Democrats hit GOP over ‘replacement theory’

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Democrats are taking Republicans to task this week following a racist mass shooting in Western New York, accusing GOP lawmakers of fomenting violence by embracing the same white nationalist views as the alleged shooter.

Lawmakers from both parties were horrified by the Buffalo massacre, where a lone gunman shot and killed 13 people – 10 of them fatally – at a supermarket in a predominantly black neighborhood on Saturday afternoon. The suspect, an 18-year-old from Conklin, NY, a small rural town 200 miles east, reportedly posted a long screed online expressing concern that America’s white population is being overrun by a growing number of minorities.

This conspiracy, known as the “replacement theory,” has a long history on the fringes of American politics, reverberating for decades in the underworlds of white nationalism and white supremacy. But it has recently gained a foothold under former President Trump, whose “Make America Great Again” campaign launched with an all-out attack on Mexican immigrants, has won legions of followers across the country and remains its most animating force. of the GOP even more than one a year after Trump left public service.

In the wake of Saturday’s massacre in Buffalo, Republicans loyal to MAGA and their allies are now in the spotlight for past comments suggesting, to varying degrees, that Democrats and other elites have sought to empower minorities. – largely through immigration policy – ​​to the detriment of white people.

Some of these conservative commentators have adopted the replacement theory by name; others have avoided the term, but caution against an immigrant “insurgency” designed to perpetually keep the Democrats in power. Either way, critics say such rhetoric directly contributes to acts of nationalist violence, including Saturday’s massacre in Buffalo.

“What really needs to be replaced in this country is ignorance and hatred, which fuel division, perpetuate lies and kill our neighbors,” Rep. Brian Higgins (DN.Y.) said in a statement. communicated.

Higgins is not alone. And among the loudest voices decrying the GOP’s flirtation with fringe nationalism are a pair of Capitol Hill Republicans — Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) — who blamed their own leadership to do far too little to combat bigotry within their own ranks.

“The leadership of the House GOP has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy and anti-Semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends much worse,” Cheney wrote on Twitter. “@GOP leaders must step down and reject these views and those who champion them.”

The replacement theory debate has been thrust into the national spotlight following a series of violent episodes in recent years. The list includes the 2017 marches in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists shouted that “Jews will not replace us”; the 2018 shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, where Jews were targeted for supporting immigrants; and the 2019 massacre at a Walmart in Texas, where the shooter said he feared a “Hispanic invasion.”

Buffalo Saturday shooting suspect Payton Gendron had expressed similar grievances, writing online that the black shoppers he was targeting posed a threat to “my own people” — a threat he equates to genocide.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.) lamented that such views have become more common in recent years, blaming “some MAGA Republicans and cable news pundits” for having given the theory “pretend legitimacy”.

“The message isn’t always explicit, but we’ve all seen the pattern,” he said on the bedroom floor Monday.

In Trump’s absence from Washington, other prominent conservatives have stepped up their fight against what they perceive to be a threat to American national identity.

Tucker Carlson, the popular Fox News host, led that charge, saying on his show last year that “demographic change is key to the Democratic Party’s political ambitions.” He then accused Democrats of trying to “replace the current electorate” with “more obedient Third World voters.”

“I have less political power because they are importing a whole new electorate,” he said. “Why should I sit down and take this?”

Appearing on Carlson’s show in March, GOP Ohio Senate nominee JD Vance said Democrats “have decided they can’t be reelected in 2022 unless they bring in a big number new voters to replace the voters who are already there”.

And Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), a close Trump ally, issued similar warnings about immigrants.

“For many Americans, what seems to be happening or what they believe is happening right now is – what seems to them – we are replacing native-born Americans, native-born Americans to permanently transform the landscape of this very nation,” Perry said during a committee hearing last year.

Among the lawmakers in the brightest spotlight since Saturday’s shooting is Representative Elise Stefanik (NY), a member of the GOP leadership.

Stefanik was accused in an op-ed in a hometown newspaper of subtly echoing replacement theory tenets with Facebook ads in September 2021 that claimed Democrats were plotting a ‘PERMANENT VICTORY INSURRECTION’ with the plan. amnesty for undocumented immigrants for electoral purposes. Kinzinger resurfaced those posts following Saturday’s shooting, saying Stefanik is “pushing the white replacement theory.”

These figures strenuously deny that their rhetoric is inherently racist or promotes the same kinds of worldviews as the Buffalo shooter, saying there is a clear distinction between opposing the legal rights of undocumented immigrants and elevating the hatred towards minorities.

Carlson said on his show that critics were trying to make it “a racial issue” but it was a “suffrage issue”.

Stefanik’s adviser, Alex deGrasse, said in a statement that she is credited with diversifying the GOP and supports legal immigration, but opposes amnesty.

“Any involvement or attempt to blame the heinous shooting in Buffalo on the congresswoman is a disgusting new low for the left, their Never Trump allies and the sycophant stenographers in the media,” deGrasse said. “Despite the disgust and misinformation, Congresswoman Stefanik has never taken a racist stance or made a racist statement.”

Stefanik’s team also pointed out that New York City had approved a measure allowing non-citizens to vote in municipal elections, falsely claiming that it would allow “illegal immigrants” to vote when the measure would apply to legal permanent residents and so-called Dreamers who were brought to the United States as children, but legally permitted to remain under the DACA program.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) brushed aside criticism of Cheney and others on the replacement theory, telling reporters Monday that the GOP “has never supported white supremacy.” .

“The same thing Cheney always does, just trying to play a political game when she knows something isn’t true,” McCarthy said.

GOP advocates also cite older research and news reports claiming that immigration is likely to lead to electoral gains for Democrats.

A 2013 article on a failed immigration proposal by the Gang of Eight said its amnesty provisions would create an “election windfall” for Democrats. That same year, the liberal Center for American Progress declared that “supporting real immigration reform that contains a path to citizenship for our country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants is the only way to maintain the strength election in the future”.

These arguments, by Stefanik and others, have done nothing to satisfy their detractors, some of whom call them by name.

“The Great Replacement Theory is a vile, racist and false conspiracy theory relied upon by the Buffalo Murderer. GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik ran ads promoting it,” tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)

“Rep @EliseStefanik has now issued a statement and nowhere does it say ‘I condemn replacement theory’. Why?”

Mychael Schnell contributed.

Updated at 7:50 p.m.

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