As Republican Party “constitutionalists” prepare to nominate authoritarian billionaire Donald Trump for the presidency this week in Cleveland, the American Civil Liberties union has determined that the candidate’s proposals would violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments of the Constitution.
It is not news that Trump has, during the course of his campaign for the GOP nomination, put himself at odds with basic premises of a Bill of Rights that defends a free press, guarantees freedom of religion, and guards against torture and abuses of privacy. But when his proposals are pulled together—as the ACLU has done in a new analysis of the Republican candidate’s public statements and policy positions—the extent to which Trump would shred the Constitution in general and the Bill of Rights in particular is breathtaking.
“Taken together, his policies and positions, if put into place, would violate the Constitution and federal and international law,” says Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, which reviewed the candidate’s agenda and determined that “Trump’s proposals would violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments of the Constitution.”
Trump has from the start of his campaign sparked controversy with statements, actions, and proposals that disregard the First Amendment. He and his aides have created blacklists of journalists, and the candidate has expressed an interest in rewriting libel laws in order to intimidate, punish, and potentially silence critics of powerful individuals and interests. Trump has, as well, proposed schemes to discriminate against Muslims and to spy on mosques and neighborhoods where Muslims live—with steady disregard for the amendment’s guarantee of protection for America’s diverse religious communities.
But that’s just the beginning of Trump’s assaults on the Constitution.Trump has encouraged the use of torture and blatantly disregardedprivacy protections that have been enshrined in the founding document since the 18th century. He has attacked the basic premises of a constitutionally defined separation of powers, with rhetorical assaults on individual jurists and the federal judiciary so extreme that House Speaker Paul Ryan described one such attack as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” He has proposed instituting religious tests. He has shown open and consistent disregard for the promise that all Americans will receive equal protection under the law.
“If implemented, Donald Trump’s proposed policies will spark a constitutional and legal challenge that would require all hands on deck at the ACLU,” says Romero. “The ACLU and its more than 300 attorneys in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., stand ready to challenge and impede implementation of his unlawful proposals, should he attempt to see them through.”
It should never come to that.
I'm glad the ACLU stands ready to fight the GOP on this, but the simple fact of the matter is they are now the party of blatantly racist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic fascism, and nominating Donald Trump will cement that for a generation. Trump never should have gotten this far, but here he is, about to be nominated as the presidential candidate of a major political party, because that party has enabled hatred and bigotry in a desperate attempt to consolidate political power.
In the short term it has been wildly successful at the state and local government level, all but wiping out the Democratic party in the South and most of the Midwest, leaving isolated pockets of resistance between the coasts.
In the long term, we're going to see that fall apart. But there's still quite a bit of damage that the GOP can do in its death throes, and the reactionary election of Trump is still not out of the question.