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Unlike in Congress, Invoking Racist Replacement Theory Has Consequences in Michigan’s Legislature, as one GOP State Lawmaker Just Learned

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Michigan Democrats have stripped a GOP lawmaker of his committee assignments and authority over his staff after he platformed bigoted and antisemitic conspiracy theory shared by a notorious far-right troll. Democratic leadership took action after GOP state Rep. Josh Schriver shared a tweet “with the text ‘The great replacement!’ showing a world map with white human figures in the U.S., Europe and Australia and black human figures dotted across the rest of the land,” the Detroit Free Press reported.

The replacement conspiracy theory is an old racist lie rooted in white nationalism and antisemitism. They falsely and absurdly assert that non-white migrants and asylum seekers constitute a literal “invasion,” claiming they are part of an intentional plot by Democrats, “globalists,” or Jews to “replace” the population and culture of the United States with allegedly pliant non-white immigrants. Most Americans first learned about this racist, anti-semitic lie when they saw videos of white nationalists chanting “Jews will not replace us” and “you will not replace us” during the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August of 2017.  This bigoted conspiracy has continued to leave a body count in its wake in cities including Buffalo, El Paso, and Pittsburg. 

Nor is this the first time Schriver has publicly expressed repellent views, last November flashing a hand salute that extremism experts say is associated with neo-Nazi sympathizer Nick Fuentes. Following Schriver’s Feb. 6 tweet, Michigan House Speaker Joe Tate, a Democrat, took decisive action, removing him from the House Natural Resources, Environment, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Committee and reassigning his staff.

“I will not allow the Michigan House of Representatives to be a forum for the proliferation of racist, hateful and bigoted speech,” Speaker Tate said in a Feb. 12 statement. “Representative Schriver has a history of promoting debunked theories and dangerous rhetoric that jeopardizes the safety of Michigan residents and contributes to a hostile and uncomfortable environment for others.”

In her statement, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, also a Democrat, called Schriver’s post “abhorrent,” and said there was a “moral obligation to speak out against hatred.” Governor Whitmer also called out the silence of GOP leaders. “It is a failure of leadership for this kind of action to take place unchecked by the leaders of Rep. Schriver’s caucus, and the longer there is no action taken, the more responsibility leadership bears,” she said.

We’ve seen this same dangerous rhetoric from Congressional Republicans like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), and many other members. But rather than holding these members accountable, like Democrats did in Michigan, GOP House leaders have themselves echoed white nationalist conspiracy theories. 

Mike Johnson’s elevation to the speakership following the humiliating ouster of Kevin McCarthy last year marked the ascent of one of the most far-right Congressional Republicans to one of the most powerful positions in the federal government. In one paranoid claim, Johnson falsely said the Biden administration and Democrats were “intentionally” encouraging unauthorized migration in order “to turn all these illegals into voters for their side.” 

Elise Stefanik, meanwhile, promoted echoes of this deadly conspiracy theory to more than one million Facebook followers in August 2021, then again the following month. Stefanik continued her despicable assertions the following spring, falsely claiming just days before the horrific mass shooting in Buffalo in May 2022 that our nation was under a supposed “invasion.” When reporting revealed that the racist gunman had cited this same exact conspiracy theory, Stefanik dared to feign outrage. Yet it’s the basis for some of their most extreme actions:

White nationalist sentiments weren’t always this welcome amongst House Republicans, however. Let’s recall back to 2019, when then-Republican Minority Leader McCarthy removed disgraced former Congressman Rep. Steve King (R-IA) from his House committee assignments after he publicly questioned what was so darn offensive about the term “white nationalist.” 

That, of course, was just the latest in a long line of detestable, and often outright racist, comments from King. Who can ever forget “calves the size of cantaloupes”? Or the time he celebrated the Trump administration’s deportation of a Dreamer by having a beer? While King would subsequently lose his primary for reelection, we noted at the time that his legacy of racism, ultra-nationalism, and xenophobia is now the central organizing principle of the GOP.

Post-King, there are now zero repercussions from GOP leadership. In fact, as part of his craven bargaining to win the gavel after Republicans took the House in 2022, McCarthy restored Greene to committees after Democrats had removed her for endorsing political violence. Far from condemning this bigotry, House Republican leaders have embraced and mainstreamed conspiratorial rhetoric, pushing it hundreds of times this year alone, including regarding DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Back in Michigan, “despite the widespread admonitions from Democratic figures and groups, House Republican leadership has not issued any statements about Schriver’s post,” the Detroit Free Press noted. While Republicans in Michigan – and in the U.S. House – are failing to lead by refusing to rebuke these conspiracy theories, Speaker Tate and state Democrats have shown there can be, and must be, consequences for platforming dangerous and violent rhetoric.