No one will apologize for promoting the “great replacement theory”

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Rep. Elise Stefanik’s (RN.Y.) rhetoric used during a fundraising appeal last September was not subtle.

“Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive action yet: A PERMANENT VICTORY INSURRECTION,” it read, pairing its text with a photo of President Biden. “Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.”

Not subtle – to the point of being clumsy. The right wanted to muddy the waters over what constituted an “insurgency” following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob so that immigration would be seen as the real insurrection. And after Fox News’ Tucker Carlson began explicitly promoting the idea that Democrats were intentionally trying to drown out the political power of native Americans without facing any repercussions — an idea that overlapped with a bit of racist rhetoric called the “great replacement theory” — the idea began to gain traction with elected officials. So Stefanik included it here.

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Consider how useful this argument is for her. This assumes not only that Democrats allow an increase in migration or even illegal migration, but that they do intentionally. Why? Well, obviously because they’re sneaky and untrustworthy. But because there is a real American majority — a powerful group of native-born Americans — who oppose the Democrats’ agenda. Thus, the sneaky left has no choice but to “overthrow” the electorate by escorting as many immigrants into the country as possible and giving them the right to vote.

JD Vance, Republican Senate candidate from Ohio Explain this idea at Carlson in March.

“These people are doing it on purpose,” he said, including: “…Democratic politicians who have decided that they cannot be re-elected in 2022 unless they introduce a large number of new voters to replace the voters who are already there. That’s what it’s about.

“It’s not bad policy, it’s wrong,” Vance added.

Again: it’s not subtle. The infamous left elites are trying to bankrupt the country by allowing uncontrolled immigration. It doesn’t matter that they are not allowing unchecked immigration or that there is no way that a law granting citizenship to undocumented immigrants or even immigrants at large will pass through Congress, and there is clearly no way that will happen. occur before mid-term in November. But it’s useful rhetoric to amplify fears of immigration, anger against the left, and a sense that those on the right are the true owners of American power and culture. And what is the downside?

Well, the downside is when a guy goes to Buffalo and kills 10 people because he supposedly wants to foment a race war to defend the beleaguered white race, at least according to a document authorities believe the suspect wrote. Tell people there is an effort to diminish the power of real Americans by bringing immigrants into the country and some people are going to be able to hear the dog whistle very clearly.

When the media, including the Washington Post, pointed out that the rhetoric in the document mirrored what was said by Stefanik and Carlson, Stefanik was outraged. His official response to the Buffalo shooting, in a statement and a Tweeter from his office, was friendly. She is “heartbroken”, she prays for those who have lost their lives, etc. His campaign, however, took a different turn.

“Statement on Shameful, Dishonest and Dangerous Media Defamation,” its press release was titled.

“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,” adviser Alex DeGrasse wrote. “The shooting was an evil act and the criminal must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Stefanik herself shared her thoughts on her campaign Twitter account.

It’s a great replacement theory – but leaving open the idea that maybe it’s all just coincidence. (An email sent to Stefanik’s office asking whether she accepts or rejects the theory’s core premise only received the above campaign statement in response.) She doesn’t say it’s about an elite effort to intentionally replace American voters. She just says, you know, the Democrats want to bring in a group of immigrants and let them vote. That’s all.

Note, by the way, that even here Stefanik cannot avoid the Republican topic of the moment. Allowing immigrants to vote is “protecting the integrity of the election”, Donald Trump’s sole focus for the past 20 months. Since passing a law allowing immigrants to vote would not be a violation of electoral integrity in the sense that the laws would be broken, Stefanik is here simply looping “let these people vote” with ” it taints our elections”.

It is, in fact, irresponsible to suggest that the Buffalo shooter was influenced by Stefanik’s ad campaign; I suspect that very few teenagers have heard of Stefanik, and even fewer are the targets of his campaign fundraising appeals. But she still gave — gives — oxygen to the idea in a way that helps normalize its adoption and expand its reach.

The most important point here is that Stefanik will not abandon the rhetoric she used last September. Politicians have long been loath to admit their mistakes, like most humans. But at some point, elected leaders were expected to do what was right and hard by acknowledging their mistakes. This is no longer the case.

As Ezra Klein, then of Vox, wrote in 2016, Trump’s political gift was that he expressed no shame for what he was doing. For all the inflammatory and untrue things he’s said, for all the indiscretions he’s done, there’s been almost no occasion for him to apologize or admit wrongdoing. He simply retaliated, attacking the media or his detractors or his accusers. In a memorable passage from Bob Woodward’s book “Fear,” he writes about the advice Trump gave to a friend accused of sexual impropriety.

“If you admit anything and any guilt, then you’re dead,” Trump said. Instead, he suggested, “you have to deny, deny, deny.”

As president, this overlapped with his insistence on “fighting back”, saying that the media that reported his mistakes and dishonesty were the enemies of the people and that in targeting them they were broadly targeting conservative Americans. Over time, media criticism became a mark of success on the right, a sign you could offer your base that you had the right enemies. That Stefanik’s response to reports that she was echoing the Great Replacement Theory was allegedly about “shameful, dishonest and dangerous media vilification,” says it all.

That’s why Trump attacked the press, of course. He wanted the press to be seen as opposed to his policies and therefore merely another partisan pawn. And Republicans have since embraced it. Scott Pruitt, who resigned from Trump’s cabinet following a series of scandals, is now seeking election to the Senate by touting the media for getting it. After The New York Times published a lengthy series exposing Tucker Carlson’s rhetoric — including the big replacement theory — Carlson was giddy.

Deny, deny, deny. Group the media with left-wing critics. Never admit that you made a mistake, but instead argue that you are being unfairly accused of making a mistake due to bias. Now it’s rote — even when the question is whether you stand by an argument allegedly made by a man accused of killing 10 people in a grocery store.

In 2016, Trump explicitly opposed immigration, even at one point arguing that Democrats wanted to bring in countless immigrants who would vote for their party. He refused to admit his mistakes or his lies. And then he won. And then he retained huge popularity with the grassroots.

And lessons have been given.

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