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Stefanik abandons moderation, warns of a 'permanent election insurrection'

Stefanik's ugly rhetoric about immigration is disheartening, but her willingness to dabble in conspiratorial nonsense didn't come out of nowhere.

For much of the American mainstream, the "great replacement" conspiracy theory is probably too obscure to even be recognized, though for much of the right, it's increasingly popular.

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. To varying degrees, the ugly concept has been embraced by some conservative media personalities and assorted Republicans in Congress.

It's against this backdrop that The Washington Post reported yesterday:

Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), the No. 3 House Republican, is pushing the notion in Facebooks ads that President Biden and fellow Democrats are seeking a "permanent election insurrection" by expanding pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

One of the ads from Stefanik's political operation told readers, "Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION.... Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington."

Though the New York Republican didn't explicitly reference race in the ad, the Post's report added that her message "echoes" the language of "replacement theory" proponents.

Part of what makes this notable is Stefanik's position as a House GOP leader. In recent years, we've come to expect many rank-and-file House Republicans to denounce pathways to citizenship for immigrants, relying on words like "amnesty," as part of a predictable political posture.

But it's qualitatively different – and considerably more offensive – when the House Republican Conference chair starts complaining about a "permanent election insurrection," as part of a Democratic scheme to "overthrow our current electorate."

Just as notable is Stefanik's background – because she hasn't traditionally been this kind of Republican.

It may seem like ancient history, but it was just a few years ago when Stefanik opposed Donald Trump's immigration agenda. As yesterday's Post report added, the New Yorker even co-sponsored the bipartisan Farm Workforce Authorization Act, which included a pathway to citizenship for undocumented migrant farmworkers.

That was when Stefanik was eager to be seen as one of Congress' more mainstream Republican members. During her 2016 campaign, she was reluctant to even say Trump's name out loud for fear that voters might see her as a Trump ally.

Stefanik eventually concluded, however, that to get ahead in GOP politics, she would need to put her principles aside and start embracing partisan nonsense.

By last year, the young New Yorker had adopted an entirely new persona, even going so far to as to vote against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election after the Jan. 6 riot.

Stefanik's ugly rhetoric about immigration is disheartening, but her willingness to dabble in conspiratorial nonsense didn't come out of nowhere.

Update: The editorial board of the Times Union, the congresswoman's hometown newspaper, was not impressed with her new political rhetoric. "If there’s anything that needs replacing in this country — and in the Republican party — it’s the hateful rhetoric that Ms. Stefanik and far too many of her colleagues so shamelessly spew," the paper's editorial board argued in a piece today.