For most Americans, the "great replacement" conspiracy theory probably remains an obscure and unfamiliar concept. For a growing number of Republicans, however, the idea is moving quickly from the fringe to the GOP mainstream.
As we recently discussed, the basic idea behind the conspiracy theory is that nefarious forces — Democrats, "globalists," immigration advocates, et al. — intend to systemically replace white people in the United States by welcoming people of color from other countries. Not surprisingly, the ugly idea has been popular in white-supremacist circles.
But this year, it's prominent Republican voices who've been pushing the theory with increased vigor.
Last week, after the network assured the Anti-Defamation League that Tucker Carlson had no use for replacement theory, the Fox News host warned viewers that the Biden administration intends to change the nation's "racial mix." Carlson added, "This policy is called the 'great replacement.'"
As Business Insider reported yesterday, it wasn't long before the host received support from a Republican member of Congress.
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida appeared to endorse a white nationalist conspiracy theory that Tucker Carlson promoted on his Fox News show last week. '[Carlson] is CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening to America,' Gaetz, a Republican, wrote in a tweet Saturday.
The controversial Florida Republican added that, as far as he's concerned, the Anti-Defamation League is "a racist organization."
While Gaetz went further than most in the GOP by explicitly using the "replacement theory" phrase, the congressman is hardly the first prominent Republican official to push the concept.
Two weeks ago, for example, House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik started running online ads warning voters that Democrats want "a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION" by expanding pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The New York congresswoman added that Democrats would "overthrow" the existing U.S. electorate by extending "amnesty" to "illegal immigrants."
Last week, Rep. Brian Babin, a Texas Republican, pushed a similar line, telling a television audience, "They want to replace the American electorate with a Third World electorate that will be on welfare." The GOP congressman suggested that President Joe Biden admitted that this was the Democratic plan, but that wasn't true, either.
We saw some of this in the spring when Republicans such as Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry lent credence to the conspiracy theory, but it's clearly gained momentum in GOP circles over the summer, as evidenced by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's recent rant on the subject.
It's jarring enough to see such an idea make the transition from political extremists to prominent GOP voices, but just as notable is the fact that theory doesn't reflect reality in any way. As MSNBC's Chris Hayes explained, "Many people have been shocked by how audaciously racist this argument is — and it is indeed. But it is also worth actually confronting it because it is not just racist, it is also stupid."