Donald Trump has run a campaign on “Making America Great Again”, a campaign which begs the question what makes America great and what does it mean to be an American? Sometimes Americans lose sight of this and it is useful to see why others admire America.
U2’s Bono recently exclaimed that, “America is not just a country, it’s an idea.” That is what makes us unique as a nation, as Teddy Roosevelt explained, we are not bound by a common “birthplace, or creed, or line of descent” but rather “Americanism is a question of principle, of purpose, of idealism, of character.”
Speaking to Congress, then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, addressed this American idealism stating that “[w]hat made America great was her ability to transform her own dream into hope for all mankind.” This is embodied in the promise of the Statue of Liberty’s invocation to “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” which is a continuation of President Washington’s pledge that
[t]he bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges.
These rights and privileges are spelled out in our Constitution. The Constitution imposes no test to hold our highest office other than that he or she be a natural born citizen at least 35 years old (and a resident for at least fourteen years) and swear to “faithfully execute the Office of President . . and preserve, protect and defend the Constitution”.
Trump has proposed deporting natural born American children of undocumented immigrants; barring Muslim’s from entering the country; creating an internet “kill switch” to block jihadists from the internet; requiring that Muslims be registered and has spoken favorably of the Japanese internment camps in World War II. In doing so, Trump shows little concern that the Constitution prohibits each of these proposals.
As Justice Murphy said of the internment camps, such discrimination
in any form and in any degree has no justifiable part whatever in our democratic way of life. It is unattractive in any setting, but it is utterly revolting among a free people who have embraced the principles set forth in the Constitution of the United States.
The constitutionally clueless Trump, goes way beyond “utterly revolting”. He has called for murdering the families of terror suspects and bringing back “waterboarding” and “far worse” torture, which are expressly prohibited by both U.S. and international law.
More recently, as my friend Marc Randazza points out, Trump declared war on the First Amendment by wanting to change libel laws to make it easier to sue and intimidate the press. In doing so, Trump is seeking to weaken our most cherished liberty – our right to speak freely. What is great or even American about that? Remember, Trump is running for President of the United States, not Sultan of Fifth Avenue.
Trump likes to mock protesters as they are ejected from their rallies, but they are by far the greater Americans for they have the courage to stand up and speak out in defense of liberty that Trump cowardly abandons.
Trump wants to take Ronald Reagan’s “shining city upon a hill” that serves as a beacon for those seeking freedom and turn it into a rogue state, a Judeo-Christian version of Saudi Arabia or an American version of apartheid. America under Trump will not be a symbol of hope, but an international pariah. World leaders already are denouncing him, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron who called his statements “divisive, stupid and wrong” – and he is being kind.
Abraham Lincoln, whose party’s nomination Trump now seeks, seemed to predict the Donald when he warned that, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
A Trump presidency is not about Winning, but would be an electoral declaration of bankruptcy and an abandonment of everything we stand for as a nation. As Lincoln declared at Gettysburg and as inheritors of this great nation conceived in liberty, it is for us to stand up and dedicate ourselves to ensure that this appalling nightmare never happens.
Note – This month marks my 10th anniversary of blogging with Huffington Post. My first piece – UnPatriot Acts – ran on March 7, 2006. I was invited to join after being on a panel with Arianna Huffington and would win the Los Angeles Press Club’s Southern California Journalism Award for my contributions that first year, making me the first Huffington Post individual award winner.