Stephen Miller, a figure notable for the cruelty he advocated as the chief architect of the Trump administration’s immigration policy, has burrowed so deeply into mainstream discourse that not even a change in administration could dislodge him.
Miller has moved on to a new project, designed to ensure his legacy of official racism remains not just intact but expanded.
It’s not just his specious and rankly hypocritical commentary, lobbed from a brand-new verified Twitter account, that’s now moving copy among the chattering classes. After orchestrating years of misery among asylum-seekers, would-be immigrants and refugees from a cozy perch arm’s length from the Oval Office, Miller has moved on to a new project, designed to ensure his legacy of official racism remains not just intact but expanded.
Under the aegis of America First Legal, a hyper-litigious outfit formed in March explicitly to hamper the Biden administration, Miller is seeking to thwart attempts at redressing racist injustice, both contemporary and historical. The group’s current project is a class-action lawsuit brought by Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller in his private capacity as a rancher. The suit takes aim at some $5 billion earmarked in federal aid for socially disadvantaged farmers — specifically Black, Native and Hispanic farmers who have been excluded from prior federal aid packages — alleging that the policy discriminates against white farmers.
This project is rooted in Miller’s documented ties to the white nationalist movement and aligns with the appointment of numerous judges and officials to former President Donald Trump's administration who cut their teeth in the explicitly white-nationalist, anti-immigrant Tanton network of far-right nonprofits. (Miller’s and other Trump officials’ involvement in this network is chronicled in Brendan O’Connor’s new book “Blood Red Lines: How Nativism Fuels the Right.”)
Like other conservative culture-war projects, Miller’s latest sortie conflates the real harm of centuries of systemic deprivation with the fatuous specter of anti-white sentiment, seeking to stoke the flames of white grievance with the judicial system as its primary instrument. In its combination of vacuousness, unearned outrage and aggressive entitlement, this lawsuit is a perfect encapsulation of Miller’s politics.
This project is rooted in Miller’s documented ties to the white nationalist movement.
He, like many before him, takes the material circumstances of deprivation among white people, who remain the primary beneficiaries of federal social safety net programs, then displaces the ire that destitution generates onto minority groups that have themselves disproportionately felt the barbarity of racist policy and the relentless sting of poverty.
It’s another salvo in a broader project that saturated the Republican Party during the Trump presidency — and serves as its primary driving force in the nascent Biden era. A vicious campaign of xenophobic border panic served as one of the GOP’s principal lines of attack during the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s presidency. It’s a strategy made ironic by the Biden administration’s reluctance to move away from punitive, Trumpian immigration policy toward migrants and refugees.
Stoking fear of the other, and a mainstreaming of explicit white nationalist sentiment, has been a hallmark of the latter-day GOP. Trump, exiled from social media and holed up at Mar-a-Lago like a deposed despot, retains a potent grip on Republican elected leadership. But it’s the Stephen Millers of politics — rabid racists in suits, adept at exploiting a pliant media landscape, a judiciary stacked with Trump appointees and determined to topple the fragile structures of multiracial democracy — who will shape the future of the American right.
Already, a new, radicalized generation of Republican congresspeople have attempted to create an America First Caucus whose stated purpose is to uphold America’s “uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions,” asserting that “foreign citizens are imported en masse” and that “America’s legal immigration system should be curtailed.”
A vicious campaign of xenophobic border panic served as one of the GOP’s principal lines of attack during the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s presidency.
This play on fear, territorialism and white purity extends to the conservative media landscape, which depends on xenophobia as its central means of keeping viewers on edge — and addicted to tuning in. Years into an explicitly white nationalist reign on the airwaves, Tucker Carlson — the linchpin of Fox News’ prime-time lineup — recently railed against the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which overturned an explicitly white nationalist immigration policy established in 1924, as the “worst attack on our democracy in 160 years.”
Carlson has persistently promoted “replacement theory,” also known among militant racists as “white genocide” — the notion that immigration policy is being engineered by nefarious elites with the explicit intent to make white people a minority, outbred by an influx of terrifyingly fecund people of color.
On his show, Carlson has tied the notion of a more diverse electorate to the extinction of conservatism, alleging that Democrats seek more humane and inclusive immigration policies with the explicit political goal of diluting white political power. He’s also previously echoed language of modern-day supporters of South African apartheid to disdain that country’s attempts to rectify past racism via agricultural policy, much as Miller is doing today in his lawsuit against the Biden administration.
The "great replacement" is a conspiracy theory that was the direct motivation for numerous racist attacks, including the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in 2018 and the Christchurch mosque massacre in New Zealand, which killed 51 people, in 2019. It’s also a view echoed by Miller, whose preferred number of refugee admissions is “zero” and whose views have increasingly become standard fare in an anti-majoritarian party.
It’s no coincidence that as xenophobia in Republican politics and media becomes more and more vitriolic, Republican-controlled state legislatures have pushed an unprecedented wave of restrictive voting policies. They have used paranoiac fever dreams of nonexistent fraud and the specter of undocumented immigrants voting as a thin scrim of legitimacy over their real goals: to keep the electorate whiter, older and more compliant with a legislative agenda whose principle goals are the control and punishment of women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals and immigrants.
Like Miller’s new legal project, this campaign of immiseration falls firmly under the banner of the America First movement. It’s a movement that seeks to re-create a whites-only purity that never truly existed in a country where, despite relentless repression, immigrants and people of color have unceasingly striven for justice.
It’s incumbent on us, having rejected Trump as the figurehead of this ugly movement, to remain vigilant when it comes to his legions of savvy, sordid heirs and oppose, with every breath, the violent vision they seek to impose from coast to coast.