Elise Stefanik is the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives. She is a member of the party’s leadership, in other words, elevated last year by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. She’s also one of a growing contingent of conservatives who have brushed up against the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, a white supremacist tenet holding that white people are being replaced by people of color and, politically speaking, that Democrats are deliberately trying to flood the U.S. with immigrants in order to gain an electoral advantage. The mass shooting in Buffalo on Saturday was inspired by the great replacement, but that didn’t keep Stefanik from continuing to push the idea that Democrats are trying to replace white people with people of color.
“Democrats desperately want wide open borders and mass amnesty for illegals allowing them to vote,” she wrote on Monday morning. “Like the vast majority of Americans, Republicans want to secure our borders and protect election integrity.”
Democrats desperately want wide open borders and mass amnesty for illegals allowing them to vote.
Like the vast majority of Americans, Republicans want to secure our borders and protect election integrity.
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) May 16, 2022
Stefanik claimed later on Monday that she’s “never made a racist comment” and that she’s “known nationally as expanding the Republican Party by supporting Black candidates and Hispanic candidates.”
Stefanik and others may frame this not as a racial issue, but as one of Democrats replacing America-loving Republicans with foreigners more willing to support the “radical left’s” policies. The subtext, however, is clear. It’s about white people being replaced by non-white people, an idea which was popularized recently by Renaud Camus, a French writer who described African immigrants invading European nations in order to do away with the white race. White nationalists, including the ones who chanted “Jews will not replace us!” in Charlottesville during Trump’s first year in office.
Stefanik is no stranger to this kind of rhetoric, though a slightly (and cynically) sanitized version of it. Her campaign committee claimed in an ad released last September that Democrats want to enact a “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION,” and that their plan is to “grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.” She’s since regularly criticized Biden for allowing an “invasion” at the U.S.-Mexico border while advocating for the completion of Trump’s border wall. Standard fare.
The great replacement’s emergence among the Republican Party’s mainstream has not coincidentally coincided with Trump’s emergence as the party’s god-king. It’s also as it has been pushed by name by Tucker Carlson, who may be the most influential figure in conservative politics next to Trump. “In political terms, this policy is called the ‘great replacement,’ the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from faraway countries,” the Fox News host said last September in criticizing President Biden for not doing more to keep desperate Haitian migrants from entering the United States. “This is the language of eugenics,” Carlson added of Biden’s rhetoric around the issue.
Carlson has also repeatedly pushed the idea that Americans should take action in response to the “great replacement,” as Media Matters pointed out on Monday. Payton Gendron, the teenage white supremacist who killed 10 people after opening fire in a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday, did just that. The “great replacement” conspiracy was rampant throughout his 180-page manifesto.
Stefanik isn’t the only politician or aspiring politician who pushed the political version of the great replacement theory in the wake of Saturday’s shooting. Blake Masters, a far-right candidate for Senate in Arizona posted a video of himself railing against Biden’s border policy hours after the shooting took place. “The Democrats want open borders so they can bring in and amnesty **tens of millions** of illegal aliens — that’s their electoral strategy,” he wrote. “Not on my watch.”
The Democrats want open borders so they can bring in and amnesty **tens of millions** of illegal aliens — that’s their electoral strategy. Not on my watch. pic.twitter.com/t9NQmEmdzG
— Blake Masters (@bgmasters) May 14, 2022
J.D. Vance, the Republican who rode Trump’s endorsement to victory in last month’s Senate primary in Ohio, has also pushed the conspiracy theory. So too have members of Congress like Rep. Scott Perry. McCarthy and other establishment Republicans may not be willing to push it as explicitly, but they too have recognized that the party has molded itself around white supremacy in an effort to court Trump’s base, as evinced by their frequent trips to the border and strained effort to make immigration the central issue of the midterms. Stefanik is also fully aware of this, and she doesn’t seem to feel any need to show any restraint regarding white supremacist theory — mass shootings be damned.