The most frightening thing about the Buffalo shooter’s white supremacy motivations for killing ten people and injuring three more is not how blatant they were. It’s how mainstream they are with high-ranking Texas politicians like Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
On Saturday, Payton S. Gendron, 18, of Conklin, New York entered a Tops Friendly Markets in a predominantly Black neighborhood with a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle and opened fire. Two days before he committed the attack, he loaded a 180-page manifesto online detailing his reasons. Primary among them was “replacement theory”, a belief that whites are being purposefully outbred by other races in a bid to end white dominance. The belief, sometimes known as white genocide, is fairly common in Republican circles when it comes to arguments against immigration and reproductive freedom.
“Let me tell you something, Laura and everyone watching: The revolution has begun,” he said. “A silent revolution by Joe Biden and the Democrat Party to take over this country,” he said. “[Democrats] are allowing this year probably 2 million — that’s who we apprehended, maybe another million — into this country. At least in 18 years, even if they don’t all become citizens before then and can vote, in 18 years if every one of them has two or three children you’re talking about millions and millions and millions of new voters. And they will thank the Democrats and Biden for bringing them here. Who do you think they’re going to vote for?”
It’s little wonder that Patrick thought he would have a receptive audience on FOX News. An investigation by the New York Times earlier this month showed that popular pundit Tucker Carlson had 400 incidents of promoting replacement theory on his show, either from guests or the host himself. The idea that a racial demographic shift will end Republican power is very common. It can be seen most clearly in the recent redistricting fight in Texas. Despite the population growth being almost entirely due to non-white people living in the state, new congressional districts were drawn that limited the voting power of non-whites.
Though Governor Greg Abbott has been far more careful in his language than his lieutenant, white fears of lost power are a primary part of his re-election strategy. Abbott has spent most of the year doing increasingly weirs stunts at the southern border meant to shore up his image as a politician who is tough on immigration. These include a disastrous plan to stop trucks at the border that resulted in $4.1 billion worth of lost revenue for the state as well as a bussing immigrants to Washington D.C. to make a vague point about President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.
It’s worth mentioning that Abbott has trafficked in the language of replacement theory in the past, specifically by referring to immigrants as “hordes”. The word is common in neo-Nazi and white supremacist circles to describe immigrants, usually as invaders and defilers of an otherwise white land. In various degrees, replacement theory is now an essential part of Texas Republican ideology, even as it leads to mass shootings.