QAnon Believers Have Lost Their Savior in Trump, But Conspiracy Theory is Building Power in GOP

For years, supporters of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory have been waiting for the moment that President Donald Trump confirms their beliefs and starts arresting high-profile members of a satanic pedophile ring.

The day of reckoning, referred to as "the storm" by the radical movement, would see Trump finally play out his role as the savior against the "deep state" and cannibalistic child abusers, which include leading Democrats and Hollywood figures, after waging a secret war during his time in office.

Now, following his election defeat to Joe Biden, Trump has just two more months in the White House to carry out "the storm" and start taking down these Satan-worshipping pedophiles.

Or, just like all the other days in which the apparent "storm" has been coming according to QAnon supporters, nothing will happen.

However, the radical claims, which have no basis in reality and are linked to the previously debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory, does not look like it will die with Trump's presidency.

Despite QAnon's leader and expected hero to soon no longer be leading the country, the movement has grown so much from its beginnings on the fringes of the internet in late 2017 that experts believe it has already evolved to be a prominent feature of Republican ideology and will be used against the Biden administration.

Vegas Tenold, Investigative Researcher at the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, adds the theory would easily be able to move beyond Trump, with QAnon supporters willing to shift the narrative as needed: If Trump won, his secret battle against the "deep state" continues for four more years. If Biden won, it was "also part of the plan somehow, for some reason."

"There's so much cognitive dissonance here that it kind of doesn't matter what happened," Tenold told Newsweek.

"Q is predominantly about Trump, but even if he were to disavow them, they would still find something to latch on to."

The major claims surrounding the theory are linked to a shadowy figure known only as "Q" who would originally leave cryptic messages and codes on controversial messagebaord site 4Chan.

The posts were seen as legitimate as "Q" claimed to have high-level security clearance within the U.S. government, which supporters say validates the claims.

While the coded messages or "drops" would never explicitly make the claims about high-profile Satanic pedophiles, they were interpreted by QAnon supporters and promoted elsewhere.

Tenold noted even without Trump, QAnon has become so adaptive down the years that it could still exist even without their commander-in-chief.

"The first claims that Q made in October 2017 was that Hillary Clinton is going to be arrested tomorrow," he told Newsweek. "QAnon since then has been a series of prophecies and predictions that never happened, and it hasn't slowed down QAnon one bit."

Some other theories pushed by QAnon include that that furniture company Wayfair was advertising trafficked children under the guise of selling expensive items and frequent claims that John F. Kennedy Jr is still alive and would return to campaign on behalf on Trump.

"The real world has a tendency not to affect QAnon not that much," Tenold added.

With such a loose collective of supporters, there is not one one main agreed upon idea of what the result of the election means for QAnon, with having their own interpretations.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that this view is also being touted by the president, many QAnon supporters are also still claiming that Trump actually won the election.

Others are not so certain that Trump losing the election is a part of any plan and have even expressed dismay that they have been conned by the whole thing.

Many have expressed deep frustration and confusion as to why Q has not made a single new post since Election Day or provided any new information despite long touting November 3 as a key date for the future of their movement.

Followers have also expressed resentment that Q continues to remain quiet even after Biden was declared the winner on November 8.

The last drop Q posted on message board site 8Knun, the new home of QAnon since 4chan and later 8chan disbanded, features a quote from Abraham Lincoln at the Gettysburg address, a link to a clip of music from the 1992 movie The Last of the Mohicans, and ending with the line "Together we will win."

This is not the first time that Q has gone silent, who has sometimes gone days or even weeks since 2017 without a new post.

Election Day also just so happens to be the same day that 8Kun's owner administrator Ron Watkins anonnounced he is stepping down as admin from the site, with speculation suggesting the two events may be connected.

While they are no suggestion as who will take over from Trump as the apparent savior for QAnon—or if they will stop believing in him at all—the idea that the theory will vanish so soon after Trump's loss also ignores just how far into public conscious it has been pushed in the past three years.

"I don't think QAnon goes away with Trump," Adele M. Stan, editor of Right Wing Watch, told Newsweek.

"Half of Republicans believe in the central claims of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which is the child sex trafficking ring," Stan added in reference to a recent Yahoo News poll conducted by YouGov.

"You have half of Republicans, one of the two major parties, believing in what they are going to see is an illegitimate government populated with pedophiles.

"In terms of restoring faith in your government, there's going to be if that's gonna be a long road," Stan added. "You have all of these people primed to see things in a very, very different way."

The key beliefs behind the QAnon theory also look set to continue, attracting those who may be unaware of the core extreme satanic cannibal elements and are instead focusing on the "Save the children" angle, a prominent QAnon slogan online and at rallies across the world in recent months.

"There's a lot of code speaking right now," Stan said. "The QAnon narrative has now been professionalized.

"You have this hashtag 'Save the Children.' How much more appealing could it be for people, who doesn't want to save children?"

Tenold described the Save the Children slogan from QAnon as a "stroke of genius" for the conspiracy theorists.

"It really expanded their coalition, it allowed them to take to the streets, it didn't focus on the creepier aspect of QAnon.

"It just focused on something you know we can all get behind, which is that pedophilia is bad. That's the line Trump has been taking when asked about QAnon, that these people are against pedophiles, and who isn't?"

QAnon
A woman holds up a QAnon sign to the media as attendees wait for President Donald Trump to speak at a campaign rally at Atlantic Aviation on September 22, 2020 in Moon Township, Pennsylvania.

QAnon has also made leap from obscure internet message boards to the corridors of congress after two congressional candidates who have either expressly shown support or engaged with QAnon won their elections in November.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, who won Georgia's deeply conservative 14th congressional district after running unopposed, is one of the more outspoken political figures to express support for the theory having praised Q as a "patriot."

"Now there's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it," she said in a Facebook video from August 2017.

Lauren Boebert, a far-right Republican who has spoken positively about the QAnon conspiracy theory, also won Colorado's 3rd Congressional District. In 2017, she described in a podcast presented by outspoken QAnon believer Ann Vandersteel in June how "everything that I've heard of Q, I hope that this is real."

Stan described how the rise of QAnon and the fallout of Trump could shape how the GOP looks in future years.

"What they are doing is building power in the Republican Party," Stan said. "It's a model that was really honed brilliantly by the religious right, going back to the late 1970s to the 1980s.

"The republican party has always been taken over by one force or another. It [QAnon] will be a true force in the Republican Party. It already is."

Stan also suggested that the shift of the QAnon conspiracy theory into mainstream politics could have even more violent consequences.

"They're calling for the execution of all the top Democratic leaders and leaders in Hollywood. They're falsely claiming they are pedophiles and trafficking children," Stan said. "That is a narrative for stochastic terrorism that tells people these people are evil.

"The disinformation hellscape that Trump has unleashed, combined with the allegiance of these very violent groups leaves us in a very chaotic [place]."

Under a Biden presidency, Stan asks could there be a movement against the violence that is "substantial enough to stop it, because it's going to require the buy-in of the American people to say enough is enough."