Newsletter: El Paso, Dayton and Gilroy test the patience for politics as usual in America


There’s a kind of cultural and political paradox at this moment in time when it comes to the phrase “words matter.”

For many who lament the nation’s political rhetoric — who insist that there are consequences when things are said — there is also an insistence that words are hardly sufficient in the aftermath of gun tragedies.

That words haven’t translated into action remains the issue. And though the political world is likely to be consumed this week by the events of the past few days, consensus seems unlikely. More fights loom on the horizon.



No political figure will be pressed more on what’s next than President Trump, who posted a handful of tweets over the weekend and made brief comments to reporters on Sunday as he returned to Washington from his New Jersey golf resort. The president largely avoided reporters after deadly shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

But it was Trump’s well-known penchant for using sharp and often divisive language that drew special attention after Saturday’s mass shooting in El Paso, where the suspect’s alleged online writings angrily denounced immigrants.

A top Trump aide, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, retorted in a televised interview that “I don’t think it’s fair to lay this at the feet of the president.”

Democratic presidential hopefuls took sharp exception to that. “I have this belief that you reap what you sow, and he is sowing seeds of hate in this country,” Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who is seeking his party’s 2020 nomination, said of Trump.

Few were as pointed in their critique of Trump as Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman from El Paso. “He is a racist, and he stokes racism in this country,” O’Rourke said about the president on Saturday. “And it does not just offend our sensibilities; it fundamentally changes the character of this country, and it leads to violence.”

Many Latino communities are seeing the violence as a new low point, a reflection of what they see as a political climate that’s brought anger over immigration and the changing face of the nation to a boiling point.



One sure bet is that Democrats and gun-control advocates will be calling attention to a bill that won bipartisan support in the House back in February — expanding background checks on all gun sales, including private transactions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not allowed the bill to come up for a vote in the Senate in the intervening months.

Gov. Gavin Newsom lashed out at McConnell over the weekend after the Kentucky Republican called the fatal shootings “horrifying.”

“You don’t get to pretend like you’re horrified while you actively block legislation that could prevent another tragedy,” the governor tweeted on Sunday afternoon.

“We’re past the tipping point. This is a crisis,” Newsom wrote in an earlier tweet on Sunday. “Our leaders must address it as such — or leave office.”

Similar criticisms were lodged in statements by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


-- More prosecutors are trying to reform criminal justice systems that they say don’t work. Critics say their approach will send crime rates back up.


-- The candidacy of Kimberly Ellis for California Democratic Party chair — along with Sen. Kamala Harris’ strong showing at a recent debate and in the polls — is fueling a renewed push by black women in the state to demand more clout in the party for which they have long fought.

-- Legal challenges seem inevitable in the wake of Newsom’s decision to sign the bill requiring Trump and other presidential candidates to release their tax returns or forfeit a spot on California’s primary ballot.

-- Newsom signed a law blocking a project from pumping groundwater from the Mojave Desert without approval from the State Lands Commission.

-- Nearly two years after wildfires ripped through Northern California’s wine country, those who suffered losses from the blazes have yet to receive more than $200 million in federal funding intended to rebuild and help prevent future disasters in the state.

-- Attacking Los Angeles’ City Hall is a popular political tactic in the San Fernando Valley, even for a candidate who spent years at City Hall.

-- California banned taxpayer-funded travel to states with “anti-LGBTQ” laws, but lawmakers are still visiting.



Essential Politics is written by Sacramento bureau chief John Myers on Mondays and Washington bureau chief David Lauter on Fridays. We’ll be off Aug. 9.

You can keep up with breaking news on our politics page throughout the day. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

Miss Friday’s newsletter? Here you go.

Please send thoughts, concerns and news tips to

Did someone forward you this? Sign up here to get Essential Politics in your inbox.