Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Trump: what he got right in calling for a ban on Muslims

There’s something special about Donald Trump, isn’t there?

He’s now come up with yet another in his series of cunning plans to solve the world’s problems. This one is to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. That suggests that the entire world Muslim community, a billion strong, has to be suspected of being hostile to the United States. Would that include, I wonder, the ones serving in the US army and risking their lives to fight the nation’s enemies?

He has the right to put his life on the line in a US uniform but,
if Trump gets his way, not to return to the US
Godwin’s Law states that any internet discussion that goes on long enough will eventually lead to someone being compared to Hitler. I try to avoid falling into that trap. But it has to be said that the most striking example of such targeting of an entire faith community in the past has to be the Nazi hatred against the Jews. Trump previously recommended registering Muslims, just as Hitler registered Jews. He has now said that he doesn’t know whether he might have supported Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese – including Japanese Americans – during World War 2, so the magic word “internment” has now been put out there. 

A register. A ban. Possibly internment. Where will this end?

The curious thing about Trump is that he’s extremely keen on the US Constitution. Well, on bits of it. Does he perhaps have trouble reading the rest? For instance, he’s keen on the Second Amendment, though only on some of the words: “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon. Period,” he tells us, leaving out that annoying qualification at the beginning about “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” which somewhat limits the scope of the right.

Incidentally, there’s no “upon” at the end of the amendment. I guess if you’re quoting from memory…

Trump explains that the reason he’s keen on the amendment is that criminality in the US is rampant. He knows who to blame, too: “The Obama administration’s record on that is abysmal. Violent crime in cities like Baltimore, Chicago and many others is out of control.”

He presumably hasn’t managed to get as far as the tenth amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” It’s odd, isn’t it? Usually right-wing politicians are really keen on limiting Federal powers, but it looks as though Trump would like to federalise law enforcement. Unfortunately – for him – the Constitution he likes so much doesn’t allow it. It does not assign that power to the Federal government so, as specified by the tenth amendment, it remains the responsibility of the states or the people. In Baltimore, for instance, the police Commissioner is nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council.

Then again, Trump may not have noticed that Obama is President of the United States and not Mayor of Baltimore (or, indeed, Chicago though curiously that position is held by a former collaborator of Obama’s, Rahm Emmanuel. I mention only for amusement that Emmanuel is the model or Josh Lyman in The West Wing, a series which does appeal to the intellect as well as the emotions, so Trump may not have seen it).

But if Trump hasn’t managed to get from the second amendment to the tenth, it’s possible that he skipped over the first as well. Among other things, it denies Congress the power to prohibit the free exercise of religion. To avoid any kind of debate on technicalities, I should say that the Supreme Court has ruled that the provisions of the fourteenth amendment also mean that State governments can’t take action to prevent free religious practice either.

Most interestingly, in the case of Wisconsin v. Yoder, the Supreme Court extended the definition of “prohibition” in this context. It now includes any regulation which, though on the face of it neutral, “unduly burdens the free exercise of religion.” It may just be me, but I can’t help feeling that the practice of Islam is unduly burdened if the faithful are prevented from returning to the US if they ever go abroad.

Still, Trump may not have got as far as thinking through those implications yet. I offer up these musings to him, so that he can repair that omission as soon as possible. I can imagine just how urgent that task will seem to him.

By now you may be wondering why the title of this piece suggests that Trump may have got something right in his speech announcing the policy of banning Muslims. So Id better explain. I was thinking of this passage:

“…people are fed up – they are fed up with incompetence, they are fed up with stupid leaders, they are fed up with stupid people.”

That struck me as true. I know a lot of us are fed up with stupid people trying to position themselves as leaders.

Sadly, however, on reflection I suspect Trump may be wrong on this score too. I suspect there are a lot of people out there who, far from being fed up with stupid leaders, are only too keen to rally behind one. I hope they’re not a majority, but who can tell?

I also suspect that Trump knows that. Indeed, he must be counting on it. After all, unless he believes that enough people want another stupid leader, why would he ever run for office?

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