A Bid For Power
Dec 8, 2022: This map has been updated according to the results of the 2022 general election. See PRA’s analysis of the results here. We also have added two new candidates to the map—Greg Abbott in Texas and Chuck Gray in Wyoming— based on the original criteria for inclusion, bringing the total tracked candidates to 276. PRA welcomes additional suggestions for inclusion with links to documented evidence at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note: the numbers in the article below have not been edited.
This report and interactive map are a resource for journalists reporting on, and anyone working to prevent, the far-right capture of our politics and public discourse. Even as the proliferation of bigoted and anti-democracy rhetoric has blurred the boundaries between the Far Right and the spectrum of “legitimate politics,” PRA has identified 274 candidates in the 2022 midterm election cycle who represent a definable Electoral Far Right, the insurrectionist edge of American politics. This Electoral Far Right is a dangerous vector for the entrance of Christian nationalism, anti-LGBTQ bigotry, far-right conspiracism, election denial, Patriot movement/anti-government ideology, and racial and ethnic nationalism into public discourse and the arena of governance. Many of these candidates openly collaborate with or otherwise endorse far-right organizations, movements, or leaders. Fully one third of the candidates in our study (93) are incumbents, and 56% (153) have advanced from their primaries to the general election. Explore PRA’s interactive map of Far Right Candidates here.
The 2022 midterm elections have taken on the character of a referendum on the near-term viability of American democracy. The legal and political impunity enjoyed by those members of Congress who abetted former president Trump’s attempts to overturn his electoral defeat on January 6th of 2021 has emboldened the most authoritarian factions of his party, deepening the precarity of our political system.1 Should the Republican Party and its dominant MAGA faction capture the House or Senate this November, the 2022 midterms will be seen by many both as a harbinger of victory for the Right in 2024—and as a sign of collective failure to block a style of politics that is bent on White minority rule.
The MAGA movement that now represents the main cultural and political currents of the U.S. Right Wing has consolidated the Christian Right and ethnonationalists into what may become an enduring political bloc—regardless of the role of former president Trump. A key characteristic of this bloc is the embrace of ideas that come from part of the political spectrum long considered beyond the pale of mainstream American politics. Ideas and policy positions that would have been regarded as outrageous and tantamount to political suicide as recently as the early 2000s are being pushed into the mainstream—such as the canard that America is a Christian nation or that White people are being deliberately replaced with immigrants of color. Red-hot “culture war” contests over voting rights, racism, abortion, guns, schools, immigration, and the rights of LGBTQ people are the means by which Christian Right and ethnonationalist resentments are being mobilized in a wider bid for cultural and political power. The line between the Far Right and the broader MAGA movement is permeable and shifting.
The fluidness between the U.S. Far Right and the dominant faction of one of the two major political parties in the United States makes it difficult to distinguish between political opportunists who are riding a dangerous wave of bigoted and increasingly anti-democracy politics, and the true believers—those hardline bigots, theocrats, and authoritarians determined to foreclose the possibility of a broadly inclusive democratic polity.
Even as the proliferation of bigoted and anti-democracy rhetoric has blurred the boundaries between the Far Right and the spectrum of “legitimate politics,” PRA has identified 274 far-right candidates in the 2022 midterm election cycle who belong to a definable Electoral Far Right, the insurrectionist edge of American politics. This Electoral Far Right is a dangerous vector for the entrance of Christian nationalism, anti-LGBTQ bigotry, far-right conspiracism, election denial, Patriot movement/anti-government ideology, and racial and ethnic nationalism into public discourse and the arena of governance. Many of these candidates openly collaborate with or otherwise endorse far-right organizations, social movements, or leaders.
This report endeavors to define and describe this Electoral Far Right, where the sometimes obscured or normalized bigotry, authoritarianism, and violence of slightly more “mainstream” actors become more fully visible. By assessing the Electoral Far Right in the 2022 midterms, we aim to establish a useful baseline from which to further track the evolution and influence of the Far-Right on U.S. politics and society.
Why bother to distinguish these candidates and office holders from the hundreds and even thousands of others busily pursuing similar policy outcomes? After all, the Electoral Far Right is by no means solely responsible for the dangerous and ongoing legislative assaults on abortion, voting, separation of church and state, racial equity, historical accuracy in public education, human rights of trans people, and other defining issues of our times. Our answer is that the Electoral Far Right plays an outsized role in normalizing the ideas and ideologies that justify these assaults and the broader threats to a democratic future for this country. By pushing the outer boundary of public debate ever further towards exclusion, domination, and supremacy the Electoral Far Right shifts the “middle ground” where political compromise often takes place into decidedly anti-democratic territory. By normalizing ideas incompatible—indeed antithetical—to equality, pluralism, democracy, and human rights, the Electoral Far Right advances the frontier of authoritarianism. The effects of such normalization are cumulative, as we witnessed at scale when former president Trump staged an attempted coup against the elected government of the United States, yet still managed to dominate his party and retain tens of millions of followers.
For this report, PRA has identified 274 far-right candidates for national, statewide, and state legislative offices in 2022 who promote Christian nationalism, virulent anti-LGBTQ bigotry, election denial, far-right conspiracism, militia/Patriot movement ideology, and/or racial and ethnic nationalism, and/or are involved with far-right movements which promote these ideologies. Many of the candidates in this Electoral Far Right grouping advance multiple categories of bigoted, supremacist, or anti-democracy ideas and policies. In addition to the narrative description that follows, we have created an interactive map of the Electoral Far Right as a resource for journalists reporting on, and anyone working to prevent, the Far Right capture of our politics and public discourse. Users can sort and search candidates by state, far-right category, those running for state versus federal office, incumbency, and those on the November 2022 general election ballot.
Fully one third of the candidates in our study (93) are incumbents, and 56% (153) have advanced from their primaries to the general election.2
Here is an overview of some of the key characteristics of this Electoral Far Right:
|Category (Described Below)||Total Candidates||Incumbents||On General Election Ballot|
|Christian Nationalism/Anti-LGBTQ||87 (32%)||56||63|
|Election Denial||73 (27%)||15||37|
|Far-Right Conspiracism||80 (29%)||9||35|
|Patriot Movement/Anti-Government||27 (10%)||11||16|
|Racial/Ethnic Nationalism||38 (14%)||16||23|
|Far-Right Movement Involvement||117 (43%)||31||57|
Several of the incumbent candidates have become household names in the last few years, including:
- Rep. Paul Gosar, a member of the House of Representatives from Arizona (District 9), has embraced the White nationalist America First organization and its leader Nick Fuentes. He is also known for the prominent role he has played in denying the legitimacy of the 2020 elections, stating at a Republican party rally in Florence, AZ in January 2022: “Was there fraud? Absolutely. Was it enough to overturn the election? Absolutely.”
- Rep. Lauren Boebert, the Congressional Representative for Colorado’s District 3, is likely best known for her anti-Muslim rhetoric and for her associations with QAnon, including her sharing of the notion that the GOP would regain control of both the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives before the 2022 midterm elections after a wave of arrests and resignation of Democratics for involvement with fictitious child sex and murder conspiracies.
- Rep. Matt Gaetz is the Florida District 1 member of Congress who has supported the White nationalist conspiracy story that there is a plot to “replace” White Americans with Brown and Black immigrants (the Great Replacement) and has spread the story that George Soros was behind supposedly behind the immigrant caravans (an antisemitic dog whistle).
- Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is perhaps the best known far-right conspiracist in Congress. Representing Georgia’s District 14, she addressed at a conference of the White nationalist America First organization, supported the Great Replacement conspiracy claim, and declared herself a Christian nationalist.
- Sen. Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky probably best known for his economic libertarianism, has a history of using anti-Muslim rhetoric, including while addressing Christian Right convenings.
We have not included every candidate who opposes human rights for trans people or reproductive choice—mostly because this would include the vast majority of Republican candidates, but we have included influential, if less well-known, activists for Christian nationalism and against LGBTQ, and particularly trans, rights. Some examples include:
- Sen. James Lankford is an Oklahoma Senator and co-chair of the Advisory Committee of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation. The Foundation is a key supporter of Project Blitz, a legislative campaign that seeks to use display of Christian messaging and school prayer as soft entry points for demolishing the wall of separation between church and state.
- Rep. Joe Wilson, from South Carolina District 2, is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, the group behind the creation of the Christian Right bill mill, Project Blitz.
- Robin Lundstrum, Arkansas District 18 State Representative, is a signatory of the Promise to America’s Children, which promotes flagrant anti-trans and anti-LBGTQ bigotry.
- Tim Reichert, running for the U.S. House of Representatives for Colorado’s District 7, is a vehement opponent of abortion rights, grounding his opinion in a kind of supernaturalism associated with the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). He claims that birth control permanently harms women and destroys marriage as an institution, and has said, “Every abortion feeds the demonic and thereby contributes directly to the demise of the church, the demise of America and the demise of the West.”
Criteria and Methodology
For purposes of this project, we define far-right candidates as those that have demonstrated their support for a defined set of bigoted ideas and/or policies and the organizations and movements that advance them. These include: Christian Nationalism and the most virulent anti-LGBTQ positions; election denial; far-right conspiracism; Patriot movement/anti-government ideology; and racial/ethnic nationalism; as well as involvement with far-right organizations, movements, and/or leaders. (See below for details.) We included candidates who have: expressed support for these ideas or policies; promoted organizations, leaders, or movements that push these ideas or policies; and/or taken action to advance these ideas or policies in the political arena. Candidates included in this study do not necessarily self-describe as far-right. Candidates do not typically endorse every idea, action, policy, or organization that might qualify a candidate for inclusion. Candidates are included and defined as far-right if they meet the threshold of attributable ideas (ideology), policy advocacy, or confirmed association in one or more of the categories below. Our interactive map gives specific information for each candidate given our Far-Right designation.
The criteria for inclusion are described below.
The data collected for this project were drawn from primary sources, as well as local and national reporting and the work of watchdog and advocacy organizations including Southern Poverty Law Center, Media Matters, and the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.
Christian Nationalism and Anti-LGBTQ Movements
In an era of rising religious nationalism globally, Christian nationalist movements have pulled the contemporary U.S. Right in a theocratic and authoritarian direction. Dominionist movements like the New Apostolic Reformation boast increasingly close relationships with right-wing leaders, elected officials, and candidates in their quest to capture state power and cultural institutions with their exclusionary brand of Christianity. Politicians such as Marjorie Taylor Greene self-identify as Christian nationalist, and increasingly call for the outright dissolution of the separation of church and state—positions that, until recently, were considered unacceptable in mainstream political discourse.
At the same time, the crusade against the basic humanity of transgender people, LGBTQ rights, bodily autonomy, and reproductive choice is being acted out in state legislatures across the country, which have introduced at least 150 bills aimed at slashing the rights of transgender individuals in the year 2022 alone. Many conservatives, in the wake of the repeal of Roe v. Wade, now call for the overturning of the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision legalizing marriage equality, to name only two examples of this escalating assault.
Against this backdrop of bigoted and authoritarian legislation, we have chosen to include only those candidates with notable ties to leading Christian nationalist organizations, including as advisory committee members, state chairs or signatories of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, or Promise to America’s Children; or who have expressed particularly bigoted anti-LGBTQ rhetoric or championed exclusionary versions of the idea that the United States was, is, and must be a Christian nation.
For example, Neil Kumar is included in this category for his vicious anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, stating of LGBTQ people: “These demons are defiling innocence itself,” and that LGBTQ-affirming public schools are “now nothing more than psychological torture camps.” David Livingston, by contrast, lands on our list for his leadership in the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, which advocates for a Christian nationalist agenda. He is the state chair in Arizona, where he is running to represent district 28 in the state house.
Support for the “Big Lie” can be understood as a particular kind of conspiracism in that it was largely driven by Trump’s own claims that his loss was illegitimate, and that it resulted in violent real-world conflicts, culminating (but not ending) with the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol. As with COVID conspiracy claims, it is now far too common for candidates to parrot Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen for PRA to use this sole criteria to consider a candidate “far-right” for purposes of this report. Under the category Election Denial, we include those candidates who have been at the forefront of fabulating false claims about the results of the 2020 elections, including claims that violence is and was justified by citizens to overturn what they claim to be stolen elections. We also include those who have gone beyond rhetoric to action: leading Stop the Steal rallies; acting as “alternate electors” or helping to facilitate the appointment of such; and/or participating in the January 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol or similar actions around the country, or steadfastly supporting those who did. A good example is State Senator Jake Hoffman (AZ), who is one of 84 people who volunteered to serve as “alternative electors,” signing documents that falsely (and outrageously) claim that Donald Trump won the 2020 election.
Widespread belief in one or more unproven—and in many cases completely baseless—conspiracies has become commonplace in 21st century U.S. culture. The Alex Jones Show is the 42nd most-popular radio show in the U.S as of Q2 2022. Now banned on major social media platforms for its rampant spread of dangerous disinformation, Jones’ website, InfoWars, has had millions of viewers. According to an analysis of PRRI surveys conducted throughout 2021, as many as 16-percent of Americans (41 million people), or nearly one in five, support key components of QAnon conspiracy theories.3 And of course former President Trump spread blatant lies about the results of the 2020 election in a bid to hold onto power. About one in three people in the U.S., and upwards of 70-percent of Republicans, continue to believe the claim that Trump could only have been defeated through massive voter fraud and/or conspiracies.
In this atmosphere of radical skepticism, we have limited our focus in this project to candidates who hold some of the most destructive and totalizing forms of conspiracism, including those who have repeatedly and/or prominently supported QAnon conspiracy theories and those who have supported claims that COVID and public health measures taken to control its spread and lethality are part of a plot to undermine the U.S. driven by globalist, Jewish, or Chinese conspirators. A good example is Nevada District 3 candidate for the House of Representatives Noah Malgeri’s statement that COVID was a plot “done by forces aligned to destroy America and impose a totalitarian, authoritarian regime globally.”
For the purposes of this project, the “Patriot movement” refers to a decentralized and loosely coordinated network of groups and leaders espousing an exclusionary brand of anti-government, pro-militia ideology. Today’s Patriot movement typically believes that existing state and governmental institutions are so compromised by conspiratorial forces that it would be justified to overthrow them by force, and it understands political opponents as absolute enemies against whom violence is justified.
Candidates in this category promote Patriot movement and associated anti-government ideology, are members of Patriot movement groups including the Oath Keepers and III%ers, and/or are connected to Patriot movement groups. For example, Idaho State Representative Heather Scott is a member of the Oath Keepers and supported the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by Patriot movement leader Ammon Bundy and followers in 2016.
Also included in the project are those professing not to be subject to federal laws, for example by claiming that they, themselves, are “sovereign citizens” or claiming that a “civil war” or other armed resistance is justified or will be necessary to “free” the U.S. from the grasp of tyrannical powers. For example, Arizona Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem has shared militant anti-government content including a “Treason Watchlist” of supposedly anti-American government officials, calls to stockpile ammunition, and claims that U.S. citizens should be armed against the government. Finchem is also a member of the Oath Keepers and after Sheriff Richard Mack, a leader of the anti-government Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, endorsed his campaign, Finchem hailed Mack as a “strong defender of our rights, law and order, and the Constitution.”
Racial and Ethnic Nationalism
These are candidates with close ties to or significant association with White nationalist organizations, either through direct endorsement or promotion of such an organization by the candidate or their campaign via social or legacy media, particularly when the promotion is of racist or White nationalist claims or proposals. The category also includes similarly significant connections to ethnic nationalist and/or anti-immigrant organizations, including anti-Muslim groups. Finally, direct calls for discrimination against or scapegoating of a particular racial or ethnic group is grounds for inclusion in this report. For example, Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters’ statement that Black people are responsible for “a gun violence problem in this country,” qualifies as far-right. So does Texas State House candidate Shelley Luther’s tweet “Chinese students should be BANNED from attending all Texas Universities,” and New Hampshire U.S. Senate candidate Jeremy Kauffman’s sarcastic tweet: “I’m a Libertarian that supports reparations. If you have an ancestor that was a slave, you can either have a one-way plane ticket to Africa or shut the f*** up forever.”
Far-Right Movement Involvement
In addition to the above ideological and action-oriented criteria for inclusion in this project, candidates who 1) are members of a far-right organization; 2) endorse such organizations, their leaders, or representative pieces of messaging, or (3) have accepted a platform from far-right organizations, leaders or social movements, for example by speaking at public events held by an organization and/or appearing for an interview on media outlets associated with a movement, have been included under the category “Far-Right Movement Involvement.” For example, Arizona Representative Paul Gosar and State Representative Wendy Rogers, Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Idaho Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin are included under this category for speaking at the third annual America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC III) held by White nationalist Nick Fuentes in February 2022. At least 37 candidates have appeared on far-right authoritarian nationalist Steve Bannon’s podcast or have been published on Bannon’s War Room blog, and at least 26 candidates have been featured at a QAnon event or appeared on a QAnon podcast. Some of these candidates may, of course, be opportunists, but none of them are centrists or “conservatives” in the now quaint mold of even twenty years ago. They are, at best, MAGA-candidates fishing for far-right votes and are included in our definition of “far-right candidates” for purposes of this project.
Conclusion: What It Means
Taken together, our investigation illustrates that the ideologies, organizations, movements, and leaders of the Far Right are on the march across the U.S. political landscape in 2022. The threat to a just and inclusive democratic society posed by the ascendant Far Right is dire, and the ongoing capture of political power by the Far Right stands to hasten the erosion of rights, disenfranchisement and targeting of vulnerable groups, and dismantling of democratic norms and processes.
Anyone who is serious about defending democracy needs to remain attuned to these worrying trends, as we pursue a “block and build” strategy to halt the advance of the Far Right on the one hand and deepen and expand the institutions and practices of just and inclusive democracy on the other.
Project lead: Ben Lorber. Analysis was co-steered by Ben Lorber and Steven Gardiner. Olivia Lawrence-Weilmann designed and developed the map. Ben Lorber steered data collection, with support from Sam Smith and Julia Cameron. Abigail Hadfield steered fact checking, with support from Olivia Lawrence-Weilmann.
Correction: At the time of initial publication, PRA listed candidate Joel Anabilah-Azumah as appearing on the general election ballot for the U.S. Senate to represent New York. This error has been corrected; Anabilah-Azumah did not appear on the general election ballot in 2022.
- Authoritarianism as a form of government concentrates power in the hands of the few and limits political participation by those seen as unfriendly to the regime. In the U.S., this is imagined through the lens of race, gender, and religion. Attacks on reproductive rights, the separation of church and state, and acknowledgement of the reality of structural racism in public discourse–the central focus of culture war activism–are attacks on real multiracial and inclusive democracy. They are also the means through which specifically Christian Right and White ethnonationalist resentments and anxieties are mobilized in a wider bid for power. It is also important to know that since the end of the Second World War, many democracies have become autocracies via the ballot box (Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die (New York: Broadway Books, 2018) Pp. 4 - 5.).
- Please note that this dataset represents all candidates we are aware of who meet our criteria for inclusion on this map. We welcome additional suggestions for inclusion with links to documented evidence at email@example.com.
- The PRRI survey used three proxy statements to measure belief in QAnon-linked conspiracies, rather than asking directly about QAnon by name. The three statements were: “(1) The government, media, and financial sector are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation; (2) There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders; and (3) Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”