What’s more, when the President of the United States candidly speaks the vitriolic and despicable thoughts that are in his head, it’s not “going rogue.” It is an unadulterated expression of hateful ideology from the highest office in our land. It is the position of the Executive Branch of our government, and we must start treating it that way. The implications are moral, constitutional, and intensely practical.
White supremacy is a dangerous contradiction of our nation’s highest values that places our very democracy at risk. Our founding principles, our national history, our Constitution, and a broad moral consensus tell us that our country’s greatest strengths are the diversity of our people and the dignity and human rights of everyone who lives here. A decade of public opinion research by my organization, The Opportunity Agenda, confirms that the vast majority of Americans hold those values, even as millions of them struggle with fear and stereotypes about our nation’s changing demographics.
Our President’s words and actions, in stark contrast, have repeatedly rejected and violated those ideals. He has exploited Americans’ worst fears and played on their darkest instincts. Trump’s words and deeds are not merely opportunistic, but a reflection of his deeply held beliefs and actions.
Trump showed us that he is a white supremacist long before he insulted the people of Africa and the Caribbean or defended murderous neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. From his seminal role in the “birther” movement, to his claim that Judge Curiel’s Mexican-American heritage disqualified him from service, to his unconstitutional Muslim Ban, to surrounding himself with advisors from the white supremacist movement and hate groups, to his administration’s assault on civil rights, diversity, and inclusion, he has been crystal clear about who he is and where he stands.
As people who believe in equal dignity, human rights, and opportunity for all, we must continue to be outraged by Trump’s actions, and all their consequences. But we must also turn to what they mean for our democracy. Here are just a few of their implications:
Every action by this President and the Executive Branch that he directs must now be treated as constitutionally and morally suspect. Discriminatory intent, not to mention racist ideology, are touchstones of unconstitutional action under our Constitution, as well as counter to our values and every lesson of our national history.
Whether immigration policy, criminal justice policy, tax and budget policy, or otherwise, any action or proposal out of this administration that predictably harms communities of color, Jewish or Muslim communities, or other white supremacist targets must be presumed to be unconstitutional—with the government bearing the burden to prove otherwise.
Political, business, and other leaders who continue to support Trump, moreover, are, at best, enablers of white supremacy. It’s past time that leaders who have supported or allied themselves with Trump disavow and disengage from him and his harmful policies. It’s also a moment of reckoning for everyday people of good will who’ve continued to support the man or his office while ignoring or explaining away his bigotry.
For those in government—and particularly our Congress and courts—Trump’s power must be blocked and contained until he is removed through impeachment, prosecuted and convicted, resigns, or, perhaps most improbably, completes his term. Condemning his bigotry and hate is crucial, but it’s not nearly enough. Whatever happens with the Russia investigation, his ethical and financial misdealings, or other corruption scandals, it’s now incumbent upon every other member of our government to neutralize this president’s harmful policy and political actions within the limits of the Constitution.
Just as the McCarthyism of the 1950s now stands as a widely vilified cautionary tale for our nation, the dangerous white supremacy, authoritarianism, and disrespect for human rights inherent in Trumpism must also be named, nullified, and held out as a place that our nation must never go again.