Stephanie McCrummen wrote this story in the Washington Post about what happened when Kevin Van Ausdal ran against a member of QAnon in a Congressional district in Georgia.

There was a time when Kevin Van Ausdal had not yet been called a “loser” and “a disgrace” and hustled out of Georgia. He had not yet punched a wall, or been labeled a “communist,” or a person “who’d probably cry like a baby if you put a gun in his face.” He did not yet know who was going to be the Republican nominee for Congress in his conservative district in northwestern Georgia: the well-known local neurosurgeon, or the woman he knew vaguely as a person who had openly promoted conspiracies including something about a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.

Anything still seemed possible in the spring of 2020, including the notion that he, Kevin Van Ausdal, a 35-year-old political novice who wanted to “bring civility back to Washington” might have a shot at becoming a U.S. congressman.

So one day in March, he drove his Honda to the gold-domed state capitol in Atlanta, used his IRS refund to pay the $5,220 filing fee and became the only Democrat running for a House seat in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, which Donald Trump won by 27 points in the 2016 presidential election.

He hired a local campaign manager named Vinny Olsziewski, who had handled school board races and a couple of congressionals.

He came up with a slogan — “Save the American Dream” — and posted his first campaign ad, a one-minute slide show of snapshots with voters set to colonial fife-and-drum music.

He gave one of the first public interviews he had ever given in his life, about anything, on a YouTube show called Destiny, and when the host asked, “How do you appeal to these people while still holding onto what you believe in?” Kevin answered, “It’s all about common sense and reaching across the aisle. That’s what politics is supposed to be like.”

All of that was before August, when Republican primary voters chose the candidate with the history of promoting conspiracies, and President Trump in a tweet called her a “future Republican Star” and Kevin began learning more about Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose first major ad featured her roaring across a field in a Humvee, pulling out an AR-15 rifle and blasting targets labeled “open borders” and “socialism.”

He read that she was wealthy, had rented a condo in the district earlier in the year to run for Congress, and that before running she had built an online following by promoting baseless, fringe right-wing conspiracies — that Bill and Hillary Clinton have been involved in murders, that President Obama is a Muslim, and more recently, about the alternate universe known as QAnon.

“I’ve seen some mention of lizard people?” Kevin said, going through news articles to learn more about QAnon. “And JFK’s ghost? Or maybe he’s still alive? And QAnon is working with Trump to fight the deep state? I’m not sure I understand.”

He plunged deeper, reading about a world in which a cryptic online figure called Q is fighting to take down a network of Democrats, Hollywood actors and global elites who engage in child-trafficking and drink a life-extending chemical harvested from the blood of their victims. He read about an FBI memo warning that QAnon followers could pose a domestic terrorism threat, and the reality sank in that the only thing standing between Marjorie Taylor Greene and the halls of Congress was him. Kevin.

“I’m the one,” he said. “I’m it.”

That was how the campaign began. Thirty-one days later it was over, and within those 31 days is a chronicle of how one candidate representing the most extreme version of American politics is heading to Congress with no opposition, and the other is, in his words, “broken.”

It is an outcome that was in some ways years in the making, as all but the most committed Democrats in northwestern Georgia had long become Republican, or abandoned hope of winning the mostly White, mostly rural district of gun shops and churches, leaving the Democratic Party so weak that in 2018, the nominee for Congress was a man who had run a nudist retreat.

But as Greene gave a victory speech railing against the “hate-America left” and calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “b—-,” Kevin sensed an opening. He would counter her extremism with moderation. He would talk about jobs and health care. He would double down on civility. As he told Vinny soon after hiring him as campaign manager, “People say I’m a nice guy, and I am. I think that’s the best approach.”

His team urged him to become more forceful, to respond with anger and outrage to her charges against him. He wasn’t used to that tone. Greene launched a fierce attack on Kevin.

“We have had enough,” she began, launching a tirade against “the radical left” and “Marxist BLM” and “these thugs, these domestic terrorists, these anarchists, these insurrectionists” and the Democrats’ “globalist plans, their open-border plans, their take your guns away plans, their abortion kill babies up to birth and maybe even afterwards plans.” She urged people to enter a raffle to win the AR-15 she’d used in her campaign ad because “socialism does not belong in America” and “we need to blow it away.” And then, for the first time, she addressed Kevin.

“I’m running against a radical Democrat. A Democrat socialist. He’s an AOC progressive — that really means communist — candidate,” Green said, referring to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), “who absolutely loves AOC and Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, you know, king of the basement dwellers. So, help me beat this Democrat in November. Help me go on to Congress.”

Below the video, her supporters began posting comments.

“WWG1WGA,” one wrote, using QAnon code for “Where we go one, we go all.”

“Gloves are off,” another wrote.

The comments kept coming, and Kevin, trying to calm his nerves, went into a spare bedroom, shut the door, and stayed there long enough that his wife finally texted him from another part of the house to see if he was okay.

“She is calling for a civil war!” he texted back, referring to Greene. “And I am expected to call her out tomorrow!”

Greene ratcheted up her attacks by posting a photo on Facebook, this one showing her in sunglasses and holding an AR-15 rifle next to a photo of three of the four Democratic congresswomen known as “The Squad,” titled “Squad’s Worst Nightmare.”

The race gained national attention but Kevin’s life began to fall apart. He made a video to respond to Greene. Donations began flowing in. The national media was watching the race. But his wife asked for a divorce. She couldn’t deal with the stress anymore. On Day 28 of the campaign, a sheriff’s deputy served him with divorce papers and told him he had to leave the house.

Kevin was homeless. He headed to his parents’ home in Indiana and moved into the basement. He gave up the campaign.

Marjorie Green ran unopposed.

A week later, Marjorie Taylor Greene was arriving in her Humvee for a pro-gun rally at a rural amphitheater not far from where Kevin once lived.

Alongside county sheriff’s deputies, the Georgia III% Martyrs provided security: a dozen or so men and a few women equipped with AR-15s, earpieces, camouflage and bulletproof vests. One man had a battle ax dangling from his belt. They fanned out around the fenced perimeter of the park while a hundred or so Greene supporters milled around, a few wearing little patches that read “WWG1WGA” or “Q Army” and others who said they didn’t know or care about QAnon but just knew that Greene “shares our values.”

“Marjorie was all there for us, one hundred percent,” said Ray Blankenship, who had in August started a new gun group called the Catoosa County Civil Defense League to guard against everything he believed Democrats stood for, including gun confiscation, rioting and socialism. “People will step up when it’s time,” he said.

Onstage, a guest speaker was talking about “a time when you will be asked to shed another man’s blood because he is a threat to your very way of life.” Another talked about “the communist Democrats.” Another said that vice-presidential candidate Kamala D. Harris “wants to come to your house and take your guns away.” Another began his speech by yelling into the microphone, “FREEDOM!!!!” and out in the audience, a man wearing a hat with a “Q Army” patch was listening.

“I think people are waking up,” said the man, Butch Lapp.

“The silent majority is silent no more,” said his wife, Rebecca, and now the Martyrs were radioing each other for “backup,” and forming a protective huddle around Greene as she made her way to the stage with no opposition anywhere in sight.

“I am so proud and so excited to represent northwest Georgia!” she began.

Back in Indiana, Kevin reflected on what happened:

“I wanted to be the voice of reason against fear. I wanted to draw attention to big issues in the district,” he said during a walk one afternoon, thinking back to the beginning.

“My opponent, unfortunately, embraced QAnon beliefs. I saw her disgusting comments. I thought, ‘She is basically talking like a terrorist,’ ” Kevin said.

“When I had to do that statement, I was scared,” he said. “I’m being told I need to make a direct attack on groups who respond to people with violence. Who glorify violence.”

“My staff had monitored backchannels and seen where Q people were making threats, and we talked about what to do about death threats,” he said.

“I felt out of control. I had no control. I felt unreal. I didn’t know what to do with myself in the quiet. I felt uneasy. I felt I was on the rails and floating through,” he said.

I was breaking down,” he said. “I was just broken.”

But now all of that was over, and he was walking down a street in Indiana describing the person he had become in the fall of 2020.

“I’ve not really been eating. I’ve been sleeping a lot. Avoiding news. I blocked anyone talking ill about me. One or two said they want to punch me in the face,” Kevin said.

“I’m worried the political situation is not going to get better. I worry we may not be able to turn it around. I knew Trump was a fascist, and I knew he was going to destroy this country, but I didn’t know how much. And Marjorie’s only going to make it worse.”

In the Trump era, voices of reason became targets.