By Sara Kamali
In September 2022, President Joe Biden convened a summit called United We Stand to denounce the “venom and violence” of white nationalism ahead of the midterm elections.
His remarks echoed the theme of his primetime speech in Philadelphia on September 1, 2022, during which he warned that American democratic values were at stake.
“We have to be honest with each other and with ourselves,” Biden said. “Too much of what is happening in our country today is not normal. Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.
While that message may resonate with many Democratic voters, it’s unclear whether it will impact Republicans whom Biden has described as “dominated and bullied” by former President Donald Trump, or independent voters. who played a decisive role in the elections. continue to do so, especially as their numbers increase.
It’s also unclear whether the candidates endorsed by Trump can win in the general election, in which they will face opposition not only from members of their own party, but also from a wide range of Democrats and voters. independent.
What is clear is that this cycle of midterm elections has exposed the power of conspiracy theories that underpin narratives of victimization and messages of hate in America’s complex landscape of white nationalism.
Campaigning on conspiracy theories
In my book, “Homegrown Hate: Why White Nationalists and Militant Islamists Are Waging War on the United States,” I detail how the white nationalist narrative of victimization and homegrown grievances gained ground to take root in the Republican Party today. .
I also examine four key streams of white nationalism that overlap in various configurations: religions, racism, conspiracy theories, and anti-government views.
Conspiracy theories allow white nationalists to portray a world in which blacks and browns endanger white livelihoods, social norms, and morals.
In general, conspiracy theories are based on the belief that individual circumstances are the result of powerful enemies actively agitating against the interests of a believing individual or group.
Based on the interviews I conducted while researching my book, these particular conspiracy theories are practical because they justify the shared white nationalist goal of establishing white institutions and territory, for whites and by whites. While conspiracy theories are nothing new, and certainly not new to politics, they are spreading with increasing frequency and speed through social media.
The “Great Replacement Theory” is one such baseless belief that plays a role in the anti-immigration rhetoric that is central to the 2022 strategies of many Republican candidates running for seats at all levels of government. .
This theory falsely warns believers of the threat that immigrants and people of color pose to white identity and institutions.
For months on the 2022 election campaign, Republican Blake Masters, a venture capitalist running for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, has portrayed immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border as part of an elaborate conspiracy. by Democrats to dilute the political power of voters. born in the United States.
“What the left really wants to do is change the demographics of this country,” Masters said in a video posted to Twitter last fall.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is another Republican leader speaking out against what he calls “the southern border invasion.”
The lie of the “Big Lie”
Besides the inflammatory anti-immigration rhetoric, the conspiracy theory currently having the biggest impact on local, state and federal political campaigns across the country is Trump’s “big lie” that he won the 2020 election.
Of the 159 mentions Trump has bestowed on Big Lie supporters, 127 of them have won their primaries in 2022.
In addition, Republican candidates who align themselves with the Big Lie are also emerging victorious in races for state and county positions whose responsibilities include direct election monitoring.
The sequel to QAnon
On his social media site Truth Social, the former president cites and spreads quasi-religious QAnon conspiracy theories. A major tenet of QAnon is the belief that Democrats and people seen as their liberal allies are an infamous cabal of sexual predators and pedophiles.
Trump is not the only Republican politician to welcome and spread such misinformation.
Two of the most high-profile politicians who have been linked to supporting QAnon are US Representatives Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, both of whom have been resoundingly endorsed by Trump.
Democracies under threat
The blatant use of conspiracy theories for political purposes reflects the open embrace of white nationalism not only in the United States, but also throughout Sweden, France, Italy, and other parts of the world.
In my opinion, the conspiracy theories underlying the 2022 midterm campaigns reflect the global threat of hate in the world.
Sara Kamali is a professor of creative writing at the University of California/San Diego. She wrote this piece for The Conversation, where she first appeared.