Like an arsonist returning to look at the smoldering ashes, Donald Trump went to Pittsburgh on October 30 to contemplate the synagogue slaughter he helped cause. “Contemplate,” though, is probably the wrong word, since contemplation implies thought and inner reflection, and Trump is capable of neither.
Pennsylvania’s GOP senator refused to appear with him. The state’s Democratic senator wasn’t invited. Pittsburgh’s mayor, who had asked Trump to stay away, stayed away himself. Trump lied to other officials, claiming other elected representatives had agreed to appear with him. None had. None fell for it.
That left the gelatinous American Mussolini attempting to look solemn with Melania, Jared, and Ivanka. Thirty thousand people signed a petition started by Pittsburgh Jews asking him not to come to their city, pointing out that it was Trump’s barely disguised anti-Semitic poison that helped lead to the deaths of 11 people, the same way his toxic personal attacks on the media and political opponents led the MAGAbomber to attempt a mass assassination via the U.S. Postal Service.
Trump may be able to inspire murder and mail bombs, but inspiring Americans to unify is beyond him because there’s nothing in it for him. He only wins when his racist base is inflamed, and making nice at the scene where 11 people died for the crime of being Jewish only bores them. Consoling and comforting Americans doesn’t interest him. Aiding, abetting, and encouraging domestic terrorism does.
So, apparently, does re-writing the U.S. Constitution. Only hours before he trudged to the Pittsburgh synagogue, Trump tweeted that he’s going to sign an executive order outlawing “birthright citizenship” to stop non-white immigrants from having children in the U.S. who then automatically become U.S. citizens.
Issuing that executive order is a lie, just more red meat thrown to his base, like a T-bone tossed to a pack of rabid coyotes. Trump’s fictitious executive order would be unconstitutional, but it should be a warning to every American, especially those who aren’t white. The 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship to anyone born in the United States: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
The 14th Amendment was passed to prevent states in the Old Confederacy from trying to deny citizenship to freed slaves, which is why it’s so careful to enumerate citizenship in both the nation and the state where a person lives. In the months after the Civil War, the white-controlled legislatures of nine former slave states passed what came to be known as the Black Codes, restricting rights, employment, and movement of freed slaves, often using the reasoning that former slaves were not citizens. The 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, was the federal response.
The 14th Amendment also became the vehicle that carried civil rights legislation in the 20th century because of the amendment’s equal protection clause: “No State shall… deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Most Trump coded dog whistles are targeted to his white base. But this one was aimed right between the eyes at every non-white person in the country. Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor at the Washington Post, summed it up best when tweeting about how some pundits say Trump’s threat is a distraction and should be ignored.
“Immigrants, and black and brown people don’t have the privilege to ignore Trump’s assaults on our lives.,” Attiah wrote. “Trump’s assault on birthright citizenship does change the conversation ahead of the midterms. But time and again, his white supremacy and animus against black and brown peoples have succeeded.”
To distract from his role in encouraging domestic terrorism, Trump is also on the verge of violating the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, by ordering 5,200 armed U.S. Army troops to the border with Mexico to help protect America from a rag-tag group of 6,000 Central American men, women, and children walking the length of Mexico to seek asylum in the United States.
The Posse Comitatus Act expressly forbids U.S. troops from engaging in police activities or any other mission to enforce domestic policies inside the United States. But engineering units will be building barricades, and military police units will be on hand to “deal with” any migrants. The raving paranoia of Trump’s effort to use military force to stop brown asylum seekers is definitely a domestic policy, and these troops will be enforcing it on American soil.
Asylum seekers, by the way – by both U.S. law and international treaty – are supposed to be granted court hearings. Trump’s tossing that out the window, too.
Like all bullies, wannabe gangsters, or authoritarians, Trump is doing all of this because he can get away with it, since the spineless GOP congressional majority now has no problem with white nationalism, even when it’s illegal. But more importantly, Trump is sending a message. And the message – by ignoring Posse Comitatus and treaties, and by threatening the 14th Amendment – is that he is not the president of the United States. He is the president of the white, angry 34 percent of the population who voted for him.
But he still has the title of president, which means, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, he “comes clothed in immense power.” His words and tweets and dog whistles arguably have inspired both mass murders and a mass assassination attempt via mail bombs. He has threatened to negate part of the Constitution. He has moved thousands of troops to the border to protect against a non-existent threat.
This is only the beginning. If Democrats win the House or Senate on November 6, he might accuse them of “fraud” and not recognize the results. The consequences of such a move are unpredictable. What is predictable is that the angry white nationalist, fresh from surveying the damage he helped to cause in Pittsburgh, will lash out. He always does.
Charles Jaco is a journalist, author, and activist. Follow him on Twitter at @charlesjaco1.