Commentary

Pedophilia accusations were once a fringe QAnon belief. Now it’s a standard GOP tactic.

Weehawken, New Jersey, USA - November 2nd, 2020 - Day Before Election Day Trump Rally - Hooded man wearing a Qanon sweatshirt at Trump Rally with Truck and Flags in front of him .
Hooded man wearing a Qanon sweatshirt at Trump Rally in New JerseyPhoto: Julian Leshay / Shutterstock

When QAnon burst on the scene a few years ago, the general feeling was that it was so deep in the fever swamps that it would never become anything more than a fringe conspiracy theory. After all, who could believe the premise that a cabal of Democratic politicians and Hollywood stars are engaged in Satanic practices that involve sex trafficking children and harvesting their blood to produce a psychoactive drug?

As it turns out, the Republican party believes it.

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Or at least enough of the party’s leadership believes it that it has now embraced QAnon’s pedophilia claims and is now using it to slander all of the party’s opponents.

The two biggest targets of the party’s slur against its political enemies: newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and the LGBTQ community.

Jackson’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee were an opportunity for Republicans to accuse her of being pro-child porn and sympathetic to pedophiles. According to the Washington Post, Jackson’s hearings featured some variation of the phrase child porn 165 times, and fifteen mention of “pedophile.” There were a mere dozen mentions of the Bill of Rights.

Ostensibly, the reason for the line of questioning was Jackson’s record of sentencing sex offenders, which was in line with other judges’. But the Republicans on the committee saw an opportunity to smear her as not just soft on crime but soft on pedophiles – exactly the way QAnon sees Democrats.

LGBTQ people are long used to this libel, which the GOP is now resurrecting with glee. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) press secretary, Christina Pushaw, said that anyone who disagrees with the states Don’t Say Gay law is a “groomer,” a synonym for a sexual predator. (Pushaw happily plays rabid Trumpist so that DeSantis can pass as merely feral.)

Pushaw then began calling the Don’t Say Gay bill the Anti-Groomer Bill, as if even mentioning the word “gay” or “transgender” was the same as luring a minor into an illegal sexual act.

Why would the Republican party decide to go all in now on a lie that that went the way of Anita Bryant? The reason is two-fold.

For one, their core followers believe it. As conservative evangelicals see politics as an extension of their religion, they see their cultural battles in apocalyptic terms. Trumpist rallies are now prayer rallies, complete with spiritual music.With Trump they had a taste of victory, and they are going to press that advantage. Many genuinely believe that anything non-heteronormative is a perversion, and teaching children otherwise corrupts their innocence.

The second part is more cynical and outright shameful. Republicans want votes, and midterm elections depend upon motivated voters. Christians saving children from pedophiles disguised as Democrats are motivated voters. Republicans are happy to play that lie up if it gets them more votes. If gaining power is your sole concern, there really is no depth to which you cannot stoop – as the GOP proves daily.

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