Two years after Buffalo mass shooting, Trump’s GOP is all-in on racist theory that motivated it

Two years after a racist gunman massacred 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket in a Black neighborhood, the conspiracy theory that motivated him has become mainstream within the Republican Party. 

The “great replacement theory” — a claim espoused by white nationalists that nonwhite immigration is part of a liberal (often Jewish-led) plot to overthrow the American way of life — had been linked to multiple mass shooters before the Buffalo shooting at Tops Supermarket on May 14, 2022. Donald Trump (no stranger to anti-immigrant conspiracies) helped to popularize great replacement rhetoric years before the Buffalo shooting — polling data around the time of the shooting indicated that a majority of Trump’s 2020 voters believe it. 

And Trump has only ratcheted up that rhetoric since then. It’s typical today to hear MAGA Republicans spewing the toxic bigotry that forms the basis of the great replacement theory, if not touting the conspiracy by name

Trump, for example, claims that the Biden administration’s immigration policies are part of a “conspiracy to overthrow the government.” He, along with House Speaker Mike Johnson, have put the replacement theory at the center of the Republican agenda through baseless allegations that undocumented immigrants might illegally sway federal elections. That Trump is making such claims after pushing Republicans not to pass strict immigration reforms underscores his intent to use immigration to sow fear among voters.

“Replacement theory is real,” Trump-loving Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Scott Perry told fellow lawmakers last week, in audio unearthed by CNN. Other Republicans have been only slightly less overt in promoting the conspiracy theory.

Nearly every Republican member of the House, for example, voted to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who is Jewish, over nonsensical accusations that he and the Biden administration were deliberately allowing an “invasion” of immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border. Multiple GOP governors have used similar allegations of a liberal-aligned immigrant “invasion” to justify their own anti-immigrant crackdowns — some of which usurp federal authority, a tactic that had right-wing extremists clamoring for civil war

Two years after one of the replacement theory’s many adherents gunned down innocent people in a Black neighborhood — one of several acts of violence it has inspired — Republicans are still using it to incite racist fury among their followers.

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