Every Texas Republican Who Doesn’t Denounce this Dangerous Rhetoric is Condoning It
Leading Texas Republicans have recently turbo-charged their embrace of “replacement theory” and “invasion” rhetoric as part of their non-stop anti-immigrant focus. Those voices include a who’s who of Texas politicians, including Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and several members of Congress. It is, of course, outrageous that these Republicans would parrot this racist conspiracy theory, which was espoused by the white nationalists in Charlottesville back in the summer of 2017.
But, in Texas, it’s even more sinister – and tragic. There’s a death toll associated with that very language these Republicans have embraced.
On August 3, 2019, a Texas man who believed in this “invasion” conspiracy theory, drove 11 hours to El Paso to open fire on shoppers inside a Wal-Mart, murdering 23 people. His twisted logic had him believing his murderous actions were an effort to stop the “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and the “cultural and ethnic replacement” of whites in the United States. These ideas are in line with a false racist conspiracy theory generally known as the “replacement theory” – the absurd idea that non-white migrants are coordinating an “invasion” to undermine “western civilization” with crime, disease, and subversion of political democracy.”
Just days before the horrific events in El Paso in 2019, Texas Governor Greg Abbott had sent out a two-page fundraising mailer that employed similar rhetoric. After the massacre, Abbott apologized for the mailer admitting that “mistakes were made.” Abbott told reporters he talked to members of the El Paso legislative delegation and “emphasized the importance of making sure that rhetoric will not be used in any dangerous way.” Two years later, Abbott has abandoned that commitment to the detriment of all Texans.
Sitting next to his Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick at a press conference in June of 2021, Abbott remained silent as Patrick falsely claimed, “we are being invaded. That term has been used in the past but it has never been more true.” Nor has Abbott publicly criticized Patrick’s dangerous rhetoric on Fox’s Ingraham Angle in September 2021, when he claimed that “the revolution has begun, a silent revolution by the Democrat Party and Joe Biden to take over this country . . . we are being invaded … you are talking about millions and millions of new voters . . . this is trying to take over our country without firing a shot.”
Nor has Abbott criticized his primary opponent for the nearly daily barrage of paid Facebook ads that employ “invasion” language.
Instead, Abbott had made xenophobic political stunts a cornerstone of his re-election campaign using the border and the national guard for photo ops, chasing headlines, and manufacturing excuses to appear on Fox News. Along these lines, Abbott cut TV and radio ads with Border Patrol Union President, Brandon Judd who recently appeared in another political ad where an Arizona Senate candidate shoots at a stand-in for the President of the United States, the Speaker of the House, and a U.S. Senator. This open politicization of his border patrol position and his association with the suggestion of political violence, apparently also hasn’t raised concerns in the Abbott campaign.
The problem extends beyond the Governor’s office and his reelection campaign. “We know what the grand strategy of the Democrat Party is,” Republican Rep. Brian Babin (TX-36) claimed in an interview with Fox and Friends in September 2021. In outlining this “grand strategy,” for the millions of Fox News viewers, Babin basically did a recitation of the white supremacist conspiracy theory alleging “they want to replace the American electorate with third-world immigrants that are coming in illegally, many of them COVID positive.”
Rep. Babin isn’t alone. Over the last year, numerous other Republican members of Congress from Texas espoused the conspiracy theory in an attempt to take a political swing at Democrats. Here are a few examples America’s Voice found: “It’s absolutely an invasion,” said Rep. Jodey Arrington (TX-19). Beth Van Duyne (TX-24), tweeted “Joe Biden has purposefully destroyed our border, allowed this invasion to occur.” Rep. Ronny Jackson (TX-13) wrote on Twitter “What’s going on at the border is an INVASION.” Rep. Chip Roy (TX-21) tweeted “THIS.IS. AN.INVASION.” In an interview on Newsmax Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01), who is running for Attorney General, said, “it’s an insurgence, it’s an invasion“ Rep. Lance Gooden (TX-03) tweeted “This is what an INVASION looks like!”
The Texas GOP itself held an anti-immigrant rally in April of last year where they invited Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, on stage. At the time, Rhodes’ belief in the racist conspiracy theory about the migrant “invasion” and that he encouraged his armed supporters to take related action, was public knowledge. Several months after his appearance with the Texas GOP, Rhodes was arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy surrounding his involvement in the violent January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Not a uniquely Texas problem, the embrace of the “great replacement” has become endemic in Republican leadership and now is a central organizing principle of the Party. Notably, the third-ranking House Republican, Elise Stefanik became a purveyor of the racist conspiracy theory last fall. Stefanik was later called out by the editorial board of her local paper in her upstate New York district for using “replacement theory” rhetoric in her Facebook ads.
Given the violent history of the “invasion” message, you’d think that at least some Texas Republicans would denounce what their fellow party members are spewing. You’d be wrong.
State and national Republicans from Texas have, at best, turned a blind eye to this promotion of political violence. Every Texas Republican, whether running for federal or state office, should be asked: do they support such ideas?
For example, what does Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales, whose 23rd U.S. Congressional District borders El Paso, think about his party’s embrace of these racist lies that were the inspiration for a deranged gunman? Does he too believe as his colleagues do that the American electorate is being replaced with “third-world immigrants”?
Or what about the leading Republican candidate in Texas’ 15th Congressional District, Monic De La Cruz? She should be asked if she endorses the invasion rhetoric and replacement conspiracy, a question made even more relevant by the fact that she is endorsed by Elise Stefanik’s E-PAC.
There are numerous Republican state legislators and candidates running in primaries next month who should also have to take a stand. Are they with the instigators of violence or will they denounce it?
While this question is especially relevant for Republicans running in border districts in a state that knows the deadly cost of these ideas, unless they take a stand against their own, every Texas Republican will have to own up to the dangerous rhetoric coming from their party’s leadership and their colleagues.
From Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2018 to El Paso, Texas in 2019 to the United States Capital in 2021, we have seen the deadly effects of letting conspiracy theories and racist lies go unchallenged. When they are amplified by some of the most powerful people in the nation and left to fester, the problem will only get worse.