In an apparent bid to pick up where the late Rush Limbaugh and the deplatformed former President Donald Trump left off as leading voices for the far-right, Fox News star Tucker Carlson has taken up that burning cross that passes itself off as a “theory.”

It’s called the “great replacement theory.” It was cited by the mass murderers in New Zealand, San Diego and El Paso, Texas, in recent years and turned up as a leading motivator in the Jan. 6 attack by Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol, according to University of Chicago political science professor Robert Pape, director of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats.

CPOST, which specializes in analyzing terror attacks, examined court records, home county demographics and two opinion surveys that it conducted of 377 Americans arrested and charged in the Capitol attack. “One driver overwhelmingly stood out,” Pape wrote in a Washington Post op-ed: “fear of the ‘Great Replacement.’”

The theory, credited to a 2012 book by the French philosopher Renaud Camus and peddled by white nationalists around the globe, puts a new spin on an old fear that minorities of color are steadily replacing white populations because of mass immigration policies and low white birthrates.

You could hear it in the “You will not replace us” and, more pointedly, “Jews will not replace us” chants of white nationalists marching with tiki torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

The theory’s essence was expressed by former Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, in a tweet that led to his downfall among his party’s leaders and his district’s voters, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

And last week, you could hear it in remarks that brought a call from the Anti-Defamation League for Fox News to fire Carlson, which Fox’s owners declined to do.

“Now, I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World,” Carlson said, as a guest on “Fox News Tonight.” “But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening actually. Let’s just say it: That’s true.”

Nope, as the old “Porgy and Bess” song goes, “It ain’t necessarily so,” even if some Democrats as well as Republicans think it is.

For one thing, projecting the racial makeup of future populations calls for data beyond the ability of our current census methods to provide.

For example, there is the matter of what we’re talking about when we classify by race. The race and ethnicity questions have changed with each new decade’s census, along with the public’s perceptions of race and ethnicity.

“We shouldn’t be governing in the 21st century by a race classification given us by a German doctor in 1776,” former U.S. Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt told me in 2013, as he was finishing a book titled, “What is Your Race? The Census and Our Flawed Efforts to Classify Americans.”

He was referring to the old five-race model that sounds less fashionable than dial telephones today: “Caucasian, Mongolian (Asian), Malay (Pacific Islanders), American Indian and Negro.”

Think of how the race and ethnicity questions leave a lot of respondents in today’s pluralistic society scratching their heads over which box to check. For example, a growing number of Americans who consider themselves to be “mixed” are counted as either Black or Hispanic, even though they look or report themselves to be white.

If you simply added half of the “mixed” respondents to the “white” column, some demographers say, the decline of “white” looks a lot less dramatic.

Besides, as Richard Alba, distinguished professor of sociology at the City University of New York and author of “Blurring the Color Line: The New Chance for a More Integrated America,” more recently wrote, we make a mistake if we underestimate this country’s so-called melting pot patterns of assimilation.

“There is no reason to presume that what happened to Catholic ethnics decades ago as a result of assimilation — they became the ‘Reagan Democrats’ — won’t repeat itself,” Alba wrote in a recent op-ed.

I’d say Tucker Carlson and others who have misgivings about those American traditions and others should reverse course. Instead of treating newcomers as hostile and un-meltable, try to enlist their vote as you would any other group of Americans. The nation will be better off if we engage in that welcoming process now rather than to try to leave it to our grandchildren.

Clarence Page is a member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board. His email address is

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