If you are a conservative American, Donald Trump is your enemy. More than any other figure in American politics, it is Trump who seeks to use conservatives’ own ideas to rob them of what they most value. Trump’s policies directly undermine the Constitution of the United States, personal civil liberties, checks on executive power, the integrity of the family, and religious freedom.
Many conservatives say they support Trump, not because they like his style or his views, but because they believe he will give them hard-line policies on issues that matter to them, such as immigration and abortion. What these conservatives get wrong is largely about integrity: Trump doesn’t even pretend to have any, let alone allow them to keep any of their own. Worse, the hard-line policies they expect Trump to enact are not conservative wins; they are removals of rights and protections of personal liberties.
The Constitution does not mention immigration, except indirectly where it outlines qualifications for holding the office of the presidency. It does, however, guarantee both due process and equal protection to all persons, citizen or otherwise. The Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments combine to make it illegal to treat a person as a legal non-person due to alleged paperwork violations.
In the film ‘Bridge of Spies’ the Tom Hanks character — who becomes a kind of citizen defender of democracy and a key figure in a Cold War moment of crisis — explains to federal agents who are trying to nudge him away from the rule of law that the Constitution is what makes us all Americans.
Indeed, it is why millions of brave Americans put their lives at risk, and more than 750,000 lost their lives, in 20th century wars to resist the rise of unaccountable power. Totalitarianism starts, as American conservatives often remind us, from small concessions to unaccountable power.
It is impossible to be both a conservative and a Republican if you do not feel the urgency of the words of Abraham Lincoln, who urged in the consecration of the battlefield at Gettysburg “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” We honor those who have sacrificed their lives for human freedom by putting human freedom, at all times, ahead of our petty fears and political insecurities.
Donald Trump is more than a Twitter bully or a “hardliner” who talks tough on conservative agenda items. He is a president who is being investigated for undermining our Constitutional process and who at some time prior to the Attorney General’s April order to jail all asylum seekers, gave the illegal order that led to that violation of Constitutional law.
That illegal order was a direct, deliberate, violent, and unconstitutional attack on the integrity of the family. His “immigration” policies are specifically intended to undermine the rights of families under the Constitution. For this reason, all four of the opinions issued by the Supreme Court in the case Trump v. Hawaii mention the integrity of the family as a priority of American law.
They did so, because there is no way to guarantee equal protection to all Americans if any person under the sway of American law can be treated as less deserving of access to their own flesh and blood relatives. While outcry over the Supreme Court ruling upholding the 3rd version of the so-called “travel ban” has been fierce, nearly all mainstream commentary has overlooked the fact that the ruling holds that the administration must provide waivers to protect the rights of Americans to visit with their own family.
So far, out of nearly 7,000 requests, only 2 waivers have been granted. Justice Kennedy, who announced his retirement one day after the Trump v. Hawaii ruling, wrote his own concurring opinion reminding President Trump, the Court, the Congress and “an anxious world” that all executive actions will continue to be subject to judicial oversight and that there is no legitimate executive power to override Constitutional protections.
The institution of “baby jails”, where infants and toddlers are thrown alone onto concrete floors, surrounded by armed guards, in cages, is the direct result of a deliberate policy of Donald Trump. That he was under the impression others would be blamed does not for one minute justify this unbelievable cruelty or lessen the illegality of his misuse of federal government power.
On Sunday, June 24, President Trump announced he would no longer honor due process or allow for judicial oversight. Justice Kennedy’s concurrence reiterating the permanence of Constitutional checks and balances came two days later.
You cannot be conservative and also lust after tyranny. Donald Trump is trying to bend American conservatism into something it has historically abhorred and by doing so seize powers the Constitution explicitly prohibits.
Our system of checks and balances may hold; Trump will likely be prevented from ending due process. But while these questions play out, he is directly attacking the rights of many thousands of individuals, and setting dangerous precedents that put all of us at risk.
Conservatives know that the removal of some rights is the endangerment of all rights. Don’t let abuses cloaked in the thin veil of hardline activism seduce you into selling out your own values.
If you care about American democracy… if the rule of law, personal sovereignty, the integrity of the family, and checks on unaccountable power matter to you… Donald Trump is not your friend. We need to govern from the ground up and demand inviolable adherence to our Constitution from all who have sworn to uphold it.