Editorials

Silence isn’t golden for Pierce County Republicans. Not when it comes to Trump’s racist tweets

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Want to really make America great, Washington state Republican leaders? Do what Spokane’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers did.

The highest-ranking GOP woman in Congress considered a foul eruption of tweets that President Trump recently directed at four female members of Congress, and she called them “wrong.” Because that’s exactly what they were.

The most egregious of Trump’s social-media posts told the women to go back to the “crime infested places from which they came.” It provoked the House to pass a resolution casting Trump’s invective as “racist.”

McMorris Rodgers is a proud Eastern Washington conservative and Trump ally, which makes her rebuke of the president’s words a profile in courage. She did what too few in her party are willing to do: stand up to a xenophobic rant.

A junior U.S. senator named John F. Kennedy once authored a book called “Profiles in Courage,” and in it he wrote: “We will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.”

In that spirit, we asked GOP state representatives and senators serving Pierce County if they’d go on record condemning Trump’s tweets. Would they demand better leadership from their party’s figurehead?

We sent emails to the following: Sen. Steve O’Ban of Tacoma; Sen. Hans Zeiger and Reps. Kelly Chambers and Chris Gildon, all of Puyallup; Sen. Randi Becker of Graham; Sen. Phil Fortunato and Rep. Drew Stokesbary of Auburn; Rep. Morgan Irwin of Enumclaw; Rep. Jesse Young of Gig Harbor; Rep. Michelle Caldier of Port Orchard; Rep. Andrew Barkis of Olympia; and Rep. J.T. Wilcox of Yelm.

Separately, the communications director of the House Republican Caucus said he contacted Pierce County members with our inquiry. And we kept any eye on their social-media feeds.

We also invited Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, a respected veteran in state and local GOP circles, to weigh in. (He was on vacation in Canada last week.)

Soliciting state and local officials to comment on national politics isn’t common practice for us, but the president’s tweets were uncommonly offensive. They were an invitation for Trump’s tens of millions of Twitter followers to make hateful comments to people of color who look like the four congresswomen or to others who may share their political beliefs.

The tweets betrayed core democratic principles this country has fought for; surely, we thought, local officials from the party of Lincoln would have something to say.

O’Ban, Becker and Wilcox were the only ones to respond. Each declined comment, saying this was a national issue.

It is not.

Racism must be repudiated at every level of government. It must be shut down on the school yard, at places of work, and, yes, on social media.

Isn’t it the job of our Pierce County elected officials to make constituents feel safe?

How safe do people of diverse backgrounds feel when their president tells a naturalized U.S. citizen to “go back” where she came from? How safe do people who worship in the Islamic Center of Tacoma and other mosques feel when they hear the president say certain people aren’t capable of loving our country?

At least state Republican Party Chairman Caleb Heimlich told a reporter that the “Send her back” chants heard at a Trump rally last week had no place in public discourse.

Those who say the president’s words will soon be forgotten are wrong. What’s worse, Trump’s comments are inextricably tied to his immigration policies, which should be driven by laws and common sense, not vile rhetoric.

It’s not too late for Republicans to publicly condemn these tweets, but time is wasting.

At the NAACP national convention last week, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, Trump’s only challenger for the Republican nomination in 2020, issued a warning: “Unless the Republican party in Washington expressly rejects the racism of Donald Trump, they’re going to be universally viewed as the party of racism in America.”

So far, it seems local politicians are willing to take that chance.

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