Donald Trump, who plans to visit the Twin Cities on Friday, recently unleashed a hateful attack on Minnesota’s Somali community in a speech delivered to a large crowd in Portland, Maine. It was beyond the pale.
Trump’s attack inspired more attacks. A hateful message left on the Somali Museum of Minnesota’s voice mail is the latest example.
Unfortunately, state Republican Party leaders such as Chairman Keith Downey, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, and U.S. Reps Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer not only remain silent but continue to support Trump for president.
The unabated support by the top state GOP brass is a moral scandal. To preach of outreach and a possible partnership with the community while tolerating Trump’s outrageous attack is tantamount to moral turpitude and could lead to catastrophe.
Partisan politics is far from pure. Party leaders often accommodate fringe elements in the spirit of building a big political tent. But Trump is not a fringe figure in a large political party. He is an unhinged and dangerous nominee who hijacked a major American political institution and uses the power and the prestige that came with it to attack vulnerable groups.
Trump inspired more hateful attacks. The person who left the voice mail for the Somali Museum of Minnesota made it very clear.
Those who defend Trump assert that he doesn’t mean what he says or that he is making obnoxious statements just to get votes. The truth is, if he’s capable of uttering them, he is certainly capable of following through.
Others are quick to point out that our balanced system of government would prevent him from carrying out his intentions. While an intervention by a court or Congress might be the last resort, presidents can cause a lot of harm with the powers granted to them by the Constitution. Congress and the courts are more often than not very slow in responding to executive actions.
As president, George W. Bush used executive powers to combine more than 20 federal agencies to create the Office of Homeland Security after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Congress only confirmed his action in October of the following year.
Another example is President Obama’s decision not to deport many undocumented immigrants with American children and the creation of the special category — “DREAMers” — to classify those who were brought to America at a young age without proper documents. It took nearly a year for the Supreme Court to accept the case for consideration.
Trump could use similar executive powers to wreak havoc on Minnesota’s Somali community if he becomes a president. One possible scenario is that he could create more barriers for thousands of Somalis who legally immigrated to America and want to become citizens. He could do this through Homeland Security, the parent agency for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Trump could issue executive orders granting domestic security agencies more investigative and detention powers under the USA Freedom Act, formerly the Patriot Act, targeting Somalis. If he were to become president, Trump could do significant harm to targeted groups before Congress or the courts could intervene.
These liberties might appear worth sacrificing to quell our fear of terrorists. These moves might even be seen as security enhancements. But the cumulative effect is a slippery slope, along which Trump would take away liberties not only from Somalis but also from everyone else. The possibility is real.
History makes it clear. German Pastor Martin Niemoller said: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”
It’s time for Downey, Daudt, Paulsen and Emmer to speak out unequivocally and stand with Minnesota’s Somali-American community by withdrawing support from Trump’s quest for president before the slippery slope becomes very steep, converting moral scandal into moral catastrophe.
Jamal Abdulahi, of Rosemount, is a community organizer, blogger and essayist.