The event from this summer that best captured the chaotic energy of the GOP heading into the presidential election was not the Republican National Convention, with its high-decibel roster of party leaders, but the victory party for Laura Loomer at the airport Hilton in West Palm Beach, Florida. The far-right provocateur had won a six-way primary in the congressional district that contains Mar-a-Lago, and a host of her fellow agents of chaos, from Milo Yiannopoulos to Roger Stone, were there to celebrate. The president tweeted, “Great going Laura,” and Ronna McDaniel called to congratulate Loomer personally.
A year ago, it would have been difficult to imagine Loomer chatting with the chair of the RNC. A self-described “proud Islamophobe,” she began her career as a campus agitator, first making headlines in 2015 when she attempted to start a “Sympathetic Students in Support of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” club at a Florida university and recorded the nonplussed reactions of school administrators. For the next four years, subsidized by an octopus of far-right news sites, she embarked on a national disturbing-the-peace tour, walking on stage at New York’s Shakespeare in the Park in 2017 and accosting James Comey at a book event the following year. By 2019, Loomer’s history of Islamophobic remarks got her banned from Twitter, Facebook, PayPal, GoFundMe, Venmo, and the Conservative Political Action Conference, where she chased reporters around a convention center.
That Loomer could win a Republican primary a year after being kicked out of CPAC demonstrates how unmoored the GOP base has become from the party’s traditional institutions. Trump has emboldened a network of influencers who view “alternative facts” less as a slogan than a business model: More than a dozen Republicans on the ballot this November, including Loomer, have expressed support for QAnon. At least one, Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia, whom Trump has called “a future Republican star,” is sure to win in the general election.
It’s often said that Trump might start an independent media network once he leaves office, but such a network already exists in the websites that have offered a platform to cast-abouts like Loomer, helping them launder racism and gibberish through the filter of “independent media.” Regardless of whether Trump joins this crowd, the instability he has introduced into the media ecosystem will outlast his presidency, pushing the boundaries of legitimate politics ever further into the realm of the unhinged.