Guns, abortion, immigration – what binds these “hot button” issues together in the Republican mind? Well, white supremacy, obviously.
I say “obviously” because there was a long period in my life when I thought the defense of whiteness at society’s center, which is clear when you bother looking, couldn’t be right. It was just too simple.
But then I learned, thanks to effort, study and the influence of people who knew better, that white supremacy is no simple thing at all. It can’t be, as it’s the principle organizing the whole of our society.
America’s first Black president was reelected more than a month before the Sandy Hook massacre during which 20 first-grade kids were shot to pieces down the road from where I live in New Haven.
The Republicans had a choice to make. They could turn away from a seditionary interpretation of the Second Amendment and toward good and sensible gun legislation to prevent other kids dying in cold blood.
Or they could lean into a seditionary interpretation of the Second Amendment on account of democracy having yielded another term for the first Black president who signaled the end of “our way of life.”
Do the right thing – let kids live? Do the wrong thing – let kids die? You know the answer. The Republicans and their white supporters would rather die, literally, than be replaced at the center of power. It was a fateful choice. The land is soaked by the blood of legions.
Dead kids were the price for protecting whiteness.
The Republicans are sacrificing the lives of children on the altar of whiteness while appearing oh-so-concerned about unborn children. But the pro-life movement doesn’t fear for all kids, just white ones.
Pro-life means pro-white.
Beneath rhetoric about life and personhood is a pernicious anxiety about living in a democracy in which white people are outnumbered.
Or worse, replaced.
That anxiety occasionally rears its head, as when former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said this week that Christians have "got to be bold. You know, the [antidote] to darkness is light. And the [antidote] to a really grim future is filling the world with a lot of Christian babies who could bring that light to the world."
To be sure, anti-abortionists are bent on putting women back in the home, making them subordinate to the authority of their husbands and otherwise reaffirming the primacy of the “nuclear family.”
But obedient women are a consequence, not an end. The goal is preventing white women, who get the most abortions, from aborting their pregnancies, thus repopulating the country with white people.
A proper democracy is a white democracy and you don’t get that by letting every Tomás, Chico and Harry participate, not when white women have fewer babies and nonwhite ones have more. America was founded on Anglosaxonjudeochristiancodeforwhite values.
They’ll be damned if it doesn’t stay that way!
Some white Christian men are going beyond the law, with their semi-automatic rifles and their equally armed pals in law enforcement, to terrorize nonwhite people back to society’s margins. Other white Christian men are using the law to force white women to give birth.
One group clears the way for the product of the other’s labor. Together they constitute two legs of the three-legged stool of white supremacy.
Immigration is obviously the other leg. But as “gun rights” isn’t about guns and “pro-life” isn’t about “life,” immigraton isn’t about immigrants.
“We’re being attacked on our southern border,” said Stew Peters, a fascist webcaster. “They don’t talk about this, because the great replacement is real. White, Christian Americans, America first patriots, people who believe in conservative core values – they want them out. The Democrat Party claims to be anti-discrimination yet they discriminate against certain groups all the time. Are you willing to say the modern Democrat Party embraces racism against white people?”
Peters was kicked off Spotify last year. When asked for comment, he inadvertently synthesized white fear of replacement: Spotify is “the propaganda arm of the communist, globalist genocidal machine, hellbent on the destruction of freedom, Christianity and truth.”
There you have it.
Is the GOP a hate group?
We typically look at guns, abortion and immigration as separate and distinct issues. Some might insist they are unrelated. But you can’t properly understand them in isolation. They are all of a piece.
They have in common fear – the white fear of being replaced. This fear animates virtually everything the Republicans say and do, because it animates virtually everything their media and supporters say and do.
The white fear of replacement used to be fringe. Thanks to the Republicans, no longer. Does that make the GOP a hate group?
I asked the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Rachel Carroll Rivas.
What’s the status of hate groups in America?
Every year, the Southern Poverty Law Center puts out a flagship report summarizing our research of the trends of the hard right.
In 2021, the year after the insurrection on January 6, 2021, the hard-right movement converged around a willingness to engage in political violence, inflict harm and deny legally-established rights.
We documented that a number of groups active in communities declined to 1,220 hate and anti-government extremist groups. These numbers do not demonstrate a decline in the power of the hard right.
Honestly, these harmful ideas have become so commonplace that card-carrying membership is less and less necessary.
The full embrace of technologies that easily spread messages to individuals has far-reaching implications. Particularly, livestreaming. It has become a preferred tool for organizing, fundraising and spreading false conspiracy theories and hard-right propaganda.
We consider the hard right of today inherently anti-democratic.
The groups reject equality and pluralism. They work to build a hierarchical order that pushes some groups out. It's authoritarian! Groups are often conspiratorial, racist and nationalistic. Targeted people know this personally. They include: people of color, women, LGBTQ people, religious minorities, immigrants and non-Christians.
We documented 733 hate groups and 488 antigovernment groups in 2021. There are also 65 new groups listed in 2021.
Is koshing how hate groups go mainstream?
Conspiracies underpinning the hate movement focus on a nefarious "other" as an enemy who threatens to take away liberty and power.
These ideas mobilize resentment against [outgroups]. Leaders working against these enemies are held up, even if they are authoritarians.
Is there a conspiracy theory that looms above others?
In 2021, the "great replacement" was prevalent and problematic.
Conspiracies targeting the government include sub-conspiracies around martial law, gun confiscation, the "New World Order” and FEMA.
These are rooted in racist, antisemitic and nativist beliefs.
The false conspiracy about the "Big Lie" of a fraudulent election in 2020 was a constant theme throughout the last year.
Because antisemitism fuels white nationalist ideas against the Black struggle for civil rights, conspiracies around voting and policies addressing inequality are often a manifestation of old hateful ideas.
To what extent are these hate groups aware of each other?
Hate groups operate fairly independently, especially at the local level. However, the hard right as a social and political movement has many people and groups overlapping in their activities and their ideas.
Global awareness depends on the group and its specific ideology.
Cross organizing and recruiting between groups is highly concerning, particularly when hard-right groups interact with groups with more legitimate power and authority in our communities.
Those interactions push hard-right ideas deeper into the mainstream.
Does the GOP satisfy any of the SPLC's criteria for hate groups?
We raise concern about decisions by some GOP officials to spread conspiracies as well as interact with identified hate and antigovernment groups, including open white nationalists.
Would it be more accurate to say individual Republicans, rather than the whole party, satisfy the SPLC's criteria for hate groups?
We don't do individuals. We do hate groups.
Some members of the Republican Party have engaged in extremist activity and have pushed ideologies we monitor, expose, counter and work to prevent. You can see the report for a few examples that include US Reps. Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar and Madison Cawthorn.
So that's a yes?
We have criteria for groups.
The report this year delves more deeply into the hate and anti-government movements and their harmful tactics
Shrewd answers. Two more questions. How bad a problem are private militias? What is their history of violence (in brief).
In 2021, we documented 92 militia groups. They have obsessions with field-training exercises, guns and uniforms like those in the military.
They hold an absolutist and warped interpretation of the Second Amendment. Because these groups engage in firearms training and have a history of violence, we believe they are concerning.
Some militia groups were present at the J6 insurrection, including the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. Dozens have been charged with crimes, including the rare and serious conspiracy charge.
On the local level, militia groups intimidate and harass local communities. This includes border militias targeting migrants and humanitarian groups. It includes intimidation of local democracy entities, like school boards. They often manipulate followers into believing they are aggrieved and use that belief to organize. They don't allow for safe and inclusive participation on important issues.
In 2021 many militia groups became more covert. They are feeling greater scrutiny by the media, public and law enforcement after J6.
They will emerge stronger if the pressure doesn't continue.
The numbers are down. Is that because the ideas are going mainstream or because the law is cracking down? Mix of both?
The mainstreaming of hard-right ideas is definitely a factor.
As I mentioned before, the motivation to be a "card-carrying" member is diminished now that many of their harmful ideas are so openly supported by public figures, political activists and media pundits.
The full impact of the legal crackdown is yet to be determined.
In the case of the Oath Keepers, their centralized structure, attempt to be more mainstream and recruitment among law enforcement officers have figured into how they are affected by the arrests and charges. The organization is in disarray right now and their chapter activity is down. They account for a significant sum of the reduced numbers.
However, groups like the Proud Boys, which also played a role in J6 insurrection, and are very problematic, have grown in 2021. Perhaps this is due to their organizational structure not being as centralized or the lack of concern about "appearances" by their membership.
To address the threat of the hard right, we will need the public, civil leaders, the news media and the legal sector to keep scrutinizing and holding accountable those who are tearing us apart and harming democracy. It has to be a holistic approach, starting with prevention.
We can't let false conspiracies and hateful ideas stand as the truth.
We have a more positive and hopeful story to tell.