Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Republicans Nominate 'Florida Woman'

Over the past couple of years, the hashtags #FloridaMan and #FloridaWoman have become an internet staple. The phrases are often found in bizarre news stories with titles such as “Florida woman who tried to kiss strangers calls 911 about lack of social distancing” and “Florida woman arrested after attempting to burn down former home with blow torch.” While I hate to denigrate an entire state with the Florida woman stereotype, last night Republican voters in Florida nominated a stereotypical example of a Florida woman to Congress. As Dave Barry, a Florida man himself, used to protest, I am not making this up.

Last night, the Republican voters of Florida’s 21st congressional district nominated Laura Loomer, a longtime fringe right conspiracy theorist and anti-Muslim bigot to challenge Democrat Rep. Lois Frankel. You may remember Loomer from 2019 when she handcuffed herself to the Twitter office building in New York City after being banned from the social media platform after she, in Buzzfeed’s description, “tweeted a series of anti-Muslim falsehoods about Ilhan Omar.”

President Trump praised Loomer in a tweet after her primary victory last night. She was also supported by none other than Roger Stone and alt-right idols Milo Yiannopoulos and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes per USA Today.

Loomer has a long and disturbing record of activism and attention-seeking. In 2017, she gained notoriety after her arrest for disrupting an anti-Trump version of “Julius Caesar” in New York’s Central Park. There are indications that the incident may have been both a publicity stunt and an attempt to cash in on a “FreeLaura” website. In 2018, she came into her own as a professional provocateur after she disrupted several events including the trial of the Pulse nightclub murderer’s wife, a promotional event for James Comey’s book, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s congressional testimony.

In 2019, Loomer jumped fences at both Nancy Pelosi’s house and the California governor’s mansion to protest immigration policy. Ironically, the activist was heard to scream that walls work after hopping Pelosi’s fence to trespass on her property in Napa. Trespassing at the governor’s mansion resulted in another arrest.

Loomer also has a history of spreading conspiracy theories. She “investigated” the Parkland shootings for Infowars, advanced conspiracy theories about the Las Vegas massacre, and claimed that the 2018 Florida pipe bombings by a Trump supporter were a “false flag.” She also tried to paint a right-wing bombmaker arrested in South Dakota in 2018 as an Antifa member.

In addition to her Twitter ban, Loomer has been kicked off of Paypal, GoFundMe, and Venmo. She was also banned from Uber and Lyft after tagging the companies in a tweetstorm in which she called for the creation of a “non Islamic” [sic] rideshare app “because I never want to support another Islamic immigrant driver.”

Loomer’s Twitter ban occurred in November 2018 after another rant in which she called Rep. Omar “anti Jewish” [sic] and described Islam as a religion in which “homosexuals are oppressed” and “women are abused” and “forced to wear the hijab.” Twitter called the comments a violation of is rules of conduct but Loomer defended her words.

“Everything I said is 100 percent true and factual. It’s not malicious, it’s not mean, it’s not hateful,” Loomer said, quoted by NBC News.

Loomer’s nomination comes on the heels of QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene’s primary win in Georgia. Greene also tweeted her congratulations to Loomer.

Unlike Greene, who faces no serious opposition from Democrats in the general election, Loomer will face a tough campaign. Democrats have represented the 21st district since 2013 and Hillary Clinton won the district by 20 points in 2016. Republicans should breathe a sigh of relief that Loomer, unlike Greene, won’t spend the next two years saying and doing embarrassing things as a Republican elected official.

Still, the now-established pattern of Republican voters nominating radical fringe activists as mainstream candidates represents a disturbing trend for a party that has become enamored with and given over to the conspiracy fringe. For the past four years, Republicans have lurched from one conspiracy to the next including the Deep State, the belief that the FBI concocted the Russia hoax, QAnon, and the belief that pandemic is an attempt to “get” Trump. But Republican conspiracies go back even further. Before Trump, there was Obama’s birth certificate and the belief that he was a closet Muslim as well as Jade Helm and the idea that RINO Republicans were a fifth column that was selling out conservatives.

It is the growing conspiracy wing of the party that propelled Donald Trump to the nomination (when traditional Republicans split the vote of the majority opposed to Trump). Trump’s increasing hold on the party and the mainstreaming of the conspiracy theories has made candidates like Loomer and Greene acceptable.

In reality, I suspect that it wasn’t despite Loomer’s history that she won her primary but because of it. As with Trump, many Republicans assume that, if the media is against them, they must be doing something right, so attempts to de-platform the nuts give them more credibility with the tinfoil hat base.

For me, a major (but not the only) stumbling block to voting Republican these days is the party’s slide into conspiracy madness. That includes a denial of the seriousness of the pandemic. Laura Loomer and Marjorie Taylor Greene are not in my district but the Republican acceptance of the pair and their far-out beliefs taints the entire party.

 Originally published on The Resurgent

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