We know that the so-called “great replacement” theory, which has inspired white supremacist massacres from New Zealand to Buffalo, is a racist hoax. But after a few days professing sorrow over a white supremacist’s murdering 10 Black people at East Buffalo’s Tops Friendly Supermarket last Saturday, and after disavowing the theory, conservative pundits began to fight back. There is, in fact, a great replacement theory, they now argue—and it’s been peddled by Democrats. They’re claiming it emerged largely from a book by two friends of mine: The Emerging Democratic Majority, written by Ruy Teixeira and John B. Judis roughly 20 years ago.
As Republicans flip from “We don’t believe in a great replacement theory” to “Hey, it’s real, but Democrats invented it!”—they routinely cite Judis and Teixeira.
Ann Coulter counted the two authors among the “nutcases who believe in ‘replacement’” in a column last week, claiming that their 2002 book held “that demographic changes, mostly by immigration, were putting Democrats on a glide path to an insuperable majority.” National Review editor Rich Lowry said the book made the case that Democrats are “the party of transition” as “white America is supplanted by multiracial, multiethnic America.” Boy genius (not) Ben Shapiro cribbed the exact same line Lowry did, claiming that Teixeira and Judis envisioned a world “in which white America is supplanted by multiracial, multiethnic America.” (Being Ben Shapiro, he got the book’s pub date wrong.)
In National Review last week, Charles C.W. Cooke slurred the writers for essentially arguing that “demographics will destroy the GOP, all we need to do is wait.” In The Federalist, John Daniel Davidson insisted “the notion that ‘demographics is destiny’ has been a long-running belief among Democrats, famously spelled out in John Judis and Ruy Teixeira’s widely acclaimed 2004 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority. Part of their argument rests on the assumption that immigration, legal and illegal, will swell the ranks of Democrat voters and hasten the inevitable emergence of a permanent Democratic majority.” (Again, guys, the book came out in 2002.)
I wrote about the book at the time, and if you actually read it, you’ll see that these criticisms miss a lot. If you can remember back 20 years, you’ll recall that was a deadly midterm season for Democrats, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War. I wrote that the two authors might have become a punch line, given that Democrats had given no signs of grabbing an “emerging majority” anytime soon, with the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives firmly in GOP hands. Except their book was well-researched and well-reasoned and didn’t in any way predict a “glide path” for Democrats. So it was not undone by one bad election season, and it’s likewise not undone by wing nuts lying about what’s in it.
The main thing I remembered about the book, though, was that it was not about people of color replacing white people, or replacing white voters as Democrats. The future Democratic majority, when it emerged, was going to feature plenty of white people—majorities of white women, young people, the college-educated, so-called “professionals.” As I wrote at the time: “It’s more than just women, minorities and urban voters—the new majority, according to Judis and Teixeira, also includes professionals, a formerly Republican constituency that’s grown, gotten more diverse, and has been turned off by right-wing rhetoric as well as the erosion of their standard of living (Walter Mondale was the first Democrat to make inroads among professionals), and even suburban voters living around what they call ‘ideopolises,’ sprawling intellectual centers from Silicon Valley, Calif., to Madison, Wis., home to a knowledge class that’s edging out the working class in numbers and importance.”
Well, that last phrase is mine—and 20 years later, I think we’ve seen that investing in the “knowledge class” at the expense of the working class hasn’t done well for the Democratic Party, but Judis and Teixeira didn’t argue that.
My point is, white racists tell on themselves when they can’t see that white people are included in virtually any version of a “multiracial” America, whether utopian or dystopian. Plus, Teixeira and Judis never promoted the notion that immigration, legal or illegal, was going to transform the Democratic Party. The growth of “ideopolises” was a bigger deal. If you can’t grab the book off one of your bookshelves, try this excerpt from The New York Times. And see if you recognize the book Ann Coulter and others are slurring.
The other reason I knew these lying liars are lying is that Judis and Teixeira aren’t ideologues. Their book didn’t advocate policy; it described trends. And they’ve continued to follow the trends: In January 2015, Judis predicted the Hispanic defection to the GOP we’ve seen in the past few election cycles in a National Journal essay, “The Emerging Republican Advantage.” Teixeira updated that analysis on his Substack in December.
And here is the point at which I say: I love these guys, but I don’t entirely agree with them on the future for Democrats, these 20 years later. It never was a “glide path” based on demography, and they didn’t argue that. And it never will be. But if we ignore the party’s activist base, which is very diverse, we’ll have a whole other set of problems I don’t know the answer to.