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Musk’s Ongoing Amplification of the Replacement Theory Uses Immigrants To Sow Election Distrust

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@americasvoice Exposing Elon Musk’s dangerous rhetoric: his tweets aren’t just harmless speculation, they’re fueling harmful conspiracies. But let’s talk about the REAL purpose of the Census! It’s not about erasing votes, it’s about fair representation and federal resources for ALL communities. Click the link in bio to learn more. #ElonMusk #grt #replacementtheory #conspiracy #UScensus ♬ original sound – AmericasVoice

X owner Elon Musk has been under fire in recent months for his unapologetic platforming of the white nationalist and antisemitic “replacement” conspiracy theory to more than 170 million followers on the platform formerly known as Twitter. In just one of his repeated claims, Musk falsely stated that the Biden administration has a “strategy” to “get as many illegals in the country as possible” in order to create a “permanent majority” for Democrats.

Musk is continuing his replacement conspiracy, launching a series of claims in recent days that have stoked unfounded fears over the U.S. Census count, the next of which isn’t set to take place until 2030.

“Most Americans are still unaware that the census counts ALL people, including illegal immigrants, for deciding how many House seats each state gets,” Musk wrote in a March 7 tweet. Well, most people probably do know that at this point, despite his dehumanizing language. The census counts a lot of people who cannot vote, including children. Nevertheless, Musk continues: “This results in Dem states getting roughly 20 more House seats, which is another strong incentive for them not to deport illegals.” 

In another tweet on March 11, Musk claimed that “more Presidential and House of Representatives electoral votes will be assigned to the new illegals Biden has let in than the population of 40 US states.” This is just not true, but the facts and numbers are not the point here. It’s instead the assertion of more “evidence” of the white nationalist replacement conspiracy. 

Musk’s tweets are not random speculation. He’s instead an active participant in a right-wing campaign attempting to use immigrants to sow doubt and distrust in our electoral process, socializing the idea that any election result they do not like can be blamed on this conspiracy of fraudulent immigrant voters. Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH) responded to Musk’s March 7 tweet, further advancing the replacement conspiracy misreading the Census. “Illegal immigration is stealing the right to vote away from American citizens,” Vance wrote. “It devalues your vote by devaluing your congressional representation.”

This is in spite of the fact that former President Donald Trump’s officials called the 2020 election the most secure ever. The result of this ongoing fearmongering? “Fodder for challenging any election. Political violence. January 6th-like attacks on U.S institutions,” as America’s Voice has laid out

Let’s be clear about what the Census really is, and what it isn’t. The Census is not part of a nefarious plot to erase the votes of “real Americans,” but instead a constitutionally-mandated count of all people in the U.S. Far from disempowering “real Americans,” the Census ensures that everyone is counted so that all communities get their full federal resources. The more accurate a census count, the better communities’ needs can be met.

Besides ensuring that Congressional seats are mostly equally distributed, the Census helps determine where an estimated $1.5 trillion in federal dollars a year will be spent, according to America’s Voice Senior Research Director Zachary Mueller in 2019. “Those federal dollars include medical assistance programs, highway planning and construction, Pell grants, social safety net spending, and more. An undercount in a state would deprive that state of the resources required to meet the actual needs of its population.” 

Nativists’ anti-immigrant obsession is further highlighted by the fact that they don’t fixate on other non-voters also counted by the Census, including children and prisoners. “For example, an accurate count of five-year olds in the state helps determine allocation of money for Head Start programs,” Mueller continued. 

Republican-led states like Texas have also benefited from “prison gerrymandering,” where prisoners have been counted as residents of their prison rather than their hometowns. “In most states, prison facilities are located in rural areas with predominantly white populations,” the Brennan Center for Justice reported in 2021. “By counting incarcerated individuals at prisons, states artificially inflate these areas’ populations, and thereby their political clout. The Prison Policy Initiative reported that in Texas, for example, every 88 people in two districts with prisons received as much representation as every 100 people elsewhere in the state.” 

Many non-voters counted in the census may also be prospective U.S. citizens or eligible immigrants who are in the naturalization process but are not yet able to vote. “There are approximately 9.2 million immigrants in the United States who are eligible for U.S. citizenship, but fewer than 1 million typically apply in any given year,” often due to high application fees or required civic exams, Boundless said.

In short, there are plenty of people who are counted and who also can’t vote, yet opponents of immigration are not fearmongering based on them.

It is important to note that mass deportation and significantly reducing the population of undocumented immigrants through deportation is a fantasy. Many Americans – rightly – do not believe we are going to remove by force more than 10 million undocumented immigrants, plus their family members (many of whom are U.S. citizens) and close the businesses they started or put on the market the homes they bought (and, in some cases, built). This is one reason American voters favor legalizing immigrants over mass deportation as the only viable way of reducing the population of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., not even factoring in the huge social, economic and law enforcement dislocation it would trigger across the country. But this is really more about MAGA electoral politics and feeding red meat to those who are holding out for that exact fantasy of a mass purge.

A recent NPR story, “Conservatives are warning about noncitizens voting. It’s a myth with a long history,” highlighted how right-wing officials and figures are fueling fears over the non-existent threat of non-citizens voting and are pushing larger voter suppression measures that would disproportionately impact Black and brown voters. Troubling enough, yes. However, the replacement theory “also lays the groundwork for delegitimizing the democratic process, promoting the lie that elections are rigged and bolstering the false grievance that the votes of ‘real Americans’ are being discounted,” America’s Voice said in a March 13 release.

“Many Americans tune out when they hear attacks on immigrants thinking that they are not immigrants and therefore they do not need to worry,” Mueller warned in the statement. “But the far-right’s obsession with immigration and the non-white ‘other’ coming to do us harm threatens every American and the tenets of our democracy. Republicans at the highest levels are spreading the conspiratorial lie about a plot to pollute the November election with fraudulent immigrant votes as an excuse to restrict voting by American citizens and to prime the country for another assault on our democracy if the results are not in their favor.”

“After witnessing the political violence of January 6th, many observers asked themselves how the run-up to the insurrection had largely escaped their notice or how false election claims had convinced so many to resort to violence,” Mueller continues. “Now, with the stakes of this next election already clear, all observers should know that this is how the lies spread, how violence is encouraged, and how our democracy is threatened.”