to carry on. McCarthy’s trying to make the point that Republicans are disclaiming their kooks, now it’s on Democrats to disclaim theirs. But in practice, especially given the extent to which negative partisanship defines politics nowadays, I think many people watch this and think, “Well, if the Democrats won’t disclaim their kooks, why should we disclaim ours?”
Another way to look at it: The next time Ilhan Omar farts out something anti-semitic and McCarthy righteously condemns her, Democrats will try to change the subject by grousing about Trump and QAnon. All Trump had to do was say a few discouraging words about it the other day and McCarthy, and the party, wouldn’t be on the spot right now. Because he couldn’t, they’re forced to clean up his mess, as usual.
Pence is cleaning it up too, sort of:
“There is hardly universal support inside the party for QAnon,” the Times acknowledged yesterday. “Many of its leaders in Congress and powerful donors are privately horrified at the spread of the movement’s themes.” Right, but apart from a precious few they’ve been silent because they recognize that there are enough Q-bots out there at this point to be affect tight primaries. When McCarthy says QAnon has no place in the party, that’s really for them to decide. With big enough numbers, a “movement” doesn’t need to ask a party’s leadership to be welcomed in. They’ll just barge in and claim their spot.
Robert Tracinski shrewdly sees the rise of another movement in QAnon’s wake. Just as Trump’s ascendance produced pro-Trumpers, anti-Trumpers, and ultimately anti-anti-Trumpers in right-wing media, there’ll be an anti-anti-QAnon contingent along to join the party soon enough.
Get prepared for anti-anti-QAnon.
Anti-anti-ism is the preferred template for Trump support among those who still want to maintain some veneer of respectability. They can’t defend Trump’s own statements and actions, but they can find plenty to criticize in his critics. So they won’t defend or endorse QAnon, not really. They will just dismiss as hysterical anybody who thinks that it’s important for Trump to disavow QAnon.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany set the tone: “He believes his supporters are good, hard-working people that love this country. He is not in the business of ‘basket of deplorables’ politics.” So criticizing wacky conspiracy theorists makes you an elitist snob.
The general line you will see being taken is that real people don’t really know or care about QAnon and only “the media” is obsessed by it—though Q followers have been showing up at Trump’s rallies for years. And after all, why haven’t the Democrats denounced Antifa? (Anti-Anti-ism leans heavily on Whataboutism.)
Whataboutism is exactly what we got from McCarthy vis-a-vis Omar, isn’t it? And the deflection about the media’s priorities is exactly what we got from Pence this morning, as he went on to complain about “spending time on a major network to talk about some conspiracy online theory.” The GOP’s anti-anti-QAnon era is upon us already, at the very highest levels of leadership.
I’ll leave you with this excerpt from a Times story last week about the final twist in the rise of QAnon, which is that their obsession with bogus claims of child sex trafficking has begun to undercut efforts to fight the real thing. “I spoke to a number of longtime anti-trafficking activists who were alarmed by QAnon’s recent incursion onto their turf. They had worked for years to expose facts about child trafficking, only to see them distorted and misused by partisan opportunists. And they worried that in addition to clogging hotlines, QAnon believers could undermine the movement’s bipartisan credibility.”