Picking over GOP idiocy

Like Joel Cairo, I wish the Republicans had concocted a more sensible story for me to repeat.

Tucker Carlson on Fox News.

Tucker Carlson has frequently used his Fox News show to spout white nationalist conspiracies, including “replacement theory,” which pits what he calls “legacy voters” against immigrants he insists are being brought here by Democrats because they will vote their way.

Associated Press

“What they shake out of you?” Sam Spade asks a disheveled Joel Cairo in “The Maltese Falcon” after the slimy little crook had been grilled all night by police.

“Shake out? Not one thing. I adhered to the course you indicated earlier in your rooms,” Cairo protests. “But I certainly wish you have invented a more reasonable story. I felt distinctly like an idiot repeating it.”

I know the feeling. In that dim, cat-leaving-something-disgusting-on-your-pillow way the media sometimes has, we are batting around the “Replacement Theory” supposedly spouted by the alleged murderer of 10 Black shoppers and staff at a supermarket in Buffalo on Saturday.

I really wish they’d craft a less stupid worldview for us to pick over. Show some pride. But we must play the hand we are dealt. So here goes.

Opinion bug


The term itself has been spreading in public discourse for almost five years, since August 2017, when hundreds of white supremacists marched through Charlottesville, Virginia, bearing tiki torches, chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

Yeah, like Jews want to go live in your mother’s basement with the Nazi flag thumb-tacked over the washing machine.

Sadly, the notion isn’t new. They believe, in essence: this is a white Christian country. White, Christian people own the place, belong and are in charge. Anybody else — immigrants, Blacks, Jews, Muslims, there’s a whole list — just doesn’t belong, and are stealing the resources, real estate, jobs that rightfully belong to anyone white. Such unwelcome interlopers are lucky to be tolerated to the degree they are.

A 1966 march in Chicago by members of the American Nazi Party across the street from the Greater Mount Hope Baptist Church on the South Side.

A 1966 march in Chicago by members of the American Nazi Party across the street from the Greater Mount Hope Baptist Church on the South Side. The church was the scene of a meeting between Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights workers.

Associated Press

I’m tempted to suggest it went unsaid, but in fact it got said plenty. Never forget that Donald Trump, in announcing his candidacy in June 2015, slurred Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists. It wasn’t generally called “replacement theory” yet, but that still was the central motivating idea: scary darker Others coming to take your lifestyle away.

Replacement theory is just a riff on classic xenophobia. People don’t come to America to escape oppression, or for economic opportunity. No, it’s a plot, a Democratic conspiracy to import pliant voters. Tucker Carlson, Fox’s Old Faithful of white nationalism, explained it this way last year on his program:

“I know that the left and all the little 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.”

It’s not true. First, some immigrants vote Republican, out of the same blend of fear, bully-worship, callousness, toxic self-regard, and blindered one-issue fixation that cause anyone to vote Republican. Second, if they do vote Democratic, it might be because it’s the party not demonizing them as the cause of the nation’s woes.

Third, Democrats can only dream of being as effective as the fever fantasies of the right. Just as anybody nattering about ruthlessly efficient Jewish global conspiracy never tried to line up volunteers for the synagogue potluck dinner, so anybody imagining that Democrats could entice millions from around the world to come here and vote our way has never recruited anybody to work a phone bank. If only Democrats had really stolen the 2020 election, we wouldn’t have to sweat the next one. But we do.

In their defense, many Republicans try not to dwell on such palpable idiocy. That’s why whataboutism is so popular. In my emails, red state readers react to Buffalo by raving about the teen killed at the Bean. I don’t bother pointing out that while Democrats don’t trumpet the need for gang members to maintain their honor by capping rivals, Republicans increasingly endorse the paranoid fantasies that inspire mass murderers.

This isn’t about economic insecurity. This is about fear-wracked bullies demanding a permanent underclass to feel superior to. Now and then, some deeply disturbed, pathetic soul takes their BS seriously and kills people. You’d think this might cause their role models to consider the impact of their words, but such reflection is beyond them.

At least Joel Cairo felt like an idiot parroting Sam Spade’s inane cover story. Some people are too dumb to be ashamed of the nonsense they spout.

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