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Port: People who believe the 'great replacement' have given up on conservative ideas

If conservatives could set aside "great replacement" fear-mongering, and start believing in conservative ideas again, they might find they could win over a lot of immigrants they're being told to be afraid of.

Police officers secure the scene after a shooting at TOPS supermarket in Buffalo
Police officers secure the scene after a shooting at TOPS supermarket in Buffalo, New York, May 14, 2022.
Jeffrey T. Barnes / Reuters
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MINOT, N.D. — The "great replacement" theory, for those of you who don't know, is the idea that leftists are promoting the replacement of white, conservative-leaning Americans with immigrants through policies like open borders.

Some people believe this because they're bigots and nativists who don't like immigrants. Others come to the belief out of misguided frustration with the very real erosion of the quality of life for blue-collar workers, particularly in rural America.

You're hearing a lot about it in the news right now because the young man who just perpetrated the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, alluded to the idea in the largely incoherent meanderings he posted online before he took to murder.

Trump-era luminaries from Tucker Carlson to ambitious New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik to embattled Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers have espoused this idea, both before and after the Buffalo massacre, and now Democrats are eschewing a serious and level-headed response to that horrible act of homicide in favor of submission to their censorious impulses.

I loathe Tucker Carlson, specifically, and Trumpism, generally, but blaming that crowd for Buffalo is just plain stupid.

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But let's talk, for a moment, about why so many people who think of themselves as conservatives (a term that has lost all meaning in the Trump era) are so enamored with this "great replacement" stuff.

Sure it's handy fuel for populist bonfires, but by believing it, what are conservatives saying about conservatism as a set of ideas and principles?

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There's a lot to dislike about America's immigration policy, but putting a pin in that debate for a moment, when conservatives say that new generations of immigrants, however, they got here, will crowd out conservatives, aren't they arguing that conservative ideas will hold no appeal to those immigrants?

Do conservatives really believe that?

This one doesn't.

Conservatism — which is to say the general belief in a market-based economy, limited government and individual responsibility — promotes prosperity. If conservatives say they believe in the "great replacement" then what they're also saying is that our ideas have no appeal to new Americans.

This comes dangerously close to stipulating the argument our leftist friends like to make about conservatism, which is that it's the ideology of racist old white people.

And yet, so many people who describe themselves as conservatives seem intent on becoming precisely what the left accuses them of being.

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The confounding thing is that the Trump era has provided us with evidence that the "great replacement" stuff is not just wrong, as a moral question, but wrong as a matter of fact.

For decades we've been told that a growing bloc of Democrat-voting Hispanics was going to crowd Republicans out of the electorate. Republican rhetoric, particularly on issues like illegal immigration, alienates those voters, and their growing numbers would cost Republicans power.

Only, it hasn't worked out that way. Trump, who made immigration demagoguery a cornerstone of his rise to power, not only performed surprisingly among Latino voters in 2016 , he grew that support in 2020.

It turns out, Hispanics aren't some monolithic entity. They're a diverse people, with diverse views. Some of them are legal immigrants who aren't keen on illegal immigration. Many of them are refugees from socialist regimes who are skeptical of the Democratic Party's flirtations with that ugly ideology here in America.

Conservatives have a big opportunity to win over these voters if they could only get over the populist "great replacement" fear-mongering and believe in the power of conservative ideas again.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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