A common argument I’ve heard for preferring Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton is that Clinton wants to take people’s rights away. She’s repeatedly pushed for stricter gun control measures, which many view as an assault on the Second Amendment. Her support of international organizations like the United Nations and NATO has raised concerns about her desire for a single world government that would undermine American sovereignty (which, for the record, are unsubstantiated). For staunch pro-lifers, her support of abortion flies in the face of the right to life. She’s also historically supported acts that increase domestic surveillance, like the PATRIOT Act and the USA Freedom Act.
Because Clinton is so bad, obviously Trump must be better, right? I mean, what rights does he want to take away? To answer this question, I want to turn to an excerpt from Why I’m Voting for Gary Johnson, an essay I wrote five months ago that’s become one of the most viewed posts on our blog:
What doesn’t often get addressed, however, is the nightmare scenario Trump presents for civil libertarians concerned about a growing police state. He’s no fan of the First Amendment, threatening to crack down on the press by opening up libel laws, which would prevent any meaningful dissent. He has repeatedly called for a “temporary” travel ban of Muslims entering the United States, a horribly discriminatory proposal as unenforceable as it is unconstitutional. He “wants surveillance of certain mosques” to ensure no Muslims are plotting terrorist acts on American soil, something reminiscent of interwar Germany. He also seeks to deport millions of undocumented immigrants by force, not only threatening to tear apart families and forcing them to live in constant fear, but also risking placing a major drag on our economy, which relies heavily on cheap labor from migrant workers. He’s even alluded to executing whistleblowers like Edward Snowden that keep the government accountable for its actions.
Perhaps the most alarming of those is that Trump wants to open up libel laws to make it easier to sue media organizations. Doing so would essentially put a muzzle on the press, making it impossible to dissent against a President Trump without facing a protracted legal battle or hefty fines. If a journalist in the White House press corps working for a company like the Washington Post or New York Times started criticizing Trump, Trump would not only revoke that journalist’s credentials and spend airtime bashing that journalist; he would ensure that that media company only sends sycophants that rubber stamp the administration’s actions in the future. The press is the embodiment and lifeblood of free speech. If not independent and uncensored, it becomes a tool of the state and a propaganda machine. Additionally, absent an independent and free press, no watchdog would exist to keep the government accountable for its actions, enabling an administration to get away with just about anything, including infringing on other fundamental rights.
That also extends to whistleblowers that keep the government accountable by exposing surreptitious government operations, like Edward Snowden and the NSA bulk telephony metadata collection program. Trump has alluded to executing whistleblowers because they’re “traitors” and “threats” that undermine the government’s ability to carry out certain programs without having to deal with the pervasive public eye. The very thought of government workers being executed for uncovering illegal activity is so blatantly authoritarian and scary that it resembles North Korean totalitarianism.
What’s also incredibly disturbing is everything Trump has said regarding Muslims. What he’s promised to do—(temporarily) ban Muslims from entry into the United States based solely on their religious affiliation, conduct surveillance of and shut down certain mosques, and create a database to track Muslims—sounds like the makings of a police state and should scare just about everyone. To be sure, most Americans aren’t Muslim and many people wouldn’t have to deal with the worst ramifications of these proposals, but that’s hardly a reason not to care. To simply ignore this blatant encroachment on individual liberty without due process because its effects are not proximate is both irresponsible and un-American. No citizen of the United States, regardless of race or creed, should be subject to that kind of treatment.
Next, Trump’s stance on immigration is problematic. Yes, 11 million undocumented workers live in the United States illegally, and illegal immigration definitely presents problems, but Trump’s desire to see them all deported, including the “anchor babies,” children of illegal immigrants born in the United States that are legal citizens according to jus soli in the Fourteenth Amendment, violates basic human rights. Deportation would tear apart families, destroy livelihoods, and possibly be violent, despite Trump’s insistence that deportation forces would deport illegal immigrants “humanely.” Moreover, the rhetoric Trump has used to describe Mexican immigrants, including calling them rapists, criminals, and drug dealers, demeans an entire section of the population, reducing them to something less than human.
Something that could affect any American, Trump’s love of eminent domain, should also raise concerns, especially to property lovers on the right. Back in the 1990’s, Trump attempted to use eminent domain to force a widow to sell her home in Atlantic City in order to build a limousine parking lot next to Trump Plaza. While as President he wouldn’t be able to use eminent domain for his own personal business interests, he could very well confiscate property to build the border wall or literally anything else he deems important. Your house could be where President Trump erects a massive monument to himself.
For women, the right to get an abortion, as decided in Roe v. Wade, is constitutionally protected and an extension of the right to privacy in the penumbra of the Constitution. Though he’s more moderate on the issue of federally funding Planned Parenthood than most Republicans, Trump still wants to severely restrict women’s access to abortion, suggesting that Roe v. Wade be overturned by placing extremely conservative strict constructionists on the Supreme Court bench. He’s even gone so far as to suggest that women should be punished for seeking out abortions. Of course, abortion is a hot-button issue, and for many pro-lifers, the practice crosses a moral red line. But denying women the ability to control their bodies violates the right to privacy and jeopardizes reproductive health.
If your reasoning behind believing that Clinton wants to take away your rights revolves around the Second Amendment, Trump is no better. For one, he supported the assault weapons ban back in the 1990’s and only reversed course last year. He also wants to restrict due process by preventing people on the no-fly list from buying guns. While the proposal may sound great in theory, the no-fly list routinely has people placed on it for no apparent reason, and usually without due process, which could prevent some law-abiding citizens from being able to purchase firearms. That doesn’t sound very pro-Second Amendment to me. Additionally, Clinton isn’t even anti-Second Amendment. Yes, she expressed remorse for the 2008 D.C. v. Heller case, and she supports greater regulation on the ability to purchase a gun than what exists in the status quo, but as long as you’re not a felon or mentally ill, you would still be able to buy and own a gun under a Clinton presidency just like you’ve always been able to.
Now, Clinton is no civil libertarian, and my Gary Johnson piece went over why not in full detail. But if after reading this post you seriously still think that Clinton wants to take your rights away any more than, or even as much as, Trump does, and that’s your justification for preferring him to her, that’s asinine. I don’t usually like to get super partisan, but if you feel that introducing background checks on firearm purchases and closing the gun show loophole is worse than taking away the rights of women, Muslims, immigrants, the press, and property owners, you should seriously get your priorities straightened out.