They could have reacted in a number of different ways: Reconsider the implications of their rhetoric, downplay things, perhaps actively discourage those who might see in that rhetoric as a justification for violence.
Instead, many on the right wing do the opposite: they do doubles on the big replacement. As a result of the horror in Buffalo, this rancid idea may become even more central to Republican ideology.
The idea has roots that go far back, but in its contemporary form, the theory claims that Democrats, sometimes in conjunction with a conspiracy of powerful Jews, plan to import a large number of non-white immigrants to overwhelm “inherited Americans,” who Fox News host Tucker Carlson puts it. These immigrants will gain citizenship to vote the Republicans out and turn the United States into a dystopian nightmare where white people will be hunted down and oppressed.
The underlying assumptions are that any immigrant is a threat to white people, and that the growing diversification of America is both frightening and a product of a conspiracy to oppress whites and destroy the country.
Some kind of big replacement theory has apparently inspired several mass shootings. The man who killed 11 people in 2018 in a synagogue in Pittsburgh did so because he believed Jews were responsible for importing non-white immigrants. The man who killed 23 people at an El Paso Walmart in 2019 wanted to kill immigrants from Mexico.
What characterizes the present moment is that talking about “replacement” is not just for torch-bearing neo-Nazis shouting “Jews will not replace us” anymore. It is now deep in the heart of the Republican Party and the Conservative movement, promoted by TV hosts and senior GOP officials and candidates.
Here’s some of what we’ve heard over the last few days:
- Carlson, who has heralded ideas repeating the big replacement on no fewer than 400 episodes of his show, said bizarrely that “we’re still not sure exactly what it is.” He then repeated it again, insisting that Democrats want to import non-natives to “change the electorate.”
- Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick went on Fox News to say that Democrats want to “bring millions of people illegally into this country” to make them “voters so they can control the country.”
- At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (held in Budapest as a tribute to Hungarian dictator Viktor Orban), CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp told reporters that the overthrow Roe v. Wade would help tip the balance towards immigrants. “If you’re worried about this replacement without a quote,” he said, “we should start by letting our own people live.”
- Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters recorded a video where he said, “Democrats want to bring in millions of people and give them amnesties,” and then he expected this would get him branded as a “white supremacy.”
- Some Republicans who have promoted versions of the big successor, such as Ohio Senate candidate JD Vance, have chosen to focus on their own alleged repression. “Accusations of racism are often about keeping quiet about disagreements. You are not a racist because you want an immigration system that protects our citizens, ”Vance tweeted.
- Late. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) Insisted that the United States is the victim of an “invasion” from the south, compared to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as if Mexican farm workers were bombing American cities and killing thousands of Americans.
We have seen versions of this exchange many times before: there is an act of right-wing domestic terrorism; it turns out that the terrorist was motivated by ideas commonly heard from conservative media figures and Republican politicians; Democrats say “You helped make this happen”; and the Republicans respond “How dare you say that, we are the real victims here.”
But if this time feels a little different, it may be because few if any members of the Republican Party say “Maybe we should turn down the volume a little.” There is no self-reflection, and no one in a position of influence is willing to deter other Republicans from continuing to inject this harmful poison into the national bloodstream.
The only thing we hear from the right wing is more anger, more toxicity and a sharpening of the rhetoric. Which means the result of the Buffalo massacre will be a Republican party moreno less, committed to the great replacement idea.
And if you point it out? They will become even more convinced that this is what they must believe.