"Replacement" theories are wrong. Here's why they keep coming back.

Triumphalist rhetoric about wrenching changes stimulates demand for conspiracy theories, too. Whether or not they turn out to be accurate, predictions of the death of white America have become elements of a strange kind of moralism, in which a shifting ethnic and racial mix serves as divine judgment on a sinful nation. Last year, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin hailed Census data showing a declining number of white Americans as “fabulous news.” Even if they didn’t express quite the same glee, many journalists and political strategists have argued since Obama’s victory in 2008 that Democrats were destined to rule a majority-minority America. If the 2020 election results and recent polls are any guide, that’s not true. But it’s not surprising that the embrace of demographic determinism by elements of cultural left and the Democratic Party has encouraged, although it didn’t create, a parallel response on the right.

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The genuinely good news is that most Americans don’t believe in such conspiracy theories. Contrary to claims of pervasive racism, a considerable majority think a shrinking white share of the population is neither good nor bad. And even those who disagree are unlikely to commit murder inspired by their beliefs (although they may cite political motives, lone wolf terrorists like Payton Gendron, the alleged attacker in Buffalo, and alleged New York subway shooter Frank James tend to have histories of mental illness). Those who do deserve the most severe punishment. But justified outrage at the promoters of such theories, whether full-strength or watered-down versions, shouldn’t obscure the conditions that make them appealing. Where and when people feel confused, despised, and powerless, the same kinds of stories will creep back into the public square.

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