Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Not hate, but mainstream Republican fears of extinction drove El Paso killer

By Beverly Crawford

El Paso Murderer

Mitch “murders, murders, murders, killings, murders.”

Donald Trump, El Paso Texas, February 2019

While the media and the FBI treat the El Paso butchery as a “hate crime,” they both show their blindness to the real motives laid out clearly in brown and white---motives which might cause great discomfort for conservatives and liberals alike.

The media blames the murder on “white supremacy” but stops short of showing how white supremacy is deeply embedded in the actions and policies of the Republican party. The murder is called a “hate crime,” but nowhere did the murderer express hatred. Rather,  his screed—which he ironically calls “The Inconvenient Truth,” echoing Al Gore’s Oscar winning film, is soaked with fear of environmental collapse and permanent Democratic electoral victories.

According to the murderer’s logic and that of many Republican voters and their representatives, the Republican party can only be saved by reducing the number of immigrants in the U.S. Immigrants, they believe, will vote overwhelmingly Democratic, shoving them to the margins.  The killer however, goes even further, departing from his effort to save the Republican Party and siding with liberal environmentalists: environmental collapse is the second of his “inconvenient” fears.

El Paso Murderer

But in his twisted logic, he claims that terrorizing immigrants will send them running “home” to Mexico and Central America, therefore relieving pressure on the fragile natural environment.  In the wake of this tragedy, we must continue to fight for a ban on assault weapons and campaign for real gun regulation, but we should also listen to the many Republican voices that both predate and repeat his message.

Mainstream Republicans across the country share this murderer’s terror that their party will become extinct because new minority voters will vote them out of office. Immigrants escaping poverty and persecution must go “home” and be locked out of the United States.

The murderer’s first “inconvenient truth” is that Democrats benefit from immigration. It is that benefit that lies behind Democrats’ pro-immigration stance. And he may be correct when he asserts that, Republican anti-immigrant rhetoric is driving them to the liberal side of the political spectrum. There, he fears, they will win election after election until the U.S. becomes a one-party “Democrat” State.

They will then change policy “to better suit the needs” of the Hispanic voting bloc.  Laura Ingram presaged his screed with a recent rant on Fox News that Democrats want to replace American voters with new immigrants. In her bestselling book Adios America Ann Coulter argues that the Democrats have a scheme to permit 30 million new liberal voters to come to the U.S.; their victory, she claims, will be the very loss of the (white) identity of the nation.

But it’s not just these far right pundits: In statehouses, town halls, and in the halls of congress Republicans have warned of a similar fate: Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen — speaking at a Republican event in July — worried about declining birth rates in the U.S. and feared that the United States was "going to look like South American countries very quickly." Texas Representative Louie Gohmert compared Hispanic immigrants to an invading army; congressman Tom McClintock called them a military threat.

fear These fear-driven elected officials cite crime, terrorism, drugs, and lack of assimilation, and an immigrant burden on the welfare system as reasons for their anti-immigrant stance, all of which have been disputed. Their dread of losing political ground to immigrants who will vote against them is largely unspoken. It is left to the killers and extremists to articulate for them.

Their silence about about gun control is not just subservience to the NRA but comes from knowing that the white nationalist murderers who are terrorizing Republican opponents are doing their dirty work for them, sending them away from the voting booths and away from the public eye.

White entitlement blinds them to their responsibility to protect all of their constituents, and their silence entitles and emboldens the shooters, who will certainly kill again. Their indifference to the costs of silence helps to mitigate their fear of extinction.

That fear is not so farfetched.

Although, according to Pew Research, a growing number of Hispanics have lost confidence in the Democratic Party since 2016, the El Paso murderer could have easily cited the case of California to make his point. Like Texas today, it was once a Republican stronghold, the home state of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.

But by the mid-1990s, Democrats had become increasingly popular, particularly among the growing Hispanic electorate, and especially after Democratic candidates strongly opposed draconian Republican measures to cut public services to undocumented immigrants As Dan McLaughlin wrote in the National Review in January, “A growing faction on the right these days echoes the apocalyptic theme of many California conservatives, who experienced demographic replacement as an existential political crisis and saw mass immigration as a national emergency.”

What worried the El Paso murderer is that Texas appears to be on the same path as California. The Hispanic population in Texas increased from 9.7 million in 2010 to 11.1 million in 2017, while the white population grew by only about 500,000. In the 2018 election, a national Associated Press exit poll found that nearly 70 percent of Texas Latinos reported voting Democratic. The access to a deadly weapon allowed him to kill a few Hispanics in order to terrorize the rest.

Chillingly, the gunman justifies the murder of Hispanic immigrants with mainstream Republican panic about losing his white privilege to nonnative born people.  But nowhere in his 8-chan post does he use virulent racist language; nowhere does he demonstrate hatred ; he claims that he was not even interested in targeting them until he read The Great Replacement , a tome that propagates the fear that corporate elites will benefit by replacing native populations with immigrants.

To justify his act of violence, he expands his historical frame of reference, cautioning that the Native Americans’ failure to repel the European invaders was their downfall, and they should have fought harder to avoid their fate of being “replaced” by the white immigrants.

The second “inconvenient truth” of his screed indicates a break with Republican ideology. Like many young people across the developed world, one of the El Paso shooter’s greatest fears is consumer waste, corporate exploitation of resources, and the unwillingness of Americans to make the necessary lifestyle changes to protect the environment.

His support of Republicans is therefore reluctant.  He marries his progressive-sounding environmentalism to his anti-immigrant stance: he blames big corporations who are plundering the earth’s resources and who are happy to welcome more consumers by inviting in more immigrants.

Because the murderer could not bring himself to kill his fellow American citizens, the next logical step, he says, would be to kill two birds with one stone:  reduce the number of people who use up our precious resources while reducing the number of people who will put the Democrats in power. Killing some Hispanics will strike fear in others, who, he believes, will willingly leave the U.S.  Walmart, the largest retail store in America with its thousands of Saturday morning consumers, was the perfect place to make this point

While the Texas murderer was a reluctant Republican (Republicans, he states, support big corporations who, in turn support immigration), white supremacist murderers are rapidly becoming the militant wing of the Republican Party, much like the KKK was the violent arm of Southern kkk Democrats in the 20 th Century. Republicans will disavow this statement as outrageous, especially as they continue to suppress the Brown and Black vote, remove legal protections against racial discrimination, clamor for a citizenship question on the national census that Commerce Secretary Ross stated would “hurt Democrats and help Republicans,” and fill prisons with people of color.

But this does not seem to be enough for them. When people of color are terrorized by white nationalist murderers, afraid, to go out, as The New York Times reported on August 6, and afraid to go to the polls, Republicans don’t need voter suppression; the murderers will do the job for them, and they keep their hands clean. They can remain fellow travelers of white supremacist killers while offering “thoughts and prayers,” shaking their heads, and expressing sadness at the tragic loss of life. And they oppose gun control, knowing full well that the reverberation of terror resulting from that loss of life is in their interest and will continue.

Trump’s first 2020 campaign rally was in El Paso.  There, referring to immigrants, he chanted “murders, murders, murders, killings, murders.” His chant was a prophecy: murder did come to El Paso, but murders committed to stop the dreaded immigrant “invasion” that Trump successfully incited his supporters to fear.  When he asked them at a Florida rally what should be done about that invasion, he simply smiled as they shouted “shoot them.” In El Paso, he and his fellow Republicans got their wish.