Ten people were murdered in a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday by an alleged white supremacist who believed in the “great replacement theory,” an absurd racist ideology that claims there is a plot to replace white Americans with people of color.
It is yet another massacre fueled by a formerly fringe belief that has found a mainstream foothold thanks to irresponsible pundits and political opportunists on the right.
We must all do our part to fight back against these abhorrent views, in our communities and in our parties. Washington Republicans — of a moderate and independent bent — have an opportunity to lead the way against this vile ideology that has steadily crept its way into their party.
Roughly 1 in 3 Americans believe there are efforts to replace native-born citizens with immigrants for electoral gains and that more immigration is leading to native-born Americans losing economic, political and cultural influence, according to polling from The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Fear of the stranger, of the unknown, of losing power, are sadly human thoughts — ones that no political party has a lock on — but conservatives are being fed a steady diet of misinformation and hate by many who would exploit that fear for political gain.
Media figures such as Ann Coulter, and Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, have helped legitimize this paranoid delusion, while some GOP leaders have made the bet that stoking racial animosity will keep them in power.
Just last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shamelessly tried to capitalize on the shortage of baby formula by pitting immigrant kids against “our children.” Next door, Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin has courted white nationalists in her bid for higher office. Former President Donald Trump callously said there were “good people” among a Charlottesville crowd who had earlier chanted “Jews will not replace us.” He also falsely blamed immigrants voting illegally for his electoral loss.
Theirs is a cynical ploy with a rising body count.
Replacement theory has been cited by several mass U.S. shooters, including killings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 and a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and at a Poway, California, synagogue in 2019. Racial fears led to the Atlanta spa shootings last year that claimed eight lives, six of them people of Asian descent.
Washington Republicans are no strangers to taking a principled stance. U.S. Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, and Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, bravely stood up against Trump, voting for his impeachment after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. State GOP leaders, such as J.T. Wilcox and former Secretary of State Kim Wyman, have spoken out against election fraud conspiracies.
Herrera Beutler and Newhouse are under enormous pressure, fighting for their political futures from Trump-endorsed challengers to their right, but they have a responsibility to speak up.
Republicans of conscience can either take their inspiration from people such as Mark Esper, William Barr and John Bolton — all Trump aides who stood quietly by his side only to rebuke him later — or someone like John McCain. The late U.S. senator from Arizona famously pulled the microphone away from a woman to defend his opponent, Barack Obama, from racist claims during the 2008 presidential race.
McCain, of course, lost. But he stood up when it mattered, regardless of the consequences. Republicans cannot wait for the next Pittsburgh, the next El Paso or the next Buffalo.
They need to stand up now.