Denham’s support of Trump is a disqualifier

Rep. Jeff Denham, right, speaks with Westside Pallet Inc. production supervisor Juan Esquivez while touring the facility in Newman, Calif., in 2015.
Rep. Jeff Denham, right, speaks with Westside Pallet Inc. production supervisor Juan Esquivez while touring the facility in Newman, Calif., in 2015. Merced Sun-Star file

How bad could a Donald Trump presidency be? We don’t know, but re-electing Jeff Denham to Congress would make it worse.

This editorial is about Denham and his opponent Michael Eggman. But we must begin with the Republican presidential nominee. In the last week, Trump has crossed the line from angry, uninformed race-baiter to dangerous demagogue. He is fanning the worst elements of his shrinking fan base into a paranoid frenzy.

He is urging sycophants to go into America’s inner cities – i.e., urban black neighborhoods; i.e., the place he calls “living hell” – to monitor voting.

Why? Because “Crooked Hillary” might steal the election.

How? With the help of all those black people – 96 percent of whom oppose Trump.

Trump’s campaign has always included veiled racism, making room for people like white supremacist David Duke. Now, as he becomes more desperate, he doesn’t even try to hold them at arm’s length. His fans include people like the California State University, Stanislaus, student – a less-than-honorably discharged Marine with a criminal record – who is preaching to young haters about the need for a “white homeland.”

Then there’s a former Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputy who said on Facebook that if Hillary Clinton wins she should take “a ride through Dallas in a convertible.” His poisonous implication is clear – she should be shot, just as John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas.

This election has gone from bizarre, absurd and strange to dangerous and unhinged.

Trump’s campaign remains viable only because otherwise honorable people refuse to rise in opposition. That includes Rep. Denham of California’s 10th District.

Denham hasn’t done an especially bad or good job representing his mostly middle-of-the-road constituents. The Bee first endorsed Denham when he ran for state Senate, and we’ve endorsed him three times for Congress. In fact, we’ve never failed to endorse him, despite his vote with the tea partiers to irresponsibly shut down our government.

We wish Denham would do more to make us safer from oil trains rolling through our communities, but we applauded his work to bring a veterans’ facility to Stockton. And his approach to immigration might be the best starting place for real reform – if he can get other Republicans to just listen, which he has failed to do.

But Denham seems to be unaware that his district is changing. The number of registered Democrats has edged ahead of Republicans, most likely because many Latinos are signing up precisely so they can vote against Trump. Denham will need a few of their votes to hold onto his seat.

We’re not pretending Michael Eggman is a top-tier candidate. We didn’t endorse him in 2014 when he first ran against Denham. Eggman doesn’t live in the district, he’s never held elective office and his campaign is almost entirely based on equating Denham to Trump.

Actually, neither Eggman nor Denham lives in the district, though both own houses here. As for being “local farmers,” at least Eggman now tends the bees and almond orchard his father and mother bequeathed him. Both have connections to the Latino community; Denham’s wife is and Eggman’s mother was Latina.

What makes Eggman preferable is that, if elected, he will owe his allegiance to those who voted against Trump. Having people willing to stand against a President Trump – including principled Republicans such as as David Valadao in the 21st District, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Martha Roby, and 23 others – is of paramount importance. They would form the bulwark in resisting President Trump’s worst impulses. But they would need help from stalwart Democrats. That’s where Eggman comes in.

By tacitly endorsing Trump, Republicans like Denham and Tom McClintock also endorse Trump’s most egregious policy ideas – stripping voting rights from people of color, subjecting Muslims to loyalty tests, breaking apart families of Mexican immigrants, usurping individual rights in the name of “law and order,” building a wall, instituting trade wars, allowing Russia free rein in the Middle East. Silence, in this case, provides support.

In August, when we first implored Denham to reject Trump, he said we were subjecting him to an unfair “litmus test.” He called Trump’s behavior “disturbing, inappropriate and outlandish,” but said he still supports his party’s nominee.

So, we put off writing this endorsement to give Denham every opportunity to reconsider. He has not.

If Jeff Denham won’t stand against Trump now, voters should not stand with him on Nov. 8. Send Michael Eggman to Congress.