Our country's founding fathers had a concern about the development of political parties, fearing they would over time help divide the union of states, but on day one parties developed regardless.
Since the start of the union, politics in this country have been dominated for the most part by two major political parties that have fought for support of the nation's voters. And within each party there have been factions or movements competing for the soul of each party.
The most notable examples from recent history would be the Tea Party faction within the Republican Party, or the Democratic Socialists of America within the Democratic party, represented by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) in Congress. The competitive tension among the various factions helps shape each party.
Further shaping the national parties is the occasional leader who leaves a lasting mark extending well beyond their term of office. Ronald Reagan would be one from the recent past, while today we have Donald Trump whose cult-like influence on the Republican party will remain long after he leaves office, either at the start of 2021 or four years from then.
Unfortunately, Trump's impact on the GOP may well permanently drive away voters such as myself.
I still consider myself an Independent, rather than a Democrat or Republican, despite what some of my critics think based on letters and personal emails I receive anytime I criticize the current administration. For the record, I took the time in recent weeks to review my presidential voting record, going back far too many years than I care to admit. Out of the last twelve presidential elections, I voted Republican in seven of those contests, although most recently I have backed Democrats in the last three elections. In none of those election years did I vote because of party – being more of a policy wonk even in my younger years – and I did not vote straight ticket. Hence, my declaration as an Independent.
It's critical we maintain a strong two-party system so that from a policy standpoint we have some choice. Forget holding out a lot of hope for third party candidates who will be destined to play not much more than a spoiler role when it comes to presidential elections. Big money campaigns pretty much prevents third parties from having much of an impact beyond that.
Both the Democratic and Republican parties have attracted their share of fringe groups in the past. But in the last few years the Republican party has become a magnet for what I would call miscreants and dark forces which are hard to ignore regardless of party policy considerations.
Under Trump the party has become a gathering place for White supremacists and racists. These elements have always been part of the overall population and party makeup but are feeling unshackled now to show their true colors thanks to the dog-whistle politics from our current president.
Now a new fringe element has appeared on the scene and is actually working its way into the Republican party. If not stopped dead in its tracks, it will become an influence that will diminish the party even more for the foreseeable future in terms of being an option for voters.
The new fringe element is QAnon, a wacky (to put it mildly) conspiracy theory group that reared its head first in late 2017 on both 4chan, a website frequented by White nationalists, and 8chan, another nationalists site that has since been forced off the internet.
As legend has it, Q is or was actually a person, often referred to by adoring followers as a “truth-teller” who worked or work within the federal government. Current speculation is that any anti-government pronouncements that now appear on QAnon social media sites are from a group writing under the Q tag.
The group's basic belief is that there is a Satanic cabal within the government here, comprising the Democratic party and the elite of Hollywood, that controls everything. Cabal members, QAnon says, run a sex-trafficking ring that is plotting against President Trump. As the theory goes, Hillary Clinton is part of this cabal, along with a number of other people considered familiar whipping boys when you talk to any fringe group. Wait – it gets more bizarre. Cabal members also supposedly prey on young children who they eat to gain some type of mythical power from their blood. QAnon members claim to be in possession of national security documents that support their theories.
The group operates under the catch phrase of “We Are The Storm” – a reference to the group's belief that members of the cabal will eventually be rounded up and imprisoned. Their motto is – “Where We Go One, We Go All.”
My first inclination when QAnon members showed at a Trump rally with signs last year was to dismiss this group as so far off the rails that no one could buy into this madness. However, some estimate QAnon has 4.5 million followers.
Now we see a number of disturbing things that say QAnon's influence is growing within the GOP.
Consider this: Congressional GOP primary candidate Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia admits to being a pro-QAnon candidate, and was congratulated by Trump on her victory, shortly after he labeled members of QAnon as “people that love our country.” By some estimates, another dozen GOP primary candidates this year were in the QAnon camp.
The FBI has labeled QAnon as a potential domestic terrorist group, which generally has not found wide acceptance within the party, either from members of Congress or the big money donors underwriting the reelection effort. A couple members of Congress have finally started to speak out, trying to distance the GOP from this group.
But that has not stopped one of Trump's sons, some members of administration and his campaign from reportedly using QAnon icons and phraseology on social media. Then there's the president himself who, according to analysis by the progressive watchdog group Media Matters, had either retweeted or amplified accounts of QAnon followers over 200 times by mid-August.
I get it – it's the Machiavellian philosophy of the ends justifying the means. The last several years, and now the current campaign, are straight out of the 16th century author's playbook (The Prince) for obtaining and retaining power, legitimizing the use of fraud and deceit if necessary, as well as physical force against opponents or opposition groups.
So if you can't grow your Republican base and have little chance of swaying Independents in the 2020 general election, may as well throw yourself in with the White nationalists, racists and now QAnon.
It matters little that you have completely condemned the Republican party to a lesser role in coming years. Winning is everything, even at the risk of losing Independents turned off by where the party is drifting.
NOVEMBER VOTING GUIDE: Downtown newsmagazine will be publishing a general election Voter Guide, much along the lines of what we did for the August primary. Watch for it in our October issue which goes in the mail and online October 8.