If you’ve paid attention to the rise of the radical right on the internet over the last few years, you know the name Laura Loomer.
Loomer is one of the most high-profile figures of this movement – and one of its most controversial. She has described Islam as a “cancer on humanity” and said that Muslim candidates should not be allowed to hold office in America. She has called herself a “proud Islamophobe.”
That behavior has led to Loomer being banned from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – not to mention ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft. (She tweeted in 2018 that “someone needs to create a non Islamic form of Uber or Lyft because I never want to support another Islamic immigrant driver.”)
And as of Wednesday morning, Loomer is the Republican nominee in Florida’s 21st District, which happens to include President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
She won a six-way primary for the right to face Rep. Lois Frankel (D) in the general election, raising more than $1 million thanks to support from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, pardoned Trump ally Roger Stone and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz. Loomer campaigned as the Trumpiest candidate in the field, touting her belief in the President’s “law and order” message. (Loomer is very unlikely to come to Congress; the 21st District is strongly Democrat.)
Trump rewarded that support with a tweet touting Loomer’s win on Tuesday night.
“Great going Laura,” he wrote. “You have a great chance against a Pelosi puppet!” He also retweeted several accounts congratulating Loomer on her victory, including that of Marjorie Taylor Greene, the GOP nominee in Georgia’s 14th district who has publicly supported the QAnon conspiracy theory and expressed a number of anti-Islamic views.
CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski noted just how stunning a presidential endorsement for Loomer should be.
“Remarkable to see a president endorse a candidate who said Muslims shouldn’t have be allowed to hold public office and called Islam ‘a cancer on humanity,’” he tweeted. “In a normal administration this would be a huge story but it will barely get mentioned.”
But the story is about more than just a) Loomer winning or b) Trump embracing her.
Loomer’s primary victory comes hard on Greene’s win in Georgia earlier this month – as well as victories in Oregon and Colorado by far-right candidates, many of whom embrace QAnon or similar unfounded conspiracy theories. Loomer’s win isn’t an anomaly. It’s part of the leading edge of the Republican Party’s transformation – or at least evolution – into an organization that includes provocateurs and conspiracy theorists among its ranks.
None of that should be surprising, given that the leader of the party is himself both a provocateur and a conspiracy theorist. Remember that the origins of Trump’s 2016 presidential candidacy were in his support for and promotion of a disproven conspiracy theory about Barack Obama not being born in the United States.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday that Trump hadn’t done a “deep dive” into the views Loomer and Greene hold before congratulating them.
“The President routinely congratulates people who officially get the Republican nomination for Congress, so he does that as a matter of course,” McEnany said. “He hasn’t done a deep dive into the statements by these two particular women. I don’t know if he’s even seen that. But he supports the Muslim community, he supports the community of faith more broadly in this country.”
Last week, Trump declined to answer whether he endorses QAnon. When McEnany was asked about that on Wednesday, she said she’d never heard it mentioned at the White House.
“I’ve never heard of that. There’s a lot of media focus on that but certainly never heard of that from the President,” she said.
Here’s the thing – Trump has not only given cover to the Loomers and Greenes of the world. He has, and continues to, actively encourage their candidacies and their views.
Which, yes, is an existential threat to the identity of the broader Republican Party forged over a century and a half. Because if the GOP is willing to not just have Laura Loomer in its ranks but to embrace her – and her radical views – then what, exactly, differentiates it from the conspiracy theorists and anti-Islamic voices of the internet fever swamps?