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How Did A Town That’s 81% Hispanic Elect A Xenophobic Mayor?

Don McLaughlin has a long history of spewing hate and racism on Fox News. How did he become the mayor of a town that is 81% Hispanic?

When you were little, you remember watching Sesame Street, and they would show you four random objects and say, “one of these things is not like the others.” Then, you would have to decide which one doesn’t belong. That’s the equivalent of Don McLaughlin‘s position as mayor in Uvalde, Texas.

Most of us didn’t know who Don McLaughlin was or that he was the mayor of Uvalde until this last week when Beto interrupted Greg Abbott’s press conference. McLaughlin was the large, disheveled man behind the walker who shouted obscenities at Beto for being the first one to stand up for those poor children.

Don McLaughlin is the head honcho in a town of fewer than 16,000 people. As the world becomes familiar with Uvalde and the massacre there, they also become familiar with the people whose incompetence played out during the shooting.

In the wake of the Uvalde massacre, Don McLaughlin has been insensitive and tone-deaf.

Beto was the only politician last Wednesday who showed compassion for the dead and demanded state leaders do something to prevent another massacre. For that, McLaughlin called him “a sick son of a bitch.”

Then he went on national media and gave a pro-gun speech.

In fact, Don McLaughlin has a history of appearing on TV and spewing right-wing lies and nonsense. So much so that he even has his own IMDB page. Only days before the massacre, McLaughlin went on Fox News to tell them that the Hispanic community is fed up with Biden and how he wanted to keep Title 42 in place. During the Republican primaries, McLaughlin endorsed Don Huffines, despite his many anti-Hispanic and white supremacist positions.

The town of Uvalde.

There is a fantastic read I came across this week. “We Fixed That”: Ghosts of White Supremacy in South Texas. Although it was written in 2020, it’s still very relevant today.

The author, Michael Luis Ortiz, tells the story of Uvalde and some of McLaughlin’s past shenanigans, including setting a curfew during the George Floyd summer, even though there was no proof Uvalde was at risk of riots, his appearances on Tucker Carlson, and his long hatred of immigrants.

In Uvalde, at the county courthouse, a Confederate monument still warns all those who enter that they won’t have equal justice in Uvalde. The monument says “Jefferson Davis Highway.”

Another irony in a town that is 81% Hispanic, Jefferson Davis was a hero of the Mexican war. A war in which colonizers stole the state of Texas from Mexico because Mexico abolished slavery, and the Texas settlers wanted to expand it.

The monument on the Uvalde Courthouse lawn was erected during Jim Crow to remind people of color that white supremacy was the law of the land.

Confederate monument in front of Uvalde Courthouse.

Uvalde has a complex history with white supremacy, the Confederacy, and the Ku Klux Klan.

Ortiz covered that history in his article, with links to time-relevant documents. Although the article was about the 2020 Civil Rights Movement, it’s still relevant today, two years later, as we try to understand how Don McLaughlin became the mayor of Uvalde.

According to the census, 87% of Uvalde identify as white, and 81% identify as Hispanic or Latino. Meaning the majority of Hispanic people in Uvalde identify as white.

While this is not my space to speak, this article by NPR suggests that the reason Hispanic/Latino people choose to identify as white has roots based in white supremacy.

How did Don McLaughlin get elected?

According to the Secretary of State, Uvalde has a historically low voter turnout.

In 2020, only 59% of registered voters showed up to the polls during a generation’s most consequential presidential election. And in the last mid-term election, only 47% showed up.

They say that Uvalde is a red county, but Trump only won by 2,101 votes in a race when 7,076 registered voters stayed at home.

McLaughlin was first elected in 2014 when the voter turnout in Uvalde County was 31%. He ran unopposed in 2016 and 2018 and won a 4-year term in 2020 by only 915 votes (in an election when 7,076 voters stayed home).

Low voter turnout in Uvalde is indicative of years of voter suppression.

Since its inception, white supremacy has ruled in Uvalde, and it’s still ruling now. Low voter turnout isn’t an accident but an intentional effort over decades to suppress the vote.

While the presence of white supremacy has nothing to do with the Uvalde massacre or the shooter, it is the reason Uvalde’s poverty rate is double the national average, it is the reason Uvalde spends 40% of their city budget on police funding, and it is the reason Don McLaughlin got elected.

The tragedy in Uvalde could have been prevented. Society failed by allowing an 18-year-old to buy an AR15. The people who knew the shooter failed by not reporting his threats and behavior to authorities. The school failed by having an open door. And the Uvalde police failed in their response.

The response of the mayor of Uvalde has been outrageous and sickening and brought to light the systemic racism South Texans have been dealing with for years that they’re still dealing with and the utter failures of Republican leadership in places they do not belong.

As long as Republicans rule Texas, our children will never be safe. We have to vote out every single last one.

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