Texas officials need to confront the schoolyard bully, the one in the White House

Gov. Greg Abbott is not a racist, but the same statement cannot be made with any degree of certainty or credibility about the president of the United States, and therein lies a dilemma for the governor of Texas and for many of his elected Republican colleagues. But it is past time for them to gut up, put partisan politics aside and demand the president stop the inflammatory trash talk.

Any schoolyard bully who talked like the president would have been sent to detention a long time ago.

Following the shootings in El Paso, Abbott acknowledged the alleged gunman was intent on murdering Hispanics, and he condemned what he called “racist domestic terrorism.” Abbott obviously deplores white supremacy. And you can argue until you are beet red in the race over whether President Trump’s provocative tweets and comments, including a declaration that there was an “invasion” threatening the southern border, had anything to do with motivating a hateful young man to drive hundreds of miles and target Hispanics in a shooting spree at the El Paso Walmart.

But you deny reality if you deny the fact that Trump, intentionally or not, has promoted racism and emboldened white supremacists from the day he announced his campaign for the White House by decrying Mexican immigrants as drug-dealers and rapists and vowing to erect a border wall.

Racism – plus cruelty and government ineptness – resulted in thousands of immigrant children being separated from their parents and put in cages along the border.

It came to a head in Charlottesville, Va., when white supremacists emerged from the shadows to take to the streets in a violent demonstration that resulted in one death. It came to a head again in El Paso with the deaths of 22 people who went to Walmart at the wrong time.

And sometimes it is more subtle. Over the weekend, the Bloomberg news outlet reported that Stephen Miller, the president’s chief immigrant-basher, had tried to find ways a couple of years ago to block children who were undocumented immigrants from enrolling in public school.

The effort was abandoned after Miller and Trump were reminded (if they had ever known) that the U.S. Supreme Court, in a decision in a Texas case years ago, had guaranteed admission to public schools for all immigrant children who are U.S. residents.

I am glad to see Abbott and other Republican leaders in Texas attack racism and white supremacy, even though it should be a no-brainer. Abbott has appointed a special commission to recommend strategies for combating hate and promoting healing in the wake of the El Paso tragedy. And Land Commissioner George P. Bush, whose mother was born in Mexico, wrote an oped in the Atlantic condemning racism – but not Trump’s rhetoric — right after the shootings.

They refuse to call out Trump over his race-baiting remarks because they don’t want to undermine his reelection chances in Texas or their own future reelections for that matter, even though U.S. Sen. John Cornyn will be the only top elected Republican on the ballot with the president next year. Border security and immigration are major concerns of many Texas voters, even though Trump’s brand of immigrant-bashing has nothing to do with real border security.

In truth, Abbott and his colleagues are practicing political expediency, a former of political cowardice, at a time when racism, intolerance and fear are much greater threats to our country than is immigration.

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