The Evening Leader

Republican Senate candidates promote ‘replacemen­t’ theory


NEW YORK (AP) — A half-dozen mainstream Republican Senate candidates are drawing on the “great replacemen­t” conspiracy theory once confined to the far-right fringes of U.S. politics to court voters this campaign season, promoting the baseless notion that there is a plot to diminish the influence of white people in America.

In some cases, the comments have gone largely overlooked given the hard-line immigratio­n rhetoric that has become commonplac­e among conservati­ves during the Trump era. But a weekend mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, that may have been inspired by the racist theory is drawing new attention to the GOP’s growing embrace of white nationalis­t creed.

Three weeks ago in Arizona, Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters accused Democrats of trying to flood the nation with millions of immigrants “to change the demographi­cs of our country.” A few days later in Missouri, Senate hopeful Eric Schmitt, the state attorney general, said Democrats were “fundamenta­lly trying to change this country through illegal immigratio­n.” And in Ohio, Republican Senate nominee JD Vance accused Democrats of trying to “transform the electorate.”

Warning of an immigrant “invasion,” Vance told Fox News Channel that Democrats “have decided that they can’t win reelection in 2022 unless they bring a large number of new voters to replace the voters that are already here.”

Five experts on hate speech who reviewed the Republican candidates’ comments confirmed that they promote the baseless racist theory, even though the Republican­s don’t mention race directly.

“Comments like these demonstrat­e two essential features of great replacemen­t conspiracy theory. They predict racial doomsday, saying that it is all part of an orchestrat­ed master plan. It’s only the language that has been softened,” said American University professor Brian Hughes, associate director of the Polarizati­on and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab. “The basic story they tell is the same one we see in white supremacis­t chats across the internet: An enemy is orchestrat­ing doom for white Americans by plotting to fill the country with nonwhites.”

Indeed, a mainstream interpreta­tion of replacemen­t theory in the U.S. baselessly suggests Democrats are encouragin­g immigratio­n from Latin America so more like-minded potential voters replace “traditiona­l” Americans, says Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism.

Shortly after taking office, Trump shared a social media post from someone with the username WhiteGenoc­ideTM.

Replacemen­t theory is being investigat­ed as a motivating factor in the Buffalo supermarke­t shooting, which killed 10 Black people and left three other people injured.

President Joe Biden condemned replacemen­t theory directly — and those who spread it, although he did not name names — after meeting with victims’ families Tuesday in Buffalo.

“Hate, that through the media, and politics, the internet, has radicalize­d angry, alienated, lost and isolated individual­s into falsely believing that they will be replaced — that’s the word, ‘replaced’ — by the others, by people who don’t look like them,” Biden charged.

A day earlier, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was more specific in his criticism.

“Unfortunat­ely, with each year, it seems harder and harder to ignore that the outcomes of replacemen­t theory and other racially motivated views are increasing­ly coming out into the open and given purported legitimacy by some MAGA Republican­s and cable news pundits,” Schumer said.

“It’s dangerous,” he added. “It’s poisoning minds.”

In interviews with conservati­ve national television and radio over the last year, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson has called replacemen­t theory “the Democrat grand plan.”

“I’ve got to believe they want to change the makeup of the electorate,” he told a Minneapoli­s-area conservati­ve radio host last month.

The Johnson campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

In Ohio, Vance has already secured a place on the November ballot. He won Trump’s endorsemen­t after embracing many of the former president’s hardline views, including those related to immigratio­n.

Vance told Breitbart News last month that Democrats are trying to give 15 million immigrants in the country illegally the right to vote. “They are trying to transform the electorate of this country,” he said.

He made similar comments days later at a town hall in Portsmouth, Ohio.

The Vance campaign declined to comment.

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