GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik gets slammed for ‘vile’ and ‘xenophobic’ anti-immigrant ads

GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik gets slammed for ‘vile’ and ‘xenophobic’ anti-immigrant ads
United States House of Representatives, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the past, Rep. Elise Stefanik of Upstate New York had a reputation for being a moderate Republican and was critical of Donald Trump's far-right hyper-nationalist agenda. But Stefanik has since flip-flopped and gone total Trumpist, launching herself into GOP House leadership. Her latest MAGA move is a series of racist Facebook ads claiming that President Joe Biden and fellow Democrats are trying to create a "permanent election insurrection" by making it easier for "11 million illegal immigrants" to become U.S. citizens.

Fear-mongering over undocumented immigrants is right out of Trump's playbook, which the 37-year-old Stefanik has fully embraced in her role as House Republican Conference chair. Stefanik is now the third highest-ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, and those who wanted her to replace Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming in that position — namely, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise — liked the fact that she has become so Trumpian.

One of the racist Facebook ads reads, "Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION. Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington."

Washington Post reporter John Wagner notes that the rhetoric in Stefanik's ads echoes the anti-immigrant rhetoric of far-right Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson, who has promoted a White supremacist conspiracy theory known as the Great Replacement. It claims that liberals in western countries are trying to "replace" Whites with non-White immigrants. French author Renaud Camus, a White nationalist, embraced that theme in his 2011 book "Le Grand Remplacement." And his book is considered essential reading by many White supremacists and White nationalists.

At the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, White supremacists were chanting, "Jews will not replace us, Jews will not replace us." The conspiracy theory often invokes the antisemitic claim that Jewish people are behind mass migration.

Wagner explains, "The language in (Stefanik's) ads echoes that of far-right commentators, including Fox News' Tucker Carlson, who have advanced a 'replacement theory' that says liberals are seeking to replace White citizens with non-White immigrants who are inclined to support the Democratic Party. For Stefanik, embracing such rhetoric is a departure from earlier in her political career. Before she replaced Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as the House Republican conference chairwoman in May, some in her party had raised concerns that her record on immigration was too liberal."

Indeed, many Republican conservatives of the past weren't anti-immigrant. President Ronald Reagan, for example, granted amnesty to almost 3 million undocumented immigrants when he signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. And during the 1990s and 2000s, GOP strategist Karl Rove and members of the Bush family — including President George H.W. Bush's sons George W. Bush and Jeb Bush — viewed immigration as beneficial for the Republican Party. Rove and the Bushes were of the view that Latinos, with the right messaging and outreach, could be persuaded to vote GOP. Jeb Bush, in fact, is a fluent Spanish speaker.

But when Trump ran for president in 2016, he seized on Patrick Buchanan's message that immigrants drove down wages and took jobs from Americans, especially White Americans. And Trump attacked Jeb Bush, who ran for president that year, for speaking Spanish on the campaign trail.

Some Democrats, Wagner notes, believe that the timing of Stefanik's ads is no coincidence — as this weekend, hundreds of far-right demonstrators in Washington, D.C. will be holding a rally in solidarity with the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 in the hope of stopping Congress from certifying then-President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over Trump.

In an official statement, Democratic National Committee spokesperson Adonna Biel said, "As another right-wing mob descends upon the Capitol this weekend, Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik is echoing the same vile rhetoric that has led to several acts of violence in recent years. Apparently, this is what it takes to become a member of House Republican leadership — xenophobia and a remarkable commitment to pushing the Big Lie that led to an actual insurrection."

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