Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry used a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting on Wednesday to spread an ugly, racist theory that “native-born” (read: White) Americans are being purposely replaced by immigrants as a way to alter the culture of the country.
“For many Americans, what seems to be happening or what they believe right now is happening is what appears to them is we’re replacing national-born American — native-born Americans to permanently transform the landscape of this very nation,” said Perry in reference to the number of people trying to enter the country at the United States’ southern border.
It’s not difficult to figure out where Perry picked up such a noxious notion. Here’s Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on April 8 making the exact same argument:
“I know that the left and all the gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters, from the third world. But, they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening, actually. Let’s just say it: That’s true. Every time they import a new voter, I become disenfranchised as a current voter.”
Nor is Carlson the first person to promote the theory, which is alternatively known as “White replacement theory” or simply “replacement theory.” It’s long been an underlying theory of the White supremacist movement; you’ll remember the White supremacists chanted “You will not replace us” as they paraded through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
That same year, Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King tweeted this: “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
As The New York Times’ Nellie Bowles detailed in 2019, Carlson himself has previously dabbled in this space. Wrote Bowles:
“In January, (Carlson) opened his show with a segment he said was ‘the biggest issue facing this country going forward,’ bigger than wars and G.D.P.: the collapse of families. The major cause of that collapse, he said, was that some women now out-earn some men.
“(Mr. Carlson’s discussion of the topic attracted fierce criticism, something he addressed on his show the next night. ‘This is why important science is no longer being conducted,’ he said of the response. ‘It’s why art isn’t being made and comedy is dying.’)
At its core, “replacement theory” is guided by the belief that lower birth rates among Whites (as compared to non-Whites) is allowing some amorphous groups – some adherents to this view blame Jewish people, while others put the onus on liberal politicians – to bring in thousands of immigrants more attuned to their preferred world view and, in so doing, change American culture right from under White people’s noses.
This was, once, the stuff of Internet fever swamps – never even considered the sort of thing that a sitting Republican member of Congress might entertain, much less say out loud in a committee hearing. But Donald Trump’s presidency changed all that – from his attempted both-siderism in Charlottesville to his message to the far-right Proud Boys group to “stand back and stand by.” (It’s not a coincidence that hate crimes rose to their highest level in more than a decade in the latter half of the Trump presidency.)
Carlson, seeing ratings gold in playing to the anxieties of the older, whiter populace that makes up the core of Fox News’ view base latched on the grievance-heavy view that Whites (and the allegedly “American” values they represented) were being purposely marginalized by politicians who wanted to overhaul what it means to be an American.
This is all very ugly stuff. But it’s unfortunately an extension of Trumpism – and even tied to the ongoing belief among many of the former President’s (predominantly White) supporters that the election was stolen from him by liberals and socialists bent on destroying America. (It will surprise you not at all that Perry was one of the nearly 150 House Republicans who voted to object to the Electoral College results in Arizona and Pennsylvania earlier this year.) It’s these views – and the willingness by the likes of Carlson and Perry to indulge them that led to January 6 when the US Capitol was overrun by a violent crowd heavy with far right and White supremacist leaders all seeking to create chaos and cause damage.
That such a moment happened in the world’s greatest democracy is shameful. That Perry – more than three months on from that day – saw fit to forward a racist theory of immigration in a House committee hearing is appalling.
CNN’s Annie Grayer contributed to this report.