Donald Trump is a loudmouth who will apparently say anything to bring attention to his long-shot presidential campaign. But otherwise reasonable people should not get so caught up in the billionaire's offensive shtick that they sink to his level of grandstanding in reaction.
That's why it's dismaying to see so many California senators sign on to an ill-conceived resolution by Sen. Isadore Hall III (D-Compton) calling on (but not requiring) the state government to divest from investments in Trump's business concerns. The measure is intended to punish Trump for his ignorant comments disparaging Mexican immigrants in a speech three weeks ago announcing his entry into the crowded GOP presidential race.
Here's what Trump said: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best.... They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people."
That's distasteful stuff. And not totally out of line for Trump, who has also been accused of saying that "laziness is a trait in blacks" and that he would want his money counted only by "short guys that wear yarmulkes all day." But the proposed resolution, SB 39, is almost as troubling as Trump's cheap shots. The government and its agents have no business manipulating public dollars — investing them or disinvesting them — to chill free speech, even if it is offensive speech. Is California prepared to establish a test for which bigots and blowhards it will stop doing business with next? Do we really want politicians making — and enforcing — such judgments?
Hall's resolution also calls on private business to boycott Trump's companies, although that hardly seems necessary at this point. Many of Trump's business partners cut ties shortly after his remarks about Mexicans. Macy's, NBCUniversal, NASCAR and PGA, among others, have washed their hands of Trump and his companies, and #dumptrump is a trending topic on Twitter. And nearly every high-profile Latino has denounced Trump in some fashion.
The speed with which companies are disassociating themselves from Trump and the fact that the outrage hasn't waned yet illustrate the emerging power of the nation's Latino population, in the economy as well as in politics. No place is that more apparent than in California, where Latinos replaced whites as the largest ethnic group last year.
That's the real message here, and one Trump and other candidates would be smart to remember. The once-reliable strategy of immigrant-bashing to appeal to the GOP base now has consequences. Trump may be rich, but he's losing millions from the severed business ties.
(Incidentally, Trump may not think much of the Mexicans living in the U.S., but he has no problem with visiting L.A., the city with the largest Mexican diaspora on Earth. Trump is scheduled to appear at a political dinner Friday at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel where, odds are, Mexican immigrants are employed.)
The ire of state legislators, especially those who are Mexican American, is completely understandable. They are welcome to rebuke the man. But for the sake of their own reputations, they ought to stop there.