Port: As Trump embraces the Qanon movement, when are North Dakota's Republicans going to turn away?
The former president is choosing to align himself with a conspiracy theory movement that believes, in its best moments, the Democratic Party is run by a secret cabal of pedophiles and, in its worst moments, that zombie JFK is going to come back and lead our country again while a Filipino health care worker is going to take over Canada with an assist from our military. This is who you'd vote for to be president again, Rep. Armstrong? This man's endorsement is important to you, Sen. Hoeven? This is the person who commands your loyalty, Sen. Cramer?
MINOT, N.D. — “What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?"
Those were the words of a Republican official, speaking about disgraced former President Donald Trump after his 2020 election loss but before the Jan. 6 riots, as quoted by the Washington Post .
"It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan 20," this person continued. "He’s tweeting about filing some lawsuits, those lawsuits will fail, then he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen, and then he’ll leave.”
Needless to say, given all we know now about how Trump would handle his exit from the White House, these comments have aged like milk.
Still, I think there are a lot of Republicans who are still making this calculation. The Republican base, for the most part, still likes Trump, so what's the harm in humoring him, they wonder.
Jan. 6 should have been enough evidence of the "harm" of continuing to humor Trump, but for many Republicans it wasn't.
Including North Dakota's Republicans. During a recent debate I hosted in the U.S. House debate, incumbent Congressman Kelly Armstrong said, unequivocally , that if Trump was the GOP's nominee again in 2024 he'd vote for him.
Sen. Kevin Cramer remains a loyalist. Sen. John Hoeven, in beating back a challenge from the Trumpiest wing of his party, leaned heavily on an endorsement from Trump himself.
Whether this ongoing Trumpism among Republican leaders is a product of genuine feeling, or political expediency, there is a point at which this will blow up in their faces.
Consider Trump's new embrace of the Qanon conspiracy movement. The mainstream iteration of this cult believes that Donald Trump is fighting a battle against a secret cabal of left-wing pedophiles, and their source for this is a supposed insider in Trump world going by the name "Q."
Yes, that's the mainstream of the movement.
On the fringes are people like the Qanon Queen, Romana Didulo, a Canadian woman who believes Queen Elizabeth II was actually executed last year, and who has told her followers that they are authorized to make "citizens arrests" of Canadian law enforcement because she will soon be appointed sovereign of the Great White North by a global coalition of forces including the U.S. military.
This woman has 70,000 online followers .
And then there's Michael Protzman, another Qanon leader who has drawn hundreds of followers to Dallas to witness what he claims will be the resurrection of former President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in that city .
Every political movement has nutters on its fringes, and it's not typically fair to smear the leaders of those movements with their more deranged followers.
But Donald Trump? He's embracing these people.
At his recent rally in Ohio, supporting U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance, and featuring Rep. Majorie Taylor "Jewish Space Lasers" Greene, Trump played a song that is nearly identical to the Qanon theme song . Trump's crowd knew what was going on and responded, performing a raised-arm salute with one finger pointing up, a reference to the Qanon slogan, "where we go one we go all."
Trump's people, of course, dismissed that this was pandering to the Qanon crowd. “The fake news, in a pathetic attempt to create controversy and divide America, is brewing up another conspiracy about a royalty-free song from a popular audio library platform," Taylor Budowich, a Trump spokesperson, told The New York Times .
That might be believable — there is no question that many in the news media are not averse to using exaggeration, conflation, and falsehoods to smear Trump, to the detriment of us all — except that Trump posted a picture of himself wearing a Q lapel pin over the "where we go one we go all" slogan.
Or, more specifically, he "re-truthed" a "truth" with the image posted on Trump's Twitter clone Truth Social:
Trump has always flirted with the Qanon movement, and there's evidence of that from right here in North Dakota. His 2018 rally at the Scheels Arena in Fargo had a very visible contingent of Q people in attendance.
And last election cycle, Trump, along with deranged election conspiracy monger Mike Lindell, endorsed Daniel Johnston, a Qanon conspiracy enthusiast , for treasurer.
But now the footsy is over.
Things have gotten explicit.
The former president is choosing to align himself with a conspiracy theory movement that believes, in its best moments, the Democratic Party is run by a secret cabal of pedophiles and, in its worst moments, that zombie JFK is going to come back and lead our country again while a Filipino health care worker is going to take over Canada with an assist from our military.
This is who you'd vote for to be president again, Rep. Armstrong?
This man's endorsement is important to you, Sen. Hoeven?
This is the person who commands your loyalty, Sen. Cramer?
Though we shouldn't just lay the blame at the feet of these men. They're taking their cues from the Republican base where, inexplicably, Trump remains incredibly popular.
That's not an excuse. Leaders should lead, not follow. But whether we're talking about those out in front of the Republican movement, or those in the rank-and-file, it's clearly past time to get off the Trump train.
It's not going anywhere any rational, sane American should want to go.