WASHINGTON - One of the everlasting social forces in directing human behavior - shame - has become part of the 2020 presidential race.

And one of the most shameful things in these times is to be thought or labeled a racist. As it should be, if true.

Thus, some Democrats and others hoping to defeat President Trump have begun a campaign of shaming anyone who supports or contributes to his re-election. Appallingly, this new tactic is attached to the nation's recent mass murders and is organized around a damning narrative: that Trump's incendiary, hate-fueled rhetoric made him an accessory to these killings and, therefore, that those who support him are, likewise, accessories.

If causation is missing - and it is - there's plenty of documentable evidence to support a supposition that Trump's singling out of minorities for ridicule and stereotyping has added to the fevers of the already inclined. As a moral imperative, at the very least, he should be condemned and voted out of office.

Shaming in politics often has the opposite effect, otherwise known as backlash. This past week, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, twin brother of presidential candidate Julian Castro, outed several Trump contributors in a tweet. Ironically, six of those he exposed had also contributed to him and his brother - and one was wrongly identified. Cue backlash. Such "shaming," in addition to appearing "thuggish," as Karl Rove so expertly put it, also contributes to a climate of reprisals that one hopes wouldn't include violence, but in today's extreme world, who knows?

Trigger fingers, though associated of late with white supremacists, disgruntled former employees and emotionally disturbed young men with deranged agendas, come in a variety of shades and political stripes. Certainly, the 2017 shooter who fired upon Republican congressmen while they were playing baseball, nearly killing then-Majority Whip Steve Scalise, was aiming to murder members of a particular political party.

What about the most recent mass shootings?

Authorities have yet to determine a motive for the assailant who opened fire on the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California on July 28. Santino William Legan, 19, shot himself after killing three people and wounding 13.

The next massacre was at a Walmart in El Paso, where 22 people lost their lives and another 24 were injured. Indeed, this shooter apparently did have a racially driven purpose - to murder as many Mexicans as possible, according to police. Many folks had no difficulty connecting dots between Trump's words - Mexicans are "rapists," "drug dealers," "murderers" - and 21-year-old alleged shooter Patrick Crusius. They're both fond of the word "invasion" to describe the influx of migrants. But again, causation can't be established.

The third shooting, in Dayton, Ohio, was on a crowded street outside several bars. Connor Betts, 24, murdered nine and wounded 27 in just 32 seconds before he was fatally shot by police. His motive? He apparently had long wanted to commit mass murder, according to friends, but his reasons remain unknown.

Piety profiling is rampant these days, as we'll doubtless soon weary of noting. But donating to political candidates is a form of free speech, and people have a constitutional right to support whom they please. Likewise, those who dislike Trump have every right to state their opinions, to organize marches, to boycott businesses and, legally, even to publish the names of his donors - but fact-check first.

Inarguably, Trump-the-package is damaged goods by his own odious nature and inhumane policies. But it is also entirely true that many, if not most, Trump supporters don't think he's a racist, and they're not either. Thus, shaming is a sham. Trying to assign blame for political gain, even as the bodies of the slain are still being laid to rest, is politics at its most craven - and the very definition of shameful.

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist. Her email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

Tags

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.