Holocaust allusions should be used sparingly and, to quote Melania Trump, Donald Trump is “not Hitler.” That said, it’s not inappropriate to sound the alarm about a mass roundup of suspected illegal immigrants, the civil liberties that would be trampled upon in conducting such a sweep and the mass hysteria that Trump is whipping up in demonizing illegal immigrants as “killers” and “rapists.” When a presidential candidate talks favorably of the infamous roundup of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II, Americans regardless of party should be outraged.
Unfortunately, in the Republican primary too many Trump opponents — including his final competitor, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) — were chasing after Trump’s extremism on immigration. They therefore were frightened to criticize him loudly, consistently and unsparingly for his egregious comments and unconstitutional proposals. Trump simply outplayed them in stirring up xenophobia; they, in turn, were ill prepared to condemn a plan that any self-described constitutional conservative should recognize as beyond the pale.
Weld’s comment reminds us how deficient the presidential debate will be without a robust voice from either major party to defend limits on executive authority and all provisions of the Bill of Rights. Trump now slavishly embraces the Second Amendment for the sake of the endorsement of the National Rifle Association (which, like many conservative groups, suffers from amnesia and low standards in accepting a candidate so long as he delivers a few canned lines). In the case of a roundup of suspected illegal immigrants we are looking at potentially wholesale violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. (Would any of the judges on Trump’s list approve a mass dragnet?)
On many issues, such as the First Amendment, both Hillary Clinton and Trump are eager to curb political speech, either by constitutional amendment or statutory gambit to reverse Citizens United. Trump would go beyond what any politician since the Alien and Sedition Acts has advocated in wanting to deport millions of illegal immigrants, ban Muslims and “open up” libel laws to go after critics.
Admiring their handiwork in shoving a list of agreeable judges under Trump’s nose, self-described conservative “scholars” turn a blind eye to the raft of undemocratic and unconstitutional measures Trump has championed on everything from ordering the military to commit war crimes to “shutting down” parts of the Internet. As Bruce Fein recalls:
Among other things, Mr. Trump has taken up arms against the Eighth Amendment prohibition of torture, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment requirements of due process, the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom, the Article VI prohibition of religious test oaths, the Article I, section 8, clause 11 proscriptions of presidential wars, and the War Crimes Act of 1996 that implements international law.But candidate Mr. Trump reserves his nuclear arsenal for freedom of speech. He would close down the Internet because some evil people might be influenced by its content to commit terrorism. . . . Mr. Trump sneers at defenders of free speech as “foolish people.”
Trump is the person members of the conservative Federalist Society (reportedly) are enabling? (One would think the lawyers involved would be bursting with pride and eager to claim authorship, yet they remain anonymous helpers for a man who shares none of their devotion to the Constitution.)
In throwing its lot in with Trump and abandoning defense of constitutional limits and democratic principles, the GOP abandons of one of its historic roles in restraining government and protecting individual rights. (It did give us the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, right?). It is regrettable that the GOP is leaving it to the Libertarian Party to now to defend the Constitution.
Weld is an able former attorney and admirable in his willingness to speak out against Trump, but at least one of the major parties needs to be a stickler for constitutional governance. Those conservatives who squawk about Democrats’ disregard for constitutional principles but support Trump have lost the constitutional high ground. (In comparison with Trump, Clinton seems like Antonin Scalia.)
Rather than enabling Trump and trying to convince fellow Americans that Trump can be pinned down on judicial selection or can develop even a rudimentary understanding of the Constitution, maybe these Republicans should look for an alternative center-right candidate who would take it to both major parties’ nominees when they seek to trample on this or that constitutional provision. Shilling for Trump — hoping he’ll maybe, possibly, once in a while act within constitutional strictures — is foolhardy and dangerous. Conservatives who care about the Constitution should refuse to do so and should call out those who are trying to pull the wool over the voters’ eyes.