Denver Riggleman stood virtually alone.
It was Oct. 2, on the floor of the House of Representatives, and he rose as one of only two Republicans in the chamber to speak in favor of a resolution denouncing QAnon. Mr. Riggleman, a freshman congressman from Virginia, had his own personal experiences with fringe ideas, both as a target of them and as a curious observer of the power they hold over true believers. He saw a dangerous movement becoming more intertwined with his party, and worried that it was only growing thanks to words of encouragement from President Donald J. Trump.
“Will we stand up and condemn a dangerous, dehumanizing and convoluted conspiracy theory that the F.B.I. has assessed with high confidence is very likely to motivate some domestic extremists?” asked Mr. Riggleman, a former Air Force intelligence officer. “We should not be playing with fire.”
Six months later, conspiracy theories like QAnon remain a threat that most Republicans would rather ignore than confront, and Mr. Riggleman is out of office. But he is ever more determined to try to expose disinformation from the far right that is swaying legions in the Republican base to believe in a false reality.
Mr. Riggleman is a living example of the political price of falling out of lock step with the hard right. He lost a G.O.P. primary race last June after he officiated at the wedding of a gay couple. And once he started calling out QAnon, whose followers believe that a satanic network of child molesters runs the Democratic Party, he received death threats and was attacked as a traitor, including by members of his own family.
The undoing of Mr. Riggleman — and now his unlikely crusade — is revealing about a dimension of conservative politics today. The fight against radicalism within the G.O.P. is a deeply lonely one, waged mostly by Republicans like him who are no longer in office, and by the small handful of elected officials who have decided that they are willing to speak up even if it means that they, too, could be headed for an early retirement. [Continue reading…]