America’s Voice Ad and Message Tracking Project Has Identified Well Over 600 Examples of Republicans Amplifying Deadly “Invasion” and “Replacement” Conspiracies This Cycle
Washington, DC – Over the last year, Republican elected officials and candidates have steadily escalated their rhetoric about the border to galvanize the radicalized segment of their base. Along the way, leading Republicans either explicitly adopted the white nationalist invasion and replacement theory conspiracies or engaged in complicit silence as their colleagues amplified the same lies as domestic terrorists. Below are three key points about Republicans’ embrace of deadly white nationalist conspiracies as an electoral strategy:
- “Invasion” and “replacement” theory conspiracies already have a devastating body count and are an assault on the American promise of a multi-racial democracy. It’s not just heated campaign rhetoric.
- It’s no longer relegated to the fringes as prominent GOP members, including leadership and GOP superPACs, have ushered these dangerous conspiracies in as an organizing principle for the party and a key component of their midterm strategy.
- Weaponizing the “invasion” conspiracy is a tool to divide and distract voters, despite widespread support for efforts to modernize and reform immigration. Republicans find the issue more valuable to their electoral strategy than policies that would actually address what voters want to be done on immigration.
Point 1: Moving from the margins of the white nationalist fringe to the centers of power among the GOP, the conspiracy goes: ‘Jews (or the left or elites) want to replace the political power of whites with non-whites from the global south by coordinating an “invasion” of the country and undermine the democratic process with millions of illegitimate votes.’ Despite this absurdity, this lie has inspired multiple terrorist attacks and works in tandem with the GOP’s election lies to undermine confidence in U.S. elections.
- This racist fiction has inspired multiple domestic terrorists to take the lives of dozens over the last few years. The “replacement” lie was literally chanted by the nationalists carrying tiki torches in the streets of Charlottesville in 2017 at a white supremacist rally that culminated in a murder. In one of the deadliest anti-Semitic attacks on U.S. soil, the man who murdered 11 in Pittsburgh in 2018 was convinced he was stopping those helping the “invaders.” To stop a so-called “Hispanic invasion,” a white nationalist murdered 23 people in El Paso in 2019. Research from the University of Chicago found that belief in this toxic conspiracy was the most commonly held idea for those supporting the attack on the U.S. Capitol building on January 6 in, 2021 that left five people dead. And the white nationalist who murdered 10 African Americans in Buffalo in May of this year wrote about “an invasion … of people pouring across our borders… to replace the White people.” All along, both before and after these incidents, , Republicans increasingly normalized the ideas espoused by these mass murders.
- As these lies are allowed to perpetuate and are amplified by the GOP and their media allies, they work to erode confidence in America’s multi-racial democracy through the myth of an organized force of illegitimate voters being deployed to sway elections. As Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), layed out the lie for FOX and Friends: “We know what the grand strategy of the Democrat Party is – they want to change America … they want to replace the American electorate with third-world immigrants.” In direct opposition to facts, Republicans will use this lie to support their election lies, no matter the downstream body count.
Point 2: Prominent members of the GOP, including leadership, have either doubled down and fully embraced the white nationalist lies about invasion and replacement like Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) or they have chosen to remain silent like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
- America’s Voice ad and message tracking project has identified well over 600 examples of Republicans amplifying “invasion” and “replacement” conspiracies this cycle. This includes 77 candidates up for election in November and top GOP PACs and committees, including the National Republican Committee, the Republican Governors Association, the Congressional Leadership Fund, and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
- Republicans have made invasion and replacement conspiracies a part of their closing message. At a Trump rally in Mesa, Arizona on October 9, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) peddled the white replacement lie, saying, “Biden’s five million illegal aliens are on the verge of replacing you.” At a rally in Texas on October 23, Trump employed the invasion conspiracy theory and claimed, “It’s like an army … They are storming our country.” Meanwhile, when asked directly about his role in echoing the replacement and invasion conspiracies on the debate stage, Republican Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance demurred, denying (against the evidence) that he embraces these white nationalist tropes. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has the dubious distinction of being the only sitting U.S. Senator to parrot these white nationalist talking points from the campaign debate stage.
Point 3: For some leading voices in the GOP, the so-called “invasion” is not just rhetoric, they want to reinforce their message with policy and legislation. Some are pushing a plan where Governors can claim war powers under the U.S. Constitution to unilaterally expel migrants and asylum seekers from the country.
- Leading Republican campaigns and top GOP surrogates are pushing the idea. Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has made declaring an invasion on day one a centerpiece of her campaign. While Republican Attorneys General candidates in both Arizona and Texas have been vocal supporters of the plan. The national Border Patrol union president, who has appeared in dozens of Republican ads this cycle, has pushed the idea. And former Trump administration officials, including Tom Homan, Mark Morgan, and Ken Cuccinelli, have dogged Republicans to move on the scheme. Rep. Jodey Arrington’s (R-TX) messaging bill lays out this plan has 67 Republican co-sponsors.
- The subtext of this plan is to create a legal challenge to reverse the decision in Arizona v. United States (2012), allowing states to advance increasingly draconian legislation. The 2012 case overturned much of Arizona’s SB1070, commonly known as the show-me-your-papers law, reaffirming that immigration policy is the federal government’s prerogative. Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order invoking “invasion” language directly named the 2012 case. Overturning this case would likely have devastating consequences, both for immigrant communities and for Americans based on the color of their skin or the accent they speak with.
- In addition to Governors busing or flying immigrants away from their states, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) has introduced legislation to allow states to deport immigrants. While unlikely to pass or survive constitutional scrutiny, it does underscore the extent to which Republicans are promoting state sovereign border policies. What’s next? Hardened borders within the U.S. with checkpoints to keep immigrants out? Would they also use this to potentially lock women of childbearing age in who might seek reproductive health care elsewhere?