Reviews | Harsh New Lincoln Project Ad Targeting Elise Stefanik Tests ‘Great Replacement’ Attack

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The third-highest-ranking member of the House GOP leadership is toying with a rancid, racist conspiracy theory with a history of inciting mass murder, apparently including the Buffalo Massacre. The same goes for a number of other Republican lawmakers.

Is there a way – any way – to make the Republican Party pay a political price for all of this?

Representative Elise Stefanik, the Republican Speaker of the House who previously endorsed a version of this “grand replacement theory,” recently doubled over, even after Buffalo. So apparently the New York legislator is steadfastly certain that the answer to that question is no.

A new campaign launched by the Lincoln Project seeks to test this proposition. The group is set to run a stern ad in the Stefanik district, hammering it “promoting racist white replacement theory” and “selling racial hatred,” adding that “Buffalo paid in blood.”

Dana Milbank: How Elise Stefanik, ‘bright light’ of a generation, chose a dark path

But the group’s campaign will test another unknown: Whether many Republicans’ flirtation with the Great Replacement theory – which alleges an elite plot to replace Western-born whites with imported non-white immigrants – is so disqualifying that corporate donors will cut off the money flowing to them.

The ad singles out three big companies – PricewaterhouseCoopers, Home Depot and the Altria Group – and tears them apart for donating to Stefanik. Watch it here:

The ad is backed by a $140,000 buy, I’m told, which could do a lot in the upstate New York neighborhood of Stefanik.

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Lincoln Project senior adviser Rick Wilson said that campaign would soon target other Republicans who endorsed the grand replacement theory — like Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — and the broader set of corporate donors who support them.

Wilson says the group intends to spend a few million dollars on this larger campaign this cycle. “We’re going to expand that in the next few days,” Wilson told me, adding that the ads against Stefanik are a “road test of our methodology.”

“From a business risk perspective,” Wilson said, the group intends to make it harder for corporations to fund Republicans who are sending the message that “brown people are coming here to replace us demographically and destroy our country”.

“It’s going to be really tough to defend for any company in this country,” Wilson told me.

So what about this campaign?

On the one hand, big business seems to have become a little less comfortable being associated with the current radicalization of the Republican Party. After nearly 150 congressional Republicans voted to unseat Joe Biden presidential voters in the crowd assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, many companies announced they were stopping donations to them.

But on the other hand, once the events of January 6 faded from public memory, a significant number of these companies backed down or violated the original commitment, as documented by the popular newsletter .

Nevertheless, some differences are worth noting. Companies could perhaps hide behind the argument that this January 6 vote was just a procedural move that ultimately had no impact on the election outcome. By contrast, the grand replacement theory is said to have helped inspire many mass shootings, and it has a long history rooted in a particularly virulent white supremacist ideology.

Judd Legum, the founder of Popular Information, points to a precedent here. Tucker Carlson of Fox News, a major purveyor of various versions of the grand replacement theory, has dropped many advertisers due to his white nationalism, and former Congressman Steve King of Iowa has lost many many corporate donors because of this.

Yet GOP leaders have gone to great lengths to threaten corporations with blocking them from speaking out on topics like voting access and LGBT rights, and to get them to refuse to cooperate with the government. Congressional investigation into the attempted insurrection.

“A message is being communicated that if you don’t step in, you’re going to be left out,” Legum told me.

No matter how far Stefanik’s defenders turn on the contrary, his fumbling in the big replacement theory is indefensible. In Stefanik’s account, Democratic support for immigration goes far beyond the mere hope of gaining political advantage from demographic change.

Instead, Stefanik suggests an illicit plot to permanently subjugate the native-born population through illegitimate means that primarily involve non-white invaders. Other Republicans have also doctored versions of this.

Ultimately, the fact that Stefanik is a member of the House GOP leadership makes this a particularly interesting test case. Many big corporate donors are surely salivating over a GOP House takeover. Yet, will something so depraved, hateful, and destructive be enough to make some Republicans too toxic to support?

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