ICYMI · News · Press Release

ICYMI: The GOP’s Gradual Descent Into ‘Replacement Theory’ And ‘Nativist Dog Whistles’

Two Years After Stripping Steve King from Committees, McCarthy Cedes Leadership to Nativist Horde

Mc·Car·thy·ism is going to need a new definition after Leader Kevin McCarthy is finished.

As the GOP House members continue to make news for the all the wrong reasons and two years removed from stripping former Rep. Steve King of his committee assignments for bigoted, white nationalist comments, McCarthy is allowing QAnon white-nationalist extremists to run roughshod over the GOP with no consequence.

Read the latest from the Washington Post on how the “increasing prominence” of white nationalist ideas that were once relegated to the fringes are now taking hold “in mainstream GOP circles” thanks to the failure of Republican leaders like McCarthy to keep the extremist wings of his caucus in check.

Washington Post: The GOP’s gradual descent into ‘replacement theory’ and ‘nativist dog whistles’
By Aaron Blake | April 17, 2021

Key Points:

  • If there’s one surprise in the conservative movement’s increasing embrace of “replacement theory,” it might be that it didn’t happen sooner.
  • President Donald Trump made skepticism of immigrants and refugees his calling card beginning with the launch of his 2016 presidential campaign, accusing countries of sending “rapists” and “murderers” to the border. But it’s taken until Trump was out of office for the idea that immigrants are “replacing” and thus diluting other American voters — an idea that has been popular with white supremacists and white nationalists — to begin to take hold.
  • It was about eight years ago that Republicans reacted to the last presidential election they had lost — in 2012 — with an “autopsy” placing a premium on getting right on the increasing influence of Latinos in American elections and, more broadly, on immigration reform. Efforts to craft a bipartisan immigration bill had repeatedly fallen by the wayside, but the fast-increasing influence of Hispanic voters made the party worry about its ability to win future elections.
  • That, though, began to shift gradually as the Trump administration wore on. Today, some elements of the conservative movement are going far beyond warning about a potential path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and instead arguing that immigrants and refugees present a more imminent threat — not necessarily to society, but electorally.
  • But by 2018, this began to morph into replacement theory — not just that undocumented immigrants, if given a path to citizenship, might vote more strongly for Democrats, but that these votes would effectively “replace” other, native-born voters.
  • Over the past two years the rhetoric of some Fox News personalities has overlapped with a racist conspiracy theory regularly cited by white supremacists, according to a WaPo review.
  • In recent weeks, it has accelerated. The idea of replacement has been pushed prominently by Fox host Tucker Carlson, causing an outcry including calls for his resignation. Fox News has stood by him. Extreme members of the House Republican conference like former congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) have occasionally espoused variations of it. In recent days, though, it seems to have worked its way even more into the mainstream of Republican lawmakers. Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said that “what appears to them is we’re replacing … native-born Americans to permanently transform the political landscape of this very nation.” Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) asked more recently whether Democrats “really … want to remake the demographics of America to ensure their — that they stay in power forever? Is that what’s happening here?”
  • In a somewhat similar development, Punchbowl News reported two of the of the most extreme members of the House GOP conference had formed an America First Caucus, which describes itself as promoting “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and warns of mass immigration impacting the “unique identity” of the country. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) are reportedly behind the group, while embattled Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said he is joining it.
  • It’s an idea that has been lurking beneath the surface in the GOP for a long time, but it apparently took another Democratic president in office for it to truly take hold.
  • But the increasing prominence of this idea in mainstream GOP circles, even after Trump has left office and with basically no pushback among top party members, says a lot about how he has changed the party in lasting ways. Republicans were somewhat scared to say these kinds of things before, even when immigration reform was a huge issue; that fear — both of aligning with a theory espoused by racists and of alienating demographics the GOP once worried could break them — has apparently dissipated.


Please make sure that the form field below is filled out correctly before submitting.