The Texas Tribune reports on state Republicans’ willingness — or lack thereof — to explain the connection between the slaughter of 22 people in El Paso and the white nationalism spouted by the suspected murderer. Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, whose father Jeb was governor of Florida and whose mother is a Mexican immigrant, got the ball rolling. He said the response “should include standing firm against white terrorism here in the US.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) also chimed in. “'As the son of a Cuban immigrant, I am deeply horrified by the hateful anti-Hispanic bigotry expressed in the shooter’s so-called ‘manifesto,’ Cruz said, labeling the shooting a ‘heinous act of terrorism and white supremacy.’"

Cruz, however, never condemned President Trump’s racist call for four nonwhite congresswomen to “go back" to where they came from. He has not denounced the president when he uses words such as “infested” to describe immigrants. He still fully supports a president who whips up hysteria about immigrants and propagates fear of an “invasion,” the very theme white nationalists use to target immigrants. Maybe someone in Texas should ask why he doesn’t do these things.

Even worse, as the Texas Tribune continues, “By bluntly acknowledging race’s apparent role in the shooting, the statements by Cruz and Bush were different from initial comments by other statewide elected officials including the state’s senior U.S. senator, John Cornyn, as well as Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Abbott emphasized mental health in the immediate aftermath of the shooting Saturday evening, while Patrick decried cultural factors — such as violent video games — in a Fox News interview Sunday morning. He did say the shooting was ‘obviously a hate crime, I think, in my view, against immigrants.’” Even more bizarrely, Cornyn seems helpless as to how to respond. "Sadly, there are some issues, like homelessness and these shootings, where we simply don’t have all the answers,” he wrote on Twitter. On virtually no issue do we have all the answers, but that does not prevent us from taking obvious steps to address serious problems.

Cornyn is on the ballot in 2020, when voters in Texas get to render a verdict on a lawmaker who opposes gun-safety laws supports fear-mongering policies such as building a wall and enthusiastically backs Trump for reelection. He’s silent when asked about the president’s racist remarks. He supports and praises grossly unqualified nominees such as Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.), who was forced to back out of consideration to become the director of national intelligence. Cornyn is, by definition, enabling Trump and providing cover for him — as though Trump had not spouted racism, as though he had not minimized the threat of white nationalist terror after the mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March.

What could Cornyn and other Republicans do? For starters, decline to endorse Trump’s reelection. Then speak out, as Nebraska state lawmaker John McCollister did on Twitter:

McCollister continued, “We have a Republican president who continually stokes racist fears in his base. He calls certain countries ‘sh*tholes,’ tells women of color to ‘go back’ to where they came from and lies more than he tells the truth." He added,"What I am saying though is that the Republican Party is COMPLICIT to obvious racist and immoral activity inside our party. . . . We have Republican senators and representatives who look the other way and say nothing for fear that it will negatively affect their elections. No more. When the history books are written, I refuse to be someone who said nothing.” (We’ve heard nothing from Sen. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, whom Republicans laud as some kind of principled intellectual.)

The specific label — complicity — should be applied to lawmakers such as Cornyn. If he is not denouncing the president’s rhetoric that gives encouragement to white nationalists, he is complicit in the consequences. He can choose Trump or Texans but not both.

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