Jan. 6 as white supremacy: New research on the toxic spread of “great replacement” theory

My research reveals clear links between white supremacist attitudes and support for the Jan. 6 insurrection

The Republican Party became increasingly radicalized under Donald Trump. Whether it was his attacks on Muslims and Mexicans or Latin American immigrants, his reference to white supremacists in Charlottesville as “very fine people,” his opposition to the removal of Confederate monuments, his attack on NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag, his not-so-subtle embrace of eugenics, his courting of the Proud Boys, his embrace of QAnon (a conspiracy theory that incorporates antisemitic blood libelpropaganda), his support for white supremacists and neofascists on Jan. 6, or his hosting of overt antisemites like Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, Trump routinely normalized white supremacist politics. The fact that academics and journalists have refused to connect the dots by asking how deeply Trump’s white supremacy connects with a larger public in relation to J6 is a stark sign of the denialist impulse in American political culture. We live in a country that has long embraced an American exceptionalist notion that the country is moving beyond or has transcended race, or at the very least that Americans by and large do not indulge in racial hatreds.

But there’s ample reason to suspect that the white supremacy embraced on Jan. 6 resonates with much of the mass public, particularly on the reactionary right. A 2018 University of Virginia poll found that 31 percent of Americans agreed that “America must protect and preserve its White European heritage.” A 2019 Associated Press poll found that 22 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of Republicans felt that “a culture established by the country’s early European immigrants” is “important” “to the United States identity as a nation.” These sorts of questions serve as proxies for the mainstreaming of white supremacist views, even as the vast majority of Americans do not actively identify with “white nationalism” when asked by pollsters.

 The second anniversary of the insurrection offers an important opportunity to address this deficiency by acknowledging how far the “great replacement” theory and white supremacy have been mainstreamed in Trump’s America. Until we recognize what is really driving right-wing insurrectionist politics, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to confront it honestly.