The photo that Donald Trump tweeted of himself eating a taco bowl for Cinco de Mayo while proclaiming “I love Hispanics!” had to be a joke. Or better yet, a bad dream, the kind where you shake your head and laugh nervously after waking.
This couldn’t be the presumptive presidential nominee of one of America’s two major political parties. A man this ignorant, vulgar and uninformed couldn’t be a finalist for the Oval Office.
Yet he is. He’s cleared the field in the most cartoonish primary season of my lifetime, the last person standing among the 17 Republican presidential candidates.
Even though the California primary is a formality at this point, Trump is getting endorsements from local people I know and respect, including Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones and former Rep. Doug Ose.
It doesn’t seem to matter that Trump is doubling down on his farcical promise to build a wall separating the U.S. from Mexico – one he claims Mexico will pay for or else face a cut off of remittances sent to the country.
It doesn’t seem to matter that Trump is renewing his pledge for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” (So Sadiq Khan, the newly elected mayor of London, would be barred from entering the U.S. if Trump gets enough votes in November?)
And it doesn’t stop there. Trump told The Washington Post editorial board last week that he “is not a believer in man-made climate change.”
He has repeated throughout his campaign that he was openly against the Iraq War in 2002. However, there is no proof he ever voiced any opposition to the war. In fact, BuzzFeed found an audio recording of Trump being asked in 2002 if he supported the war then. His answer: “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Trump is unusual – unprecedented – in that no matter how often it is determined that what he is saying is false, he doesn’t stop saying it,” said Glenn Kessler, who writes “Fact Checker” for The Washington Post, in the Columbia Journalism Review.
In a fit of pique against rival Ted Cruz, Trump said that Cruz’s father was with Lee Harvey Oswald before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Trump’s source: The National Enquirer.
In political campaigns of the past, a major party front-runner would have been loath to act in such an uncouth and irresponsible way. And yet? On rolls Trump. He’s on pace to get the most primary votes of any Republican candidate in history, according to Politifact, the fact-checking project run by the Tampa Bay Times, which gave Trump’s 2015 comments its “Lie of the Year” award and keeps a running tally of his current half-truths, misstatements and outright falsehoods.
To his credit, Sheriff Scott Jones, who is challenging Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, for the Sacramento County congressional district that runs from Folsom to Galt, said he does not support a travel ban on Muslims. Jones acknowledges that the immigration issue is more complex than Trump makes it out to be. Jones said he is not going to go out of his way to endorse Trump or link his congressional candidacy to the GOP standard-bearer.
“I will vote for him but that’s a far cry from saying I support him or endorse what he has said,” Jones told me by phone on Friday. “The easiest thing to would be for me to distance myself from Trump. But I decided I was going to mitigate my stress level by being honest and saying I was going to vote for him. … (Trump) is better than Hillary Clinton.”
It’s a partisan answer. And until now, partisan answers largely made sense. People want to vote for their parties. Picking up on Jones’ honesty pledge, I’ll share that I haven’t voted for any of the GOP presidential candidates in my lifetime: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney.
But while I disagreed with their policies, I never doubted that any of those men were qualified to be president. I never viewed any of them as repugnant human beings. George H.W. Bush, Dole and McCain served their country with distinction in the military. Reagan was a master politician who shared nuanced and evolved views on immigration with George W. Bush. Romney was a formidable candidate and is a decent man.
These men made presidential elections exciting clashes of ideas and ideals. I used to love presidential elections, until Trump.
If you vote for him, you’re voting for the whole package: the repeated lies, the pledge to discriminate against Muslims, the demonization of Mexicans, the disparagement of women and the disabled.
I had a very cordial, rational conversation about Trump with my friend Doug Ose, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1999-2005. He thinks Trump’s business acumen will be good for the country and openly endorses him.
At the end of our talk, we asked each other about our children the way we always do. I hung up and struggled to reconcile the regard I have for Ose and Jones with their pledge to vote for Trump.
Some won’t reconcile it. Rob Stutzman, one of the elite Republican political operatives in Sacramento, won’t jump on the Trump train.
“It’s untenable that someone so unqualified would occupy the office,” Stutzman said. “My faith says I can’t vote for who seeks the office by destroying and demeaning people.” Stutzman said he won’t vote for Trump or Clinton.
Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna took to Facebook on Friday to call out Jones for his endorsement of the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee. “Trump is a racist and a misogynist who has managed to offend everyone,” Serna wrote. “There is no other conclusion except that Sheriff Jones shares the same values as Trump.”
Later, Serna told me: “In our form of democracy, we place confidence in our candidates because we share their values. … As the first Mexican American to serve on the (Sacramento) County Board of Supervisors I had to say something.”
Me too. I can’t abide Trump, can’t envision him in the White House, think he represents the worst of our culture.
If you vote for Trump, you vote for what he stands for – all of it. There is no agreeing to disagree on many of the positions he takes. Not when the soul of our country is at stake.