Last night, House Minority Leader and people person Kevin McCarthy announced a magnanimous compromise within his caucus. He would oppose stripping Liz Cheney of her leadership duties for the crime of voting to impeach Donald Trump over his attempt to overturn the election. But he would also oppose stripping Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments over her years-long fomenting of racist conspiracy theories.
McCarthy seemed eager to move past the whole QAnon issue, as though it were a completely unrelated group rather than a politicized cult created to worship the former Republican president whose support McCarthy continues to solicit. “I think it would be helpful if you could hear exactly what she told all of us — denouncing Q-on. I don’t know if I say it right. I don’t even know what it is,” he said.
McCarthy’s little act of stumbling over the name was strange. Last August, McCarthy denounced the group and had no trouble pronouncing its name:
McCarthy used to hate QAnon before he didn’t know what it was. What happened in between? Republicans began to realize that QAnon formed a nontrivial portion of their base, and was effective at spreading rumors about Democrats through social media.
McCarthy’s language now echoes the way Trump spoke about the cult. “I know nothing about QAnon,” he told reporters last year. Trump himself was echoing the language used by supporters of the nativist American Party in the 19th century, which was called the “Know Nothings” because their members would deny any knowledge (“I know nothing”) of its often secretive beliefs.
McCarthy’s reverse-hipster pose toward QAnon at least indicates a realization that it looks bad for Republicans to be tied to a deranged cult. The next step in the moral progression would be the realization that it actually is bad.