Fox News host Tucker Carlson went beyond his usual thinly veiled racist rants on Thursday night, endorsing the explicitly white supremacist “replacement theory.” In response, the American Defamation League has called for Carlson to be fired.
Carlson is one of the leading voices of what passes for conservatism today and a possible Republican presidential contender. So his embrace of the same poisonous rhetoric that fills hate-filled manifestos from neo-Nazi websites and far-right terrorists is yet another step downward into the ninth circle of hell for American democracy. Carlson for his part insists that his version of “replacement theory” isn’t racist, any more than his contempt for Black Lives Matter protesters or his insistence that Iraqis are “semi-literate primitive monkeys”:
“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,” Carlson told his audience, which is among the largest in cable news. “But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening, actually. Let’s just say it. That’s true.”
I don’t need to waste your time deconstructing this and pointing out how intrinsically bigoted, preposterous and conspiracy-fueled it is on multiple levels. It’s obvious on its face.
But it’s important to point out here that Carlson’s views–while expressed more distastefully than most conservative pundits would dare–are fundamental to modern conservatism. And you don’t even need to read through 100,000 word histories tracing the throughlines of white supremacist views from the terrorist resistance to Reconstruction, to the writings of William F. Buckley, to the Goldwater insurgency, the Southern Strategy or the Reaganite orthodoxy, to understand why.
All you need to know are two basic facts. First: America is indeed becoming less white, less conservative and less religious. Both through immigration and more importantly through simple generational change, evangelical white conservatives are becoming outnumbered by voters who do not share their views. It’s not a conspiracy by leftists: it’s just how change happens. There have been waves of immigration to America before, and there will be more to come.
Further, every older generation since ancient times undergoes a moral panic at the new, usually more enlightened views of the next. White evangelical America prays for a new Great Awakening centered around that era’s bizarre moral panics like generational clockwork. And nearly every single time, white supremacists go out of their way to attempt to deny the franchise to non-whites and younger voters. The only thing new is the degree of panic that has beset conservatives since the election of Barack Obama, their repeated loss of the popular vote in national elections, and the realization that they no longer constitute a “silent majority” if they ever did.
Republicans are now engaged in a desperate and unprecedented campaign of voter suppression, targeted mostly at the growing populations non-whites and younger voters. Carlson is only stating publicly what the mainstream Republican Party is actualizing as a matter of ideology and public policy.
But second and perhaps more important is this: attempting to conserve the current hierarchy of wealth and power held in the hands of white men is to believe implicitly in a version of white supremacy. It follows inescapably through cold logic.
Because it is a fact that white men have held and continue to hold the vast majority of wealth and power in America, you must believe one of two things must be true: either you believe that white men are intrinsically more deserving, or you believe that institutional patriarchy and racism have combined to suppress and oppress women and people of color from gaining access to wealth and power on a level playing field. If you believe the latter, you meet the minimum standard for adherence to modern social liberalism and make yourself a pariah among conservatives. If you believe the former, you are by definition a chauvinist and white supremacist. If you claim not to be a chauvinist or white supremacist, but you believe that no actions should be taken to even protest–much less regulate or redistribute resources–to mitigate structural racism and patriarchy, you are inseparable from chauvinists and white supremacists at a social or policy level. One cannot simply declare the problem solved and assume everyone now has the same opportunities to succeed, because the problem is so obviously not solved at either a social or a policy level, and everyone so obviously does not have the same opportunities.
Conservatives hate being labeled as racists or misogynists for merely “being conservative.” The problem for them is that there really isn’t a difference. If you’re trying to stop non-whites from voting, you’re a white supremacist. If white men have obscenely large amounts of money and women (and women of color in particular) have vanishingly little, and you’re opposed to even the most modest efforts to alter that equation because you believe those rich white men implicitly deserve it more somehow, that line of reasoning ends directly in misogyny and white supremacy.
There are legitimate debates about the degree of regulation and redistribution that might be necessary, at what levels and in what ways. But those debates are happening within factions of the left and center-left. The right has expunged those ideas entirely as anathema to its core worldview, which is intrinsically and necessarily racist and misogynist.
As it becomes ever clearer that the world conservatives have built is broken and likely to end in massive inequality, misery and ecological catastrophe, younger Americans want nothing to do with it. As conservatives continue to lose national elections and increasingly rely on tricks of gerrymandering and geography to hold apartheid power despite declining numbers, their desperation increases.
Tucker Carlson is merely stating out loud what they’re all thinking. It’s what they’ve been thinking for decades. It’s just that conservatives no longer have the comfort of telling themselves they still have a workable policy vision or a silent majority. The implicit and quiet has therefore become explicit and loud, blared to millions on the cable news station that both reflects and controls their electorate.