This week, Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroTexas Democrats tap Joaquin Castro to deliver key address Assault weapons ban picks up steam in Congress Congressional Hispanic Caucus calls for answers on Mississippi ICE raids MORE (D-Texas), sent a disgraceful tweet just days after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.

The tweet said “Sad to see so many San Antonians as 2019 maximum donors to Donald Trump. Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders.’”

He did not state that the Trump donors were responsible for the 31 killed this weekend in mass shootings, but given the timing of the tweet, the connection was clear to buy into that narrative.

The tweet asks you to accept that the murders happened because of Trump’s language, even though in Dayton the killer was a left-wing activist who opposed Trump and incomprehensibly supported gun control.

Secondly, the tweet assumes the reason people donate to, or support the president is not to end pay-for-play politics and the deals being cut in Washington, or standing up for “fair trade” with China, or even building a wall to curtail gangs running drugs into America and back to Mexico. Rather, the tweet assumes that they are giving money because they want people to hate Hispanic immigrants.

And, finally, it implies a call to action of retaliation against those donors, seeking to force them into the shadows or suffer financial harm, loss of relationships, or being ostracized by their community.

Immediate condemnation would surely result from a tweet intended to scare off donors and activists to Democrats along the lines of:

“Sad to see so many Illinoisans make max donations to Obama and other Dems. Contributions are fueling hate campaign toward police officers. Last 2 years of his presidency that led to 3,249 more murders per year including twice as many Chicago murders, where his former Chief of Staff is Mayor.” 

Those 280 characters assume the extra 3,249 people killed during 2016 (over just two years earlier based on FBI stats) were President Obama’s fault. Secondly, it would entail assuming that anyone who contributed to President Obama or other Democrats gave not because they were proud of having an Illinois resident win the White House, or because of the history he made as the first black president, or because they supported his initiatives on education or health care - but because they wanted to fund a campaign against police officers that led to thousands of more people being murdered.

It would be rightly condemned as an attempt to scare someone from being politically involved by blaming them as donors for the spike to 17,413 murders and intentional homicides (compared to 14,164 in 2014) rather than the people who pulled the trigger or pulled out the knife.

Politicians should say things aimed at elevating our democracy and encouraging participation, even when there is a host of causes with which we may vehemently disagree. They should never seek to engage in activities that would discourage believers in those candidates or causes from participating in our system. Moreover, they should never dream of seeing financial or other harm come to them because of their efforts to advance the nation in the way they see fit.

This is horrifying.

Unfortunately, Castro showed his contempt for democracy by rejecting the norms we and others ferociously adhere to. This comes on the heels of attacks on politicians based on their contributors and calls for boycotts against Home Depot because of Bernie Marcus, its Founder, supports President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren unveils Native American policy plan Live-action 'Mulan' star spurs calls for boycott with support of Hong Kong police Don't let other countries unfairly tax America's most innovative companies MORE.

We need more business leaders, community activists, and ordinary citizens engaging in democracy, not less.

There are educational papers that can help to lay out the challenges in balancing the fear of retribution for political involvement with the voters right to know who is funding nasty campaigns.

Beyond that, we must begin to consider legislative changes. While the disclosure is important, the continuation of such attacks may necessitate altering disclosure laws so that only those giving money at such a level that it truly buys influence are spotlighted. This is not the ideal, but it is preferable to giving those few more influence by squelching those who are sacrificing what they can so that their values can be represented in government.

We also must consider a way to protect the First Amendment rights of donors – protecting them from loss of employment and other forms of retribution. However, this may need to be sweeping legislation if we are to protect small business owners in the era of the “boycott.”

Instead, let’s encourage giving, share ideas, endeavor to persuade, and work together to forge a more representative republic.

Justin Hill is operations director of TakeBack.org