Laura Loomer has secured her place as the Republican nominee in Florida’s 21st congressional district. Among her qualifications to sit in the chamber once inhabited by Abraham Lincoln and James Madison are being permanently banned from Twitter, protesting that decision by handcuffing herself to Twitter’s HQ in New York for two hours (police then freed her at her own request), and being barred from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2019.
There’s much more to Loomer’s lunacy than that. After it was reported that 2,000 migrants died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2017, Loomer rejoiced, tweeting, “Good. Here’s to 2,000 more.” That same year, Loomer urged “someone . . . to create a non Islamic form of Uber or Lyft because I never want to support another Islamic immigrant driver.”
Loomer also frequently traffics in conspiracy theories. Appallingly, many of them are related to mass shootings. In the wake of the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, she traveled to Parkland on behalf of Alex Jones’s InfoWars, where she accused survivors of “reading a screen or notes someone else wrote for them.” She also has insisted that the man responsible for the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting, which was the deadliest in American history, was in league with ISIS and that the FBI was hiding the connection from the public.
For the second straight week, a reprehensible wingnut who offers conservatives nothing but a bad reputation has won a Republican primary. Thankfully, Loomer has no shot at winning (per Cook Political’s Dave Wasserman), so we will not be seeing any Marjorie Taylor Greene–Loomer cosponsored legislation to draw and quarter Jack Dorsey or replace John Roberts with QAnon on the Supreme Court. But Republicans must nonetheless ask themselves how they’ve arrived at this point.
President Trump is a good place to start. Since the race was called in Loomer’s favor last night, Trump’s Twitter has become a Loomer fan account. According to the president, Loomer’s victory in the primary was a “Big win,” Loomer has a “great chance” of defeating “Pelosi puppet” Lois Frankel in the general election, and he even concurred with Greene that Twitter must reinstate Loomer’s account. If you’re surprised by Loomer’s win, you may not have been paying attention.
A party that selects a conspiracy theorist willing to appeal to people’s worst instincts as its representative at the top of the ticket is bound to attract and support more of the same down-ballot. It is Donald Trump who willingly and purposefully claimed the mantle of birther-in-chief during Barack Obama’s first term. It is Donald Trump who called for a Muslim ban during his campaign for the office he now holds. It is Donald Trump who, just a few months ago, while a pandemic ravaged the country, insisted that Joe Scarborough should be investigated for the “murder” of one of his former congressional interns, who died over 20 years ago.
Trump is not the first demagogue or conspiracy theorist to hold federal office. Far from it. But he is the most powerful, and the effect he has had on the quality of Republican candidates around the country has been palpably deleterious. It’s impossible to say if Loomer would be a Republican candidate for Congress were Trump not president. But it is easy to recognize that his support helped her, and that no other GOP nominee for president — or any of the other candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 — would have ever considered promoting Loomer the way Trump has.
Furthermore, GOP leaders in Congress have a responsibility to reject the Greenes and Loomers of the world, even when they prevail in their primaries. National Review has convincingly argued that Greene should be denied committee assignments upon her taking office — like Steve King before her — yet House minority leader Kevin McCarthy has given no indication that he will follow this prudent advice. To the contrary, McCarthy has stated that he and his team “look forward” to her victory in November. McCarthy may think it in the party’s best interest not to pick a fight with Greene. But if he treats her like just another member of his caucus, he will be as responsible as Trump for the rise of her, Loomer, and copycats around the country.