Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, takes part in a state Senate committee hearing at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Marc Levy) Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin
Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, takes part in a state Senate committee hearing at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)

In late April, several prominent Republican politicians and spokespeople attended a QAnon-linked conference in Gettysburg called “Patriots Arise for God and Country.” Among the attendees and speakers were Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania State Senator and GOP candidate for Governor, and Teddy Daniels, candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania.

The promotional video for the event is a stunningly surreal mashup of several wild claims, including one that suggests Hitler faked his own death.

The event promoted several wild conspiracy theories, including QAnon and a number of entirely unfounded theories about September 11, 2001.

It’s the kind of rally that has become troublesome for Republicans of late, since attending them is something the base demands, but mainstream voters of all types find abhorrent.

For those courting the votes of right-wing extremists, the goal seems to be to flirt with the conspiracy theories at these events, but deny any allegiance, often angrily, when questions arise.

Recently, Mastriano demonstrated this when he abruptly ended a podcast interview rather than answer questions about his links to QAnon. His pushback, as well as claims that such questions are part of an orchestrated attack by “left-wing media”, echo those made by many politicians who attend these rallies.

When asked how he planned to address his allegations that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump – a claim that has no factual support of any kind – Mastriano ended the interview.

Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Teddy Daniels also attended the Gettysburg event, offering the audience exactly the kind of violent rhetoric that has become the norm at these rallies:

Shortly after the event, Daniels was served with a protective order to stay away from his home after his wife made claims of physical and mental abuse. That order was removed several days later.

While the GOP, both in Pennsylvania and across the nation, has a long history of flirting with violent extremists and conspiracy theories, there is now significant evidence that those extreme ideologies are becoming mainstream on the American right.

And very soon, those extreme ideologies will be on the ballot.