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Setting the Stage for Another January 6th: Anti-Immigrant Conspiracies Help Delegitimize Elections and Democracy

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Washington, DC — An important NPR story, “Conservatives are warning about noncitizens voting. It’s a myth with a long history,” highlights how right-wing figures and Republicans are fueling fears over the non-existent threat of non-citizens voting as part of their electoral strategy and in pursuit of political power. The story highlights a new memo, obtained by NPR, from former Donald Trump advisor Cleta Mitchell that stokes these falsehoods and fears.

Notably, as the story highlights, Mitchell’s proposed “remedies” include larger voter suppression measures that would make it harder for actual eligible voters, who happen to be disproportionately Black and brown voters, to participate in our democracy. That’s troubling enough and as NPR highlights, fits into a larger and disturbing historical pattern.

But what also needs to be understood is what’s new and different this time around. For one, the mainstreaming and widespread use of the “replacement” conspiracy, which Mitchell and Trump are promoting, relies on white nationalist and antisemitic tropes and conspiracies. And unlike in 2017, when the related chants of those bearing tiki-torches in Charlottesville shocked the viewing public, in 2024 the same conspiracies are now being openly voiced by Republican elected leaders and former President Trump (see tracking resources from America’s Voice below).

Most notably, the mainstreaming of this and similar conspiracies endangers our democracy, its citizens, and the political process. Not only was the “replacement” conspiracy directly tied to horrific real world violence in places such as a Buffalo grocery store and a Pittsburgh synagogue, but it 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. The result? Fodder for challenging any election. Political violence. January 6th-like attacks on U.S institutions. 

For his part, President Biden this week underscored the growing threat, saying: “[W]e face a sobering reality: Freedom and democracy are at risk here at home in a way they have not been since the Civil War. Donald Trump is running a campaign of resentment, revenge, and retribution that threatens the very idea of America.”

According to Zachary Mueller, Senior Research Director for America’s Voice: 

“Many Americans tune out when they hear attacks on immigrants thinking that they are not immigrants and therefore they do not need to worry. 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 in order 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. 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. We don’t have the luxury of pretending we don’t know what’s at stake or how these conspiracies are being used to stoke fear and seek power – both to win the next election or try to violently overthrow the results if Trump loses again.”


  • The bigoted conspiratorial “replacement” lie is central to GOP’s election strategy – just see a few examples from last week:
    • Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) falsely claimed there was an intentional change in policy to facilitate more migration, asserting this is because Democrats “ultimately hope to turn these people into voters. It sounds like a conspiracy theory but that’s the fact.” 
    • In the critical Senate battleground of Arizona, the Republican’s leading candidate, Kari Lake, took the opportunity in a national CNN interview to promote the replacement theory. Lake falsely claimed that her opponent, Rep. Ruben Gallego, “wants to give nine to twelve million people who poured in illegally who have invaded our country the ability to vote, he wants them all to vote.” 
    • Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) wrote on  X, “Illegal immigration is stealing the right to vote away from American citizens. It devalues your vote by devaluing your congressional representation.”
    • Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson told Fox News Digital, “If you look at what’s going on at the border when you’ve got so many illegal aliens pouring into our country, imagine the efforts used to get them to register to vote, and that’s what this is all about.”
  • Read America’s Voice: The Insurrection on January 6, the Great Replacement Theory, and the Ongoing Threat to Democracy