Washington, DC – The revelations out of Texas this week are horrific and sadly predictable. The radicalization of the Republican Party is essential context as this story develops. There is a throughline between Republicans mainstreaming white nationalism and a dehumanizing portrayal of immigrants and asylum seekers merely as threats and the directive to push children into a deadly river.
The Republican Party’s descent into mainstreaming white nationalism and embracing a dehumanizing nativist vision threatens the best values of our nation and its promise of a multiracial democracy. Here are five key points from the last eight years as white nationalism has moved from the margins to the mainstream of the Republican Party.
- Trump’s 2016 campaign: In his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump named Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon to top posts guiding the messaging and strategy of his campaign and early administration, both of whom were steeped in white nationalist ideas and had promoted the great replacement conspiracy theory texts like the Camp of the Saints. Moving these men, in particular, to positions that shaped the most powerful office in the world was rocket fuel for the ascent of white nationalism into the mainstream of the Republican Party.
- Charlottesville in 2017: Less than a year into the Trump administration, in August 2017, an eclectic assortment of organized racists, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and bigots of all stripes marched openly in Charlottesville, Virginia, with the white nationalist slogan, “you will not replace us, Jews will not replace us,” culminating in the violent death of Heather Heyer. Instead of turning on these violent bigots, the President further mainstreamed white nationalist ideas by claiming there were “very fine people on both sides.”
- Family separation in 2018: In 2018, Trump showed that children weren’t immune from his dehumanizing anti-immigrant cruelty. That year, he instituted the notorious child separation policy. Also that year, according to a book by DHS staffer Miles Taylor, Stephen Miller proposed blowing up migrant boats. During the 2018 midterms, the Republican Party closed with a dehumanizing message demagoguing the alleged caravans of migrants that were set to “overrun” the nation. Some Republicans began to incorporate the white nationalist great replacement slogan about so-called migrant “invasion” into their campaigns and TV ads. Amidst this swirl of political rhetoric, a man who believed there was an ongoing “invasion” orchestrated by Jews murdered 11 people in Pittsburgh in what was the deadliest antisemitic attack on U.S. soil.
- By 2019, Donald Trump had incorporated the so-called migrant “invasion” rhetoric into his massive paid social media campaign. As the New York Times reported, the campaign had run over 2,000 ads using the white nationalist slogan. This false conspiracy theory about an invasion was subscribed to by the white nationalist who murdered 23 people in El Paso in August 2019.
- “Invasion” and “Replacement” goes mainstream in GOP in 2021 and 2022: Far from being chastened by the deadly political violence associated with the conspiracy theories about “replacement” and “invasion” by the summer and fall of 2021, leading figures in the Republican Party, like Lindsey Graham and Rep. Elise Stefanik, had fully embraced the rhetoric. Then in May of 2022, yet another white nationalist twisted by these same conspiracy theories murdered 10 people in Buffalo, New York. In the immediate days that followed, Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Elise Stefanik, along with many of their colleagues, loudly doubled down on their commitment to amplifying these conspiracy theories.
According to Zachary Mueller, Political Director for America’s Voice:
“Bringing water to a boil takes time, slowly increasing the temperature until the water begins to boil, becoming increasingly dangerous to human touch. From the moment Donald Trump descended the golden escalator to declare that Mexicans were murderers and rapists, the heat has slowly been turned up on the GOP’s toxic rhetoric, and now it is not just dangerous to the touch, it is deadly.
The state violence of a cold directive that has been revealed by a whistleblower in Texas and the vigilante terrorism and mass shootings that plague the nation are not disconnected from one another, nor is it disconnected from the mainstreaming of white nationalism inside the Republican Party. We did not get here overnight, but by the slow increase in the degrees of rhetoric pushing one hateful, dehumanizing message or policy after the other, we risk losing sight of how each one is getting a bit more extreme each time. The horrifically shocking news out of Texas isn’t surprising, given the trajectory the GOP is on. Despite being predictable, it is a sobering warning that there is an urgent need for course correction. Nothing less than the real lives of many human beings are at stake, as are the core values of the nation and its promise of a multiracial democracy.”