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Column: Can a columnist named Lopez be fair to a candidate named Trump?

Trump protesters
A protester against Donald Trump waves a Mexican flag outside of the Hyatt Regency hotel in Burlingame, Calif., on April 29, 2016.
(Associated Press)

Given my last name, maybe I shouldn’t be writing this column.

Why not?

Because it’s about Donald Trump.

And maybe I’m biased because, well, quien sabe?

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The Republican presidential candidate has sent his own party leaders into fits, yet again, for what they called Trump’s racist comments about a San Diego judge named Gonzalo Curiel.

According to Trump, Curiel can’t be fair in presiding over a lawsuit against Trump University by people who say the Donald ripped them off.

His signature achievement has been to make crudeness, ignorance and hatred a formula for political success at the highest level.

“He is a Mexican,” Trump said of Curiel on CNN. “We are building a wall between here and Mexico.”

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If Curiel has a conflict of interest, what about me? Can a columnist named Lopez be fair to a presidential candidate who has alienated legions of Latinos?

To answer, I think we have to consider another question first.

Am I a Mexican?

I’m pretty sure I’m not. My grandparents on one side came from Spain, I’m told, although I never asked to see their birth certificates.

But I should be declared an honorary Mexican for all the times readers have told me to go back to Mexico.

Then again, Judge Curiel is not a Mexican, either. He was born in Indiana. That makes him a U.S. citizen of Mexican heritage, boys and girls.

Only in Trump’s world is he “a Mexican,” which is like saying Trump is a Scot, or a German.

If he becomes president, how do we know whose side he’s on?

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And by the way, while Trump was selling T-bones and luxury condos in preparation for leading the free world, Curiel was a federal prosecutor who went after Mexican drug cartels and had to live in hiding for a while because of an assassination plot against him.

Imagine the advances we’ll make in race relations under President Trump, a man whose idea of détente with the Latino community is to pose on Cinco de Mayo with a taco bowl from the Trump Tower Grill.

“I love Hispanics!” he tweeted.

Was that just for me, because I’m Hispanic but not Latino?

By the way, it’s not just Latinos – and Muslims, and women, and the disabled – who think there’s something not right about how Trump’s mind works and how his tongue flaps.

On Friday in Redding, the presumptive GOP nominee (is that as hard to read as it is to write?) was praising a black supporter who had kicked a protester three months ago in Arizona. Then the candidate spotted a black man in the audience.

“Look at my African American over here,” Trump shouted. “Look at him. Are you the greatest?”

It’s probably not a wise idea for a white candidate to sound like he’s about to auction off a black supporter, but this is where we are.

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I’m intrigued by the question, “Are you the greatest?”

What does that mean?

Greatest person in Redding? Greatest athlete? Greatest African American who ever lived?

Hard to say.

What we haven’t heard from Trump at this late stage of the election cycle is a coherent domestic policy or foreign policy or economic policy.

Rather, his signature achievement has been to make crudeness, ignorance and hatred a formula for political success at the highest level. Fifty-two years after some of America’s greatest statesmen signed the Civil Rights Act, Trump brays contempt for the very notion of civility.

Millions of people went to the polls Tuesday in California, one of the most diverse places on earth, to participate in the democratic process. The weather was lovely, the turnout was expected to be decent for a primary, and the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States of America was in the news for adding another Archie Bunker moment to his highlight reel.

But you know what?

I don’t blame him.

Trump is just being Trump, doing what works.

Sixteen other Republicans wanted the nomination, but they didn’t have a chance.

He grabbed a head start when he said Mexico was sending rapists and drug dealers across the border, he picked up speed with a promise to build a wall and to send Muslims back where they came from, and soon he broke from the pack.

Trump figured out the campaign math and nobody was better at division.

You can argue that his provocations in a dangerous world make all of us less safe, but it doesn’t matter.

You can argue that his trade proposals would accomplish the opposite of their intent, but it doesn’t matter.

He is ascendant because people are buying the act, which plays to our worst rather than our best instincts.

Defend the size of your manhood on national TV?

You bet.

Turn policy debates into towel-snapping contests?

He was the best.

Toss red meat to knuckle-draggers?

Three cheers.

Hillary Clinton is not without her own failings and flaws. But she doesn’t have members of her own party apologizing for things a grownup candidate shouldn’t think or say.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who for months couldn’t bring himself to support Trump, on principle, finally loosened his grip on principle and gave in.

Now he’s got huevos rancheros on his face.

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“Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” Ryan said. “I think that should absolutely be disavowed. It’s unacceptable.”

So did he cut the cord, claim there’s no place in the GOP for bigots, or at least demand an apology?

Three strikes there.

“But do I believe Hillary Clinton is the answer?” Ryan went on. “No, I do not.”

Of course not. In the year the GOP wanted to make peace with Latino voters, better to stick with the guy you’ve just accused of racism.

I have to remind you, though, to consider my judgment with a grain of salt.

My name is common south of the border.

And Trump wants to build a wall.

MORE FROM STEVE LOPEZ:

‘Did you call 911?’ Here’s how one man reached out to his rescuers

Earnest UC Irvine student seeks to shake up the Republican Party

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