Today looking at an article about how conservatives worry about the “great replacement” (of US Christian whites by non-white, non-Christian immigrants) and how, ironically, conservative policies invite their being replaced, through simple natural selection. With comments at the end about the big picture: about natural selection, climate change, and immigration.
Salon, Mike Lofgren, 24 Dec 2022: There really is a “great replacement” — but it’s not what Tucker Carlson says it is, subtitled “Is voting for Republicans literally killing white people in rural America? Because the correlation is striking”
Here’s an interesting commentary that brings together several strands of evidence we’ve seen recur for years. Evidence that various social ills, like divorce, and various standards of health, are lower in Southern or rural states than in Northern or urban states. Resistance to expertise by conservatives, who resent west coast elites telling them what to do, thus denial of science on many levels, to the rejection of vaccines. The idea that the smart kids who grow up in rural towns who turn out different in any way — gay, say, or just smart — flee to the big cities. Statistics that Americans aren’t having enough children to replace the current population. And the existential fear that “outsiders” — immigrants from Central and South America — are destroying the “American” way of life established by descendants of different immigrants from different (European) countries hundreds of years ago.
Could these all be connected…?
Very likely the reader is wearily familiar with one of the memes that American right-wingers endlessly repeat. It’s called the “great replacement”: the claim that shadowy but apparently omnipotent elites are deliberately replacing the old stock (meaning white) American population with immigrants from predominantly non-white or non-Christian countries.
The notion had its beginnings decades ago in the mental swamps of Southern segregationist politicians and has been recycled in various iterations through white supremacist groups. Donald Trump’s election and the popularization of the phrase (in more or less coded language) by professional jackasses like Tucker Carlson made it into another of the Republican base’s innumerable slogans.
The idea is bunk, of course, and easily understood as yet another of the many myths designed to play into right-wingers’ persecution complex. But it is also possible to understand it as a folk-psychological projection of something that is indeed happening in the strongly Republican regions of the country inhabited by what Sarah Palin called “real Americans.” It’s not so much the great replacement as the great die-off, and Republicans are both its chief promoters and its principal victims.
The article notes that this goes back to a phenomenon noted in 2015 called “deaths of despair”: “first the stagnation and then the absolute decline in life expectancy among non-Hispanic white populations, particularly in white rural areas of the U.S.”
The article goes on and on. We noted one recent correlation a few posts ago, between anti-vaxxers and traffic deaths.
This partisan difference in death rates also applies to traffic deaths. Some of this might be explained by the fact that Republican areas tend to be rural, which means lots of high-speed driving on two-lane roads, worse engineering and maintenance of those roads, and longer trips from an accident scene to the nearest emergency room, which may be an hour or more away. But one sociologist who studies the attitudes of red-state conservatives suggests an additional factor: “a kind of cowboy mentality, a kind of deregulatory, anything goes culture” that may result in collective carelessness. The gap in seatbelt use would tend to support this hypothesis.
The article links this Scientific American article — did I link this before? Yes I did, in this post — called “People in Republican Counties Have Higher Death Rates Than Those in Democratic Counties”.
So are these effects due to external factors? No. You have Ron DeSantis and Fox News, for example, railing against covid health measures, to appeal to their “base” or audience.
Possibly there is also a less direct but deeper explanation for the white Republican die-off. This group has been systematically fed a steady diet of fear, rage, resentment and loss, which may well condition a fatalistic mental state that has real-world consequences. The great die-off is, at bottom, a form of self-sacrifice to an angry pagan idol that can never be propitiated.
The writer recalls the notorious essay “The Flight 93 Election” and an essay at website First Things that death should be embraced and “that those who save lives through medical science are in league with Satan.”
This echoes the theology of the religious right, which has turned its back on science, progress and humanitarianism because the Rapture may come at any moment. It is but a short step from viewing life as a vale of tears to calling modern medicine junk science and mandatory seat belt use an oppression by the Safety Nazis. Given that evangelicals are the largest segment of the Republican base, it is hardly surprising that Republican areas should suffer from higher rates of preventable death.
That seems like a good place to stop, but the article continues with salient points.
Paranoid crackpots have been scribbling since the dawn of written language; why have they become so influential now, to the point where they are dragging down American life expectancy?
The GOP has become a religious-ideological mashup embodying the worst features of post-World War II conservatism and religious right know-nothingism. As for the religious part, many religions emphasize “transcendence,” the existence of a purer, better world than the merely material one we temporarily inhabit. Buckley was fond of using the word in hammering home conservatism’s spiritual superiority.
But what we see in the contemporary Republican Party, and in the results it has wrought in places where it is entrenched, is not transcendence but its philosophical cousin: nihilism. It is advocating needless death, either to own the libs or to find salvation, and its followers are embracing it, just as they embrace political violence, in a kind of slow-motion Jonestown. If political parties were labeled with consumer information in the manner the FDA mandates that cigarettes be labeled, the GOP would be branded in bold letters: “WARNING: THIS PRODUCT WILL KILL YOU.”
And that’s the end.
What is the big picture here….? Perhaps natural selection, something the religious, who are largely rural conservatives, don’t believe in. Despite their beliefs, natural selection cannot not happen. If certain populations (who, for example, understand science and take their vaccines) have lower death rates than other populations (who, for example, are more religious and reject science including vaccines), then the former will eventually survive at higher rates and eventually… sorta… *replace* the latter group. It’s inevitable.
Of course that’s not the replacement conservatives fear. They’re worried about the foreigners, the “others.”
Yet the US for centuries has *thrived* on immigration. The current immigrants on our southern border are not the low-lifes that conservatives fear-mongers (including Trump) claim. The ones who made it so far as to reach our borders are the most ambitious and successful people from their failing countries (failing in part due to climate change, and also corrupt governments, which the US might have worked to prevent). They should be welcomed. They come here to work, to expand our economy. Let them work, they will pay taxes. And so on and on.