The 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ushered in a new era of the legal protection of equality, inclusiveness and individual liberty in America. Beyond doubt, the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States was a shocking repudiation of that journey by almost half of the electorate.
This golden era of giving meaning to the ideals of our Constitution wasn’t the product of one branch of the Federal government or of one political party. It was the work of the congress, both Republican and Democratic presidencies and the judiciary.
These actions encompassed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and, yes, the Affordable Care Act of 2010 with all its flaws. Supreme Court decisions dating from Miranda v. Arizona (1966), guaranteeing individuals charged with criminal offenses must be informed of their constitutional rights, to Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), holding the Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry, have repeatedly reinforced individual freedom. Presidents have acted unilaterally in issuing executive orders, including Ronald Reagan prohibiting trade with apartheid South Africa and Barack Obama delaying deportation of certain undocumented immigrants.
Mr. Trump campaigned against these concepts of respect for individuals. When announcing his candidacy in June 2015, he viciously attacked Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals. He proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. Women were a favorite target of his attacks, and he bragged of his unwanted sexual assaults on them. He mocked disabled persons and encouraged physical attacks on protestors at his rallies. He promoted torture of terrorists, even boasting he would kill their wives and children.
His campaign appealed to the Nativist instincts and racist leanings of a massive demographic who was ready to flock to a candidate who promised to return to an America that used to be. One who would restore the white male dominance of yesteryear. One who would forcefully deport all undocumented immigrants even if it meant breaking up families who have lived here peacefully and productively for decades.
So what does the future hold for America under a President Trump? Will it be the vindictive Trump who said he would jail Hillary Clinton and sue the dozen or so women who publicly accused him of having sexually assaulted them? Or will it be the conciliatory Trump who promised in his victory speech to heal the wounds and bring our country together?
For those of us who vigorously opposed Mr. Trump, there’s some comfort in knowing the wheels of government often grind exceedingly slow and the constitutional separation of powers protects against unbridled executive actions. He has no legislative experience, and he’s apt to alienate leaders by calling them stupid as he so often did during the campaign. He must respect the military leadership and not claim to “know more than the generals do.”
Mr. Trump is used to unrestrained executive power; he will find building casinos and office towers bears little resemblance to being a public official. Given his temperament and aggressive behavior, he’s likely to have a short honeymoon, great frustration and a difficult presidency.
Bo Statham is a retired lawyer, congressional aid and businessman. He lives in Gardnerville and can be reached at email@example.com.