A bill that would expand the options to criminally punish individuals who commit hate crimes motivated by white supremacy or conspire to do so was recently introduced in the House by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).
The legislation, if enacted, would tack motivations of white supremacy onto the list of factors recognized under a particular section of federal law in instances of hate crimes, and the proposal would leave those committing hate crimes in connection to documented white supremacy vulnerable to a prison term of any length, up to life in prison, if found guilty. The proposal would also allow for those spreading white supremacy online to potentially face criminal consequences if what they posted or said “was read, heard, or viewed by a person who engaged in the planning, development, preparation, or perpetration of a white supremacy inspired hate crime.” Other factors in determining a propagandist’s criminal liability here include that what they distributed was generally available to those inclined or it was reasonably possible could lean towards white supremacy and that the content could “motivate actions” by such individuals, according to reasonable estimations.
In theory, this proposal could eventually ensnare GOP political figures, some of whom — like Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) have sometimes directly promoted a version of something like the white supremacist idea that there is an intentional conspiracy to replace white residents with other groups. On Fox News, host Tucker Carlson has also spread similar concepts. The proposed bill, which available details indicate was referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration, specifically lists the concept of “replacement theory” — which is what Stefanik helped promote — among the examples of the extremist ideology it targets. Several high-profile incidents of violence in the United States, including the mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo last year and the mass shooting at an El Paso Wal-Mart that took place in 2019, were perpetrated by individuals directly espousing white supremacist ideas.
Attackers acting in line with such ideology could take inspiration from Trump himself, who has repeatedly talked about a supposed “invasion” over the southern border of the United States, which remains an objectively ridiculous method of describing the immigration situation. One could also reasonably connect the attack on the Capitol in 2021 that was perpetrated by Trump supporters to white supremacy. From Atlanta to Detroit, many of the locales targeted by conspiracy theorists complaining about imaginary problems in the 2020 election have large populations from marginalized communities, and what the rioters sought was to forcibly block the formal acknowledgement by Congress of what were in reality well-documented presidential votes from these groups. Trump explicitly called for all those detained in connection to the riot to be released.