Columnist Mary Sanchez says that when Joaquin Castro tweeted the names and businesses of big Trump donors, it was fair game.
Victimhood is a game everybody can play in U.S. politics. Indeed, the most avid players are the most undeserving of pity: President Donald Trump and his band of retainers, financiers and other enablers.
Consider the backlash over Rep. Joaquin Castro's tweet listing the names and businesses of 44 constituents who had maxed out the contribution limits to Trump's campaign. Castro, a Democrat representing Texas' 20th District, which includes half of San Antonio, is the twin brother of Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro.
Castro clearly explained his intent: "Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as 'invaders.' "
As if following a talking points memo, Republicans responded with wounded dudgeon. "Targeting and harassing Americans because of their political beliefs is shameful and dangerous," tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
"People should not be personally targeted for their political views. Period. This isn't a game. It's dangerous, and lives are at stake," tweeted Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. "I know this firsthand." Indeed he does, having survived being shot in an assassination attempt.
What these Republicans ignore is that their party has inexorably rolled back regulation of campaign contributions on the specific ground that they constitute "speech" and are thus protected by the First Amendment. If contributions to Trump are "speech," what is Castro doing other than merely quoting them?
Of course, contributions to Trump are not merely speech, no matter what a Supreme Court majority fatuously ruled. They are acts with consequences.
Ask the survivors of the gun assault in El Paso by a white supremacist that murdered 22 victims. Ask the bereaved families.
Ask the residents of El Paso and the many Mexican nationals who cross daily to shop and work, who now fear being hunted like prey by another deranged gunman.
Ask Latinos living along the long U.S. southern border, who fear arrest even if they are citizens of this country.
Examine the attacker's alleged manifesto. The four-page screed opens by saying the attack "is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas." The writer rails against "open borders," "free healthcare for illegals," Hispanic "invaders."
The author pledges that there will be no need to "send them back" given the incentive to flee that he and other "patriotic Americans" will provide.
Does that language sound familiar? It should.
The writer took pains to stress that his views predated Trump's presidency. In doing so, he highlighted the link. The heinous thoughts of a young man believed to be a mass murderer ring with the tone, and much of the messaging, of the president of the United States.
In light of this, it's a fair question to ask Trump's funders if they are still willing to pledge their loyalty to him with their wallets.
The campaign donation information is public record. Castro broke no laws. An individual's vote is private. His or her contribution to a candidate for federal office is not.
A few days after Castro's tweet, the focus shifted to Stephen Ross, the billionaire whose financial investments include the Miami Dolphins and the fitness enterprises Equinox and SoulCycle, along with Hudson Yards. Now, all are being targeted in reaction to the high-end fundraising event Ross is to host for Trump's re-election.
Trump's many slurs against Latinos are well catalogued, as are the countless social media ads his campaign has disseminated referring to the "invasion" of America by Latinos.
Trump and his apologists deserve to be pressed about where they stand on the president's dangerous verbal antics.
Absurdly, Trump insists that his rhetoric "brings people together." If he believes that -- and I'm not sure he does -- he is delusional. His words and gestures are understood by white racists, and it should surprise no one that they are echoed in manifestos and social media ramblings of right-wing fanatics, including, apparently, the one who attacked in El Paso.
In 2016, voters could still claim that they were naive to the Trump's unsavory edges. No longer.
The unscripted, unfiltered Trump will soon re-emerge, standing before adoring MAGA fans. The president will gloat about how he's righteous and persecuted, and the adoring crowd will chant "Send 'em back," or maybe even shout about shooting immigrants, as happened at a Florida rally in May. And Trump will slyly distance himself from such sentiments while also signaling his pleasure in them. And the charade will go on, with the victimized president's victimized devotees screaming for the punishment of his enemies.
You own this, Trump funders. You can't feign ignorance. Be accountable. If he's still your candidate, own it and be willing to take the financial consequences.
Mary Sanchez’ column is distributed by Tribune Content Agency. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.