Opinion | The hidden scam behind Tucker Carlson and the right’s ‘replacement’ game | #insurance | #seniors | #elderly
The “replacement” story line roughly holds that liberals and Democrats are scheming to replace virtuous native U.S. voters by importing as many immigrants as possible, ideally from the Third World (because they are “obedient,” Carlson tells us), to dilute their political agency and extinguish their culture.
But a good new analysis by CNN’s Ron Brownstein excavates a key fact about this narrative: It gets an important truth exactly backward. The aging Whites this story targets will be relying on social insurance programs whose durability will heavily depend on immigrant taxpayers to sustain it, meaning they have a great deal to lose from decreased immigration.
If anything, however, the fraudulence here is worse than Brownstein says. The “replacement” narrative expressly pushes the idea that its victims face a demographic emergency that threatens them with elimination. That immigration is actually a demographic solution to one of aging White America’s long term woes makes this deception even more ugly and cynical.
With or without immigration, the White share of the population will decline in the coming decades, census projections show. But if immigration is reduced or eliminated, America will grow older, with many fewer working-age adults available to support an exploding number of retirees.
And that would not only slow overall economic growth, multiple projections have found, but also would increase pressure for cuts in the Social Security and Medicare benefits that provide a lifeline to the older Whites most drawn to the right’s anti-immigrant arguments.
As demographer William Frey tells Brownstein, the future portends “lower population growth and an aging population,” which means the only way to keep the “labor force growing and vital is through immigration.”
The “replacement” demagoguery seeks to exploit fears rooted in reaction to a truism: Immigrants have increased as a share of the U.S. population since national origins quotas were ended in the 1960s.
But as Brownstein notes, the further “browning” of America will be caused not primarily by new immigration, but rather the higher reproduction rates of immigrants already here and their descendants, relative to slower reproduction among Whites.
That means restricting immigration, even severely, cannot halt the transition to a majority-minority country by 2060. But it would mean a smaller workforce relative to the aging population.
That would “double the load on working-age people of all these seniors,” as one demographer tells Brownstein, threatening more cuts over time to the social insurance programs they rely on. Indeed, that could pose a threat to aging Whites who aren’t yet of retirement age but soon will be, likely a prime target audience for “replacement” demagoguery.
A darker side to the ‘replacement’ narrative
To fully appreciate what a despicable scam this is, however, we need to look at the darker implications of the “replacement” narrative.
The argument isn’t just that liberals want more immigration to win future elections. It’s also that elites are deliberately importing more immigrants to threaten aging Whites’ long term survival.
Carlson’s two signature “replacement” rants were heavily laden with insinuations that local culture across the country is getting submerged under a tide of migration. He suggested states transformed by immigration have become “unrecognizable.”
Prominent Republicans who have echoed Carlson’s line in a deceptively softer form also trade on this idea. They have said liberals want more immigration to “permanently transform” our “political landscape” and to “remake the demographics of America” to “stay in power forever.”
And the recently-revealed blueprint for a House “America First Caucus” warned that when immigrants are “imported” into our country “en masse,” it threatens our culture’s “long-term existential future.” Republicans ran from the document’s “Anglo Saxon” phraseology, but for many of them, these other ideas are mostly unobjectionable.
What’s unmistakable, again and again, is the dark invocation of permanent erasure and elimination.
There’s an audience for this: A recent survey by GOP pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson found that nearly half of Republican respondents believe politics is about “ensuring the country’s survival as we know it.” As Anderson told Ezra Klein, there is a “real sense in the Republican coalition today that they are under siege.”
Also note the centrality of the idea that immigrants are being imported, as opposed to emigrating, voiced in various forms by that America First document, Carlson, and the Republicans echoing him. This implies shadowy elites are manipulating migrations for eliminationist ends.
As Ed Kilgore writes, this intimation of an “overclass-underclass alliance” that feasts parasitically on the authentic “producerist” majority of “hard-working Americans” is a decades-old right wing populist trope that trades in “paranoia” of “uncommon power.”
Obviously it’s possible to oppose current or increased immigration levels in the knowledge that immigrants would shore up social insurance programs for the elderly over time. One might take the position that there are other ways to boost those programs, or that it’s no biggie if they falter.
They do this by insisting that the only motive liberals and Democrats have in wanting more immigration is to replace and extinguish the very people immigration proponents want to help, deceiving those people further. The more layers of this scam you peel back, the more monstrous it looks.
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