The federal government currently protects people’s ability to find a home, to make a living, to cast a ballot, to worship freely, to drink clean water and breathe clean air. A Trump administration can leave these rights unprotected for the people most vulnerable to having them denied because of the color of their skin or their faith, before having to ask Congress for a single vote on legislation.
The conservative backlash against Obama limited much of his agenda after the first two years to things that could be achieved by the executive branch. Trump can easily reverse these steps, beginning, as Bloomberg reports, with Obama’s extension of relief from deportation to undocumented immigrants. That will affect some 750,000 people. Trump can shift deportation priorities so that undocumented immigrants previously considered a low priority for deportation––mothers with U.S. citizen children, for example––no longer will be. That proposed ban on Muslim immigration? He won’t even need Congress.
The entire civil-rights enforcement apparatus of the federal government will be under the control of a candidate who campaigned on using the power of the state against religious and ethnic minorities, proposing to ban Muslim immigration, establish a “deportation force” to purge the country of America’s largely Latino population of undocumented immigrants, and establish “national stop and frisk,” a policy that has targeted black communities. The Obama administration’s aggressive enforcement of anti-discrimination law in housing, employment, and voting is likely to suffer. The Obama era saw an unprecedented rise in the Justice Department’s efforts to combat racial discrimination in local policing. Trump campaigned with the explicit support of unions representing law enforcement, and on “giving power back to the police.”
Will a Trump administration continue to enforce federal religious-freedom laws in cases where local jurisdictions attempt to prevent mosques from being built? Will it advocate for Muslim women who are told by their employers they are not allowed to cover their hair at work? Would a Trump Equal Opportunity Employment Commission continue Obama’s aggressive interpretation of civil-rights law protecting LGBT workers? Should women who are sexually harassed by their bosses expect that a president who bragged about sexual assault will defend their rights? Will the strict rules on sexual assault on college campuses to survive in the Trump Department of Education? In each of these cases, the Obama administration moved to use federal power to protect the rights of minorities; absent the same commitment, they will not enjoy similar protections under Trump.
The Obama administration promulgated strict rules under the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. Republicans have already indicated their intention to revoke them, consequences that will be borne by everyone, but most explicitly by the poor and people of color.
All of this will almost certainly vanish by the end of next year. We will be told that such executive actions were always immoral, illegal, and unaffordable, and the massive austerity cuts coming will be necessary because Obama "bankrupted" America.
But mostly it's minority groups who will have to pay the most. And some will pay with their lives.