The ideology that motivated the mass shooter in Buffalo on Saturday, the so-called “great replacement” conspiracy theory, holds that liberal elites (and often specifically Jews) are systematically and purposefully replacing white Americans in order to gain political power.
The theory, once relegated to avowed racists, has over the past several years made its way into mainstream political discourse with the help of some extremely prominent politicians and media personalities.
The idea of a “great replacement” — or a “white genocide,” as some racists refer to it — is nothing new, based as it is on centuries of racist tropes. But over the past decade, many voices aligned with the Republican Party updated the idea. Donald Trump himself famously defended the attendees of the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, where attendees summed up the great replacement theory in a chant: “Jews will not replace us!”
Several people in Trump’s circle primed the pump for the theory’s spread, including top advisors like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, the latter of whom once wrote of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, “Elites can’t allow the people to see that their condition is not the product of events beyond their control, but the product of policy they foisted onto them.”
So who’s pushing this racist talking point these days? Here are some lowlights:
Carlson, Fox News’ star and the post-Trump holder of the largest megaphone in conservative media, is also the most successful propagandist of great replacement theory. A New York Times investigation found more than 400 instances of Carlson pushing the idea that Democratic politicians and others want to force demographic change through immigration.
One Media Matters mash-up shows Carlson among various Fox News personalities pushing the racist talking point, but Carlson’s efforts have been more consistent and sustained than anyone on the roster: He’s referred to the immigrants that Democrats are supposedly planning to “replace” current Americans with as “more obedient voters from the third world,” “more obedient people from faraway countries” and “poor people with limited education who can’t speak English.”
Due to her rank as the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House of Represenatives, Stefanik’s use of the great replacement theory is notable: In a campaign ad last year, Stefanik said Democrats wanted to “overthrow our current electorate” via mass migration, and that the policy amounted to a “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION.”
Rather than backtracking after the Buffalo shooting, Stefanik doubled down: “Democrats desperately want wide open borders and mass amnesty for illegals allowing them to vote,” she wrote Monday, one of several tweets on the topic. “Like the vast majority of Americans, Republicans want to secure our borders and protect election integrity.”
The Trump-endorsed potential next U.S. senator from Ohio worked the great replacement theory into a TV ad last month, one that began with him pointing to camera and asking, “Are you a racist? Do you hate Mexicans?”
“The media calls us racist for wanting to build Trump’s wall,” Vance said in the ad. “They censor us, but it doesn’t change the truth. Joe Biden’s open border is killing Ohioans with more illegal drugs and more Democrat voters pouring into this country.”
In a town hall last month, Vance spoke about the “political effects” of immigration, saying Democrats aimed to give millions of undocumented people a path to citizenship, and that “about 70%” would likely vote for Democrats: “So you’re talking about a shift in the democratic makeup of this country that would mean we never win — meaning Republicans would never win — a national election in this country ever again.”
Again: The idea that someone can assume how another person will vote based on their race or nation of origin is inherently racist. And the idea that Democrats are pursuing “open borders” in order to “pour” inherently Democratic voters into the country is even more so.
Last year, Johnson, a U.S. senator from Wisconsin who’s up for reelection this year, wondered aloud on Fox News, “This administration wants complete open borders. And you have to ask yourself, why?”
“Is it really [that] they want to remake the demographics of America to ensure that they stay in power forever? Is that what’s happening here?”
Patrick, the lieutenant governor of Texas, went on a wild rant about immigrants last year, telling Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, “The revolution has begun. A silent revolution by the Democrat Party and [President] Joe Biden to take over the country.”
“When I say ‘a revolution has begun,’ they are allowing this year probably 2 million — that is who we apprehended, maybe another million — into this country,” he added later.
“At least in 18 years, even if they all don’t become citizens before then and can vote, in 18 years every one of them has two or three children, you’re talking about millions and millions and millions of new voters, and they will thank the Democrats and Biden for bringing them here. Who do you think they’re going to vote for?”
“This is trying to take over our country without firing a shot. That’s what’s happening, Laura,” he said, adding later: “We now will have illegals in this country denying citizens the right to run our government, because the representatives we elect can’t even stop them from coming.”
Though not as high profile as other promoters of the racist conspiracy theory, Babin, a Republican congressman from Texas, has articulated the “great replacement” idea as clearly as anyone.
“They want to replace the American electorate with a Third World electorate that will be on welfare and public assistance, and put them on a path to citizenship and amnesty, and enfranchise them with the vote, and they will have a permanent majority,” Babin said last year.
Babin’s official website still states, “For too long, our immigration policy has been set by lawmakers with other priorities that have undermined our heritage of law and order and our security.”
“Migrants vowing allegiance to foreign lands, burning American flags, and claiming that no ‘American law’ can stop them are demanding entry into our nation,” the page adds later. “Have we no sovereignty as a free nation to determine who we allow into our nation? Is it in our best interest to concede to those boldly proclaiming no respect for our legal system? If it is truly humanitarian aid these migrants seek, can we not better help them in their home countries? We can’t depopulate entire regions of the globe every time civic unrest, economic depression, or other disaster occurs.”