To the editor:

I initially wrote this letter thinking I would submit it for September, as the summer wound down and people’s attention began to turn to November’s city elections, and the rapidly intensifying atmosphere of the 2020 presidential campaign season.

But that all changed with the horrific mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, and the news that the alleged shooter was driven by extreme xenophobia and racism -- not unlike the young shooter in California several days earlier..

I would argue that Donald Trump’s rhetoric plays a much bigger role in these most recent mass murders than many Americans want to admit or acknowledge

The cynical and dangerous manipulation of race and racism by Donald Trump in order to score cheap political points with his base as he seeks re-election is as clear as day and undeniable.

It is also becoming increasingly clear that the more incendiary, vile and despicable “The Donald’s” rhetoric becomes, the more dangerous the most fanatical, right-wing, white-nationalist, faux-Christian, neo-fascist elements of today’s “Trumpublican Party’s” base become.

Consider these realities:

According to FBI statistics, of the 850 domestic terrorism cases now making their way through the criminal justice system, nearly half involve racially motivated acts of violence.

Law enforcement officials define domestic terrorism as “Violence committed by Americans who belong to anti-government militias, white supremacist groups, or individuals not affiliated with Islamic extremism.”

In both 2017 and 2018, the number of acts of “domestic terrorism” carried out in the U.S. that met law enforcement’s definition of such crimes far exceeded the number of similar crimes carried out by individuals or groups claiming allegiance to radical Islam.

Yet, when Donald Trump revs up his base with tough talk on terrorism and terrorists, he selectively ignores the fact the biggest terrorist threat facing America today is the homegrown, right wing, white nationalist, bigoted variety that Donald Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric encourages and validates.

Donald Trump may not technically be responsible for the violence carried out by the right-wing white nationalists who swoon to his scatological references to foreign countries; who cheer when he calls the presence of immigrants and people of color in America an “infestation”; and who chant “send her back” when Trump attacks Congresswoman Ilhan Omar at his cult rallies. Should white nationalist violence befall Rep. Omar, Donald Trump will, indeed, have her blood on his hands.

What I cannot understand is why so few traditional Republicans at the local, state or national levels are speaking out against what is clearly a racist and increasingly dangerous and inflammatory re-election strategy on the part of the Trump campaign.

Where, for example, do Republicans seeking office in November’s municipal elections here in Gloucester stand on that strategy? I do not want to believe anyone seeking political office in our fair city can abide, let alone support, the kind of ugly and racist venom “The Donald” is spewing as he scrambles to hold on to power.

Where is Bruce Tarr on this issue, given he will be almost certainly seek re-election next year?

In addition to where local Republican pols stand on Donald Trump’s vile and racist rhetoric, Gloucester voters have a right to know if Republican candidates running for municipal or state offices, whether this year or next, support the massive cuts to programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, housing and food assistance that the Trump administration and the national leadership of the Republican Party are looking to inflict upon the American people.

Should any, or all, of those budget cuts be enacted, the impact on many of Gloucester’s most vulnerable residents, including the elderly, the disabled, and children, will be significant — and painful.

Now, in ordinary times, city elections have traditionally been non-partisan in nature. But these are not ordinary times.

Too much, including “small l, “small d” liberal democracy itself, is at stake for Republican candidates for city office not to tell Gloucester voters where they stand on Donald Trump’s racist re-election strategy. There is too much at stake not to ask local Republican candidates where they stand on the draconian cuts to vital safety net programs that Trump and Mitch McConnell are working tirelessly to enact.

Gloucester voters not only have a right to know where local Republicans stand on these issues, we have a patriotic duty to ask local Republicans, especially those running for office, where they stand on these issues.

After all, there is just too much at stake for us not to ask such questions.

And in the wake of the most recent massacre in El Paso, time may be running for there to find peaceful solutions to the questions and issues threatening the political and social stability of the nation.

Michael Cook