USA Today (Op-Ed)
By Raul Reyes
June 24, 2015
Leave it to The Donald to drag the presidential race to a new low. Announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination last week, Donald Trump stated that, "The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everyone else's problems." He took aim at Mexican immigrants, saying, "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
His comments drew fire from everyone from CNN commentator Sally Kohn to Arturo Vargas, the Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Mexico's Minister of Government Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong called his remarks "absurd."
But not everyone, it seems, took offense to Trump's speech. His fellow candidates and the Republican National Committee have not called him out for his bigotry. The collective Republican response to Trump is mostly silence. That is troubling.
Trump's comments are not only derogatory to Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. They are derogatory to Latinos and all Americans who are descended from immigrants. Yet when asked to comment on Trump's presidential rollout, presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina told radio host Hugh Hewitt that Trump was "endlessly entertaining" and that he tapped "into the frustration of the American people with the professional political class." On Twitter, Ted Cruz and George Pataki welcomed Trump into the race. The other Republican candidates, Politico reported Friday, have not spoken out against Trump.
This lack of outrage is striking because two other leading GOP candidates have deep roots in the Hispanic community and yet did not denounce Trump's divisive words. Jeb Bush is married to a Mexican immigrant, and his children are Mexican-American. He has stated that lives the "immigrant experience" by virtue of his marriage. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is the son of Cuban immigrants, and has made his compelling personal biography a centerpiece of his campaign. Neither Bush nor Rubio, however, has stood up for Latinos against Trump's insults.
The Republican National Committee's reaction to Trump is not much better; on Twitter, the RNC also welcomed him to the 2016 race. Asked about Trump on CNN, Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee's Chief Strategist and Communications Director, said that Trump's comments were "not helpful to the cause." Then he pivoted to a discussion of border security, sending the message that Trump's words didn't matter.
The Republican reluctance to criticize Trump is mystifying considering that the blog FiveThirtyEight.com has rated him "the most hated candidate" in decades. Based on recent polls, they found that 57% of Republican voters have an unfavorable view of the developer and reality TV star. It would not cost much, politically, for mainstream Republicans to rebuke Trump, or at least challenge his outrageous statements. Trump said that immigration leads to more crime, for instance, while research from the American Immigration Council suggests otherwise.
The sad thing here is that the GOP has missed another opportunity to show the Hispanic community that it respects them. For all the Republican talk about being an inclusive party, their tolerance of Trump speaks volumes.
There was one candidate who had the courage to speak up about Trump: Hillary Clinton. She said his words were "emblematic" of the kind of rhetoric that cannot be tolerated in light of events like the South Carolina church shootings. She's right. But this shouldn't be a Democratic or Republican issue. Unfounded attacks on ethnic groups ought not be tolerated by any of our aspiring leaders, regardless of political affiliation.
Sure, immigration is still a contentious issue among some conservatives; former RNC Chairman Michael Steele said last week on MSNBC that Trump's comments resonate with voters. "There are a lot of folks who look at the Mexican border the way he pronounced it yesterday," Steele said. That is no excuse for hate speech. A candidate can be against immigration or immigration reform and not devolve into racism. Imagine the furor that would have likely erupted if Trump had similarly disparaged African Americans or Jews. Meanwhile, it is still acceptable for a presidential candidate to denigrate Latinos.
Trump's anti-Hispanic comments have no place in civil discourse. His words were shameful — and so is the silence that followed them.
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