Cheney’s comments come after the Buffalo tragedy forced some sort of reckoning about how the racist Great Replacement Theory – that is, the idea that immigrants replace native-born Americans in an undesirable and politically calculated way – gained ground on the right.
Racists have long espoused the theory to suggest white people are being usurped – as the Buffalo suspect apparently did. Meanwhile, in recent years, Republicans and conservative pundits have increasingly portrayed Democrats as favoring immigration in hopes of diluting the political power of the GOP.
This weekend, attention turned to Rep. Elise Stefanik (RN.Y.), Cheney’s replacement as House Republican No. 3, who promoted the latter idea, but not by her name, in Facebook ads last year. She was exposed at the time by her hometown newspaper, which linked the idea to incitement to violence. A spokesperson over the weekend insisted that Stefanik “never took a racist position” and suggested she was being defamed.
But it’s also a case in point: Observers at the time instantly linked Stefanik’s ads to the potential for violence. Now we have actual violence that authorities say was perpetrated by someone who apparently advanced a more overtly racist version of the theory. And Republicans find themselves, once again, faced with a decision on how much to condemn this rhetoric.
What is remarkable about the growing right-wing embrace of this racist theory is that it comes mainly after a number of other recent high-profile mass shootings in which the killers have adopted him. Republicans have argued that their version of the replacement theory is simply political in nature — focused on votes and not necessarily race — but the two clearly overlap and are often difficult to clearly differentiate. The party has also refused to punish members who have allied or affiliated with white nationalists and other racists. Indeed, with one exception, the dominant response has been to denounce and/or minimize these transgressions and then move on.
We’ve written about the GOP’s descent into replacement theory before, but it’s worth presenting the timeline. The idea was mostly relegated to the sidelines when Donald Trump first ran for president, but he waved at it. And then it took off last year despite tragedies involving the theory in 2017, 2018 and twice in 2019.
September 9, 2016: Trump espouses a version of the election-related replacement theory. “I think this will be the last election that Republicans have a chance of winning because you’re going to have people crossing the border…and they’re going to be legalized, and they’re going to be able to vote, and once all of that happens, you You can forget it. You won’t get a single Republican vote.
August 11, 2017: White nationalists and white supremacists protest in Charlottesville against a plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. They chant, among other things, “The Jews will not replace us”. A counter-protester is killed by a white supremacist the next day. Trump responds to the riot by citing “very fine people, on both sides” of the protests and counter-protests.
October 16, 2018: Fox News host Laura Ingraham said Democrats “want to replace you, the American voters, with newly amnested citizens and an ever-increasing number of chain migrants.”
October 27, 2018: A man kills 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, citing the idea that the Jews deliberately let “invaders” into the United States.
January 2019: House Republican leaders are removing Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) from committee assignments after the congressman says, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did this language become offensive?” Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said there was “no place in the Republican Party, Congress, or the country for a racial supremacist ideology of any kind whatsoever”. King would later lose his 2020 primary.
March 15, 2019: A man kills 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, after writing a document invoking the great theory of replacement by his name and warning of an “invasion” by “non-whites”.
August 3, 2019: A man kills 23 people in a mall in El Paso, Texas, citing a “Hispanic invasion of Texas”.
November 5, 2019: Responding to the 2019 election results in Virginia, Ingraham cites immigrants as the reason the state’s electorate has shifted left. “Since immigrants are more likely to vote Democrat, well, that of course steered the electorate to the left,” she says. “It’s just a fact of life.”
February 4, 2021: The House is voting to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) of her committee assignments for, among other things, floating the idea that a Jewish cabal started a deadly fire. Only 11 Republicans vote with Democrats.
February 26, 2021: Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Arizona) delivers the keynote address at a white nationalist conference hosted by the America First PAC (AFPAC), an organization headed by a man who has advocated white supremacy. Gosar quickly assures that he denounces “white racism”. He receives no punishment from GOP leaders.
April 14, 2021: Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) told a hearing that “what seems to be happening or what [Americans] to believe that what is happening right now is… we are replacing Native Americans – Native Americans to permanently transform the political landscape of this very nation.
April 15, 2021: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) asks rhetorically if Democrats “want to re-do the demographics of America to make sure they stay in power forever?” Is that what’s going on here?
Senator Ron Johnson says the administration “wants the borders completely open and you have to wonder why. Do they really want to remake the demographics of America to ensure they stay in power forever? Is that what’s going on here? pic.twitter.com/ZQ8MHNdv9u
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) April 16, 2021
June 2021: AFPAC announces fundraising with Gosar. Gosar initially appears to be defending his appearance at the fundraiser, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) says Gosar told him the event was “not real.”
April 8, 2021: Fox News’ Tucker Carlson voices a version of the replacement theory. “I know the left and all the little Twitter gatekeepers literally go hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement’ – if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, voters who are voting now, with new people , more obedient Third World voters,” Carlson says. “But they get hysterical because that’s what’s actually happening. Let’s just say it! That’s right.” Carlson adds, “White replacement theory? No, no, it’s a matter of voting rights.
April 12, 2021: Fox News chief Lachlan Murdoch defends Carlson, insisting he didn’t embrace the ‘great replacement’ theory.
April 2021: A report indicates that Gosar and Greene aim to form an “America First Caucus” whose objectives, according to a draft, include the promotion of “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and which warns that mass immigration damage the “single identity” of the country. McCarthy responds by decrying “nativist dog whistles”, and Gosar and Greene back down on the idea.
September 2021: Stefanik, the House’s new No. 3 Republican, runs Facebook ads warning of a ‘permanent election insurrection’ by Democrats in seeking a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington,” reads the ad, which features apparent migrants reflected in sunglasses worn by the president. Biden.
Also yesterday, third-tier Republican Elise Stefanik continued to whitewash white nationalist “replacement theory” in Fbook ads intended to mobilize voters in the Republican base by attacking our democracy and fearmongering about mostly non-immigrants. whites. pic.twitter.com/F76Gtiqd4G
— Zachary.A.Mueller (@ZacharyAMueller) September 20, 2021
September 22, 2021: Carlson approves of the “great replacement” more directly – this time by name. “In political terms, this policy is called ‘the great replacement’ – the replacement of old Americans with more obedient people from distant lands,” he says. He adds that Biden wants “an unceasing flow of immigration. But why? Well, Joe Biden just said it: change the racial mix of the country. That’s the reason: to reduce the political power of people whose ancestors lived here and to dramatically increase the proportion of newly arrived Third World Americans.
September 25, 2021: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) tweets, “@TuckerCarlson is CORRECT about the replacement theory as he explains what is happening in America.
November 17, 2021: House votes to censure Gosar and strip him of committee assignments after he released animated video showing him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.). Only two Republicans vote for it.
February 2022: Gosar appears again at the AFPAC conference – this time in a music video – and is joined by Greene, who gives a speech. They are also joined at the event by King and Idaho Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin (R). McConnell responds by saying there is no place for “white supremacists or anti-Semitism” in the GOP. McCarthy calls it “appalling” and says he will speak with the members. But McCarthy soon reaffirmed that he would restore Gosar and Greene to their committees if the Republicans regained the House. Greene claims she didn’t know the group — despite Gosar’s appearance the previous year — and GOP leaders are again giving her the benefit of the doubt.
May 14, 2022: A man kills 10 people in a grocery store in a predominantly black neighborhood of Buffalo. Authorities believe the suspect wrote a document that shows a fixation on the Great Replacement theory.