The horrific massacre in Buffalo, New York, has created a debate about the “great replacement theory,” the rancid theory adopted by white supremacists that Jewish people are conspiring to destroy the influence of white Americans by importing non-white immigrants.
The Buffalo shooter was in thrall to the theory, as have been other racist and antisemitic killers.
The theory should be denounced by all people of goodwill and, indeed, it thrives only in the most sewerish precincts of the internet.
Yet, there is an attempt to tar Republicans more broadly with the theory and somehow attribute responsibility for the atrocity in Buffalo to them on this basis. The argument is that the likes of Elise Stefanik, a Republican congresswoman from New York, have warned that the Democrat party views immigration as a way to change the electorate in their favor, and so are mainstreaming the hateful replacement ideology.
This is a smear, and especially perverse since Republicans sounding the alarm about this Democratic view have been unquestionably correct. There hasn’t been any secretive cabal at work — it’s all been out in the open, discussed by progressive political operatives and think-tank analysts, and celebrated in the press.
The left-wing Center for American Progress issued a report in 2013 titled “Immigration Is Changing the Political Landscape in Key States.” It summarized its argument thusly, “Supporting real immigration reform that contains a pathway to citizenship for our nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants is the only way to maintain electoral strength in the future.”
Books were written about this idea. The widely cited (and overinterpreted) 2004 book, “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira called the Democrats “the party of transition” as “white America is supplanted by multiracial, multiethnic America.” In 2016, Steve Phillips wrote “Brown Is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority.” The website for his publisher says the latest edition of the book contends that “hope for a more progressive political future lies not with increased advertising to middle-of-the-road white voters, but with cultivating America’s growing, diverse majority.”
Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 suppressed some of this sentiment since it made it clear that white working-class voters didn’t appreciate being spoken of as if they were a relic of the past; and the 2020 election and its aftermath made the assumption that Democrats will own Latino voters forevermore seem increasingly shaky.
But the left wants to create rules that define it as perfectly acceptable for Democrats to advocate high levels of immigration as a means of gaining political power, and out of bounds for Republicans to call them on it.
Washington Post writer Greg Sargent slammed New York Rep. Elise Stefanik for allegedly flirting with the great replacement theory in Facebook advertisements last year. They warned that Democrats want a sweeping amnesty for undocumented immigrants in order “to overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.”
Never mind that Stefanik could have drawn her warning directly from various left-wing writers and advocacy organizations. Or that Sargent himself wrote after Barack Obama’s victory in 2012 that the election had been “all about demographics” and that the outcome showed the electorate wasn’t “reverting to the older, whiter, more male version Republicans had hoped for.”
What makes Sargent’s basic view different than Stefanik’s, other than the fact that he welcomes how immigration trends have changed our politics and she doesn’t?
Immigration has been hotly contested throughout our history, and is an inherently highly emotive issue, involving the composition of our polity and core questions of national identity. It can only inflame the issue further to explicitly weaponize demographic change, as the left has for decades now. We should have an immigration policy that serves the national interest, not the narrow interest of one political party.
Yes, by all means, further shun and marginalize replacement theory, but don’t support high levels of immigration for partisan reasons and expect the other side not to notice.
Rich Lowry is editor of National Review.