By Don Ringe
When I first moved to California from New York City in the summer of 1969, I can remember hearing the denunciations of Mexican workers as "wetbacks." Frankly, it took me a while to figure out what that meant. No one swam across the Hudson or East Rivers to get to Queens or New Jersey. I thought they were called wetbacks because they worked so hard in the fields under the hot sun, sweat soaking through their shirts.
When it finally dawned on me that these workers were swimming across the Rio Grande to get to the Promised Land so they could feed their families, I realized that the state was living off the labor of the poor and the backs of the downtrodden.
California Senate President Kevin de Leon grew up shuttling between the two worlds of the squalid streets of Tijuana and the sanitary sanctuaries of San Diego's upper middle class where his mother cleaned houses and took care of the elderly.
No one, not even his mother, thought he was destined for any kind of success, especially not rising to the heights of political power in the largest and richest state in the nation.
So, when Donald Trump denounced virtually all Mexicans as "criminals and rapists" de Leon was shocked, "His comments were quite offensive and our expectation is for all political leaders to stand up in unison against him. It's not about leadership, it's not about partisanship, it's not about ideology. It's about America and Americans first," he said in a recent interview with me.
"We don't allow any individual, irrespective of their political party, irrespective of their ideological inclination, irrespective of their gender or ethnicity to scapegoat, to demagogue, a community as horrifically as Donald Trump has done," de Leon insisted.
De Leon continued, "We're still waiting for the GOP to publicly denounce him. I think that they've been walking gingerly around this issue. I think what's expected is bold leadership... for them to say what you (Trump) have to say is absolutely atrocious and we're asking you to either step away from your campaign or to check yourself. As of today I haven't heard that."
"Is Donald Trump bad for the GOP? The answer is yes. Is he bad for America? Yes." de Leon concluded.
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