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Sanitizing right wing paranoia about “white genocide”

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Adam Serwer points out that the Great Replacement Theory — that (((liberals))) are trying to flood the country with third world untermenschen in order to eventually extinguish the White Race altogether — is now so popular on the American right that “respectable” conservatives are trafficking in it in a somewhat sanitized form:

This conspiracy theory has grown so popular among key GOP figures that the conservative elite can no longer condemn it unreservedly. Instead, some prominent conservatives have chosen to defend it in sanitized form, arguing that the Democratic Party’s support for immigration reform is a plot to, as Representative Elise Stefanik of New York put it in an ad last year, “overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.” Note the notion that an “electorate” can be “overthrown” by being outvoted, as though Republican electoral defeat is by definition illegitimate—especially if that victory is enabled by the wrong kind of voters.

But all versions of this conspiracy theory are not only racist; they are also false. Democrats and Republicans alike have, at various times, sought comprehensive immigration reform as a way to win over Latino and Asian American voters—and implicit in this is the idea that they need to be won over. George W. Bush tried to do it in 2006 and was foiled by a talk-radio revolt; Barack Obama tried to pass an immigration reform bill and failed because his ramping up of immigration enforcement and deportation did not bring Republicans to the negotiating table. Republicans briefly reconsidered the idea after losing the 2012 election, and instead walked the path of Trumpism. As with Obama, Biden’s decision to leave many of Trump’s immigration policies in place has done nothing to quiet conservative hysteria about “open borders.”

This is a key point: at the core of right wing ideology in this country has always been the idea that there’s a racial hierarchy, that determines that some people are more fully American than others, whatever their legal status might be.

This hierarchy is multi-layered and ever-shifting: I remember well in the 1970s and 1980s the obsession with what “white ethnic” voters were doing — an obsession based on the idea that these voters’ whiteness was in some way partial or provisional, in comparison to the core concept of whiteness as a product of North European ancestry (minus the Irish of course).

It’s good to be reminded that the idea that, in terms of elections, demographics is destiny is both obviously false and extremely racist by definition:

If any Democrats or Republicans believe that demographic change inherently advantages one party over the other, they are tremendously foolish. For any conservative worried that immigrants will lead to permanent Democratic rule, I’ve got some wonderful news: History has shown that will never happen.

The 2020 election, if anything, illustrated the persuadability of such voters, as Donald Trump amassed historic margins with Latino voters in Florida and along the Rio Grande valley. That communities in Texas, for example, where policing the border and extractive industries employ large numbers of residents, would choose Trump over Joe Biden should not be surprising. These voters are no less rational or independent than white people, and Republican nativism is clearly insufficient to make them reliable Democratic stalwarts. They are not mystically immune to conservative arguments about religion, culture, economics, or even immigration; in fact, many immigrants arrive in the United States sharing such premises. The hypothesis that immigration reform would be an overwhelming boon among such voters has been disproved; Trump won many of them over while enacting immigration policies that were both cruel and counterproductive.

A huge factor in American politics over the remainder of this century is the extent to which “Hispanics” or “Latinos” become at least provisionally white, following the path of all those “white ethnics” who voted for Reagan in 1980.

The deep social and religious conservatism of many such communities — this is of course a loose generalization — make them places where Republicans could replace, as it were, all those old “white” people who are dying off, even as they watch Fox News every night, and get stoked with fresh waves of propagandistic paranoia about the passing of the great race.

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