ARTICLE BY RED JOSEPH
One of Donald J. Trump’s most interesting contrasts is his proclamation of ‘law and order’ and certain commitment to lawlessness. On the one hand, Mr. Trump has touted himself as the candidate of ‘law and order’ in opposition to Secretary Clinton. During his GOP acceptance speech, Mr. Trump fervently bellowed that he is “the law and order candidate” of the presidential election, the candidate that will toughly enforce our nation’s laws and crack down on urban crime.
Essentially, Mr. Trump claims that the government is not enforcing America’s laws and this has put cities and communities in jeopardy, particularly because of the presence of “illegal immigrants.” He describes the country as “war-torn” and “dangerous” because our leaders won’t enforce measures like stop and frisk. Stop and frisk is a police measure, like the one formerly used in New York City. With it, police officers stop persons they deem suspicious and search them for contraband like illegally-obtained guns or drugs. One can debate the merits of stop and frisk as a whole, but in the case of New York City, a judge found that the execution of stop and frisk violated civil liberties of Black and Latino men. “Being fidgety, changing directions, walking in a certain way, grabbing at a pocket or looking over one’s shoulder,” all of these mundane activities were enough to cause a man of color being searched by the police. Caucasian peers acting similarly were less likely to be stopped.
The judge who ruled the execution of stop and frisk unconstitutional reasoned that the police and city of New York violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments due to making unreasonable search and seizures and unequal application of the law. It is certain that as part of the constitution’s amendments the President must work to protect rather than undermine civil liberties. So Mr. Trump cannot validly claim to be the candidate of law and order and herald that particular execution of stop and frisk. If however, he were to rebut the judge’s concerns with the execution of stop and frisk, by applying it without regard to race, he would have a stronger claim of still being the law and order candidate.
Still, at Monday’s presidential debate, Mr. Trump accused the judge of being “anti-police” rather than directly stating why New York’s execution of stop and frisk didn’t violate the constitution. He instead gave the blanket statement that the police were not singling out Latinos and Blacks with the program, but “felons” and “bad people.” There was no citation of data, nor a more direct rebuttal of the claim of unconstitutionality.
It is evident that the president’s job is to uphold the Constitution. Even if they disagree with a court’s interpretation, the president can’t simply ignore it. He or she swears to abide by court decisions during his or her inauguration. It is a separate matter if a president wants to appeal a decision, but he or she still should not ignore rulings. Then, government runs the risk of excessive executivism.
Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton should investigate other constitutional methods of obtaining their agendas, methods that respect the liberty of citizens and other branches of government. For Mr. Trump this includes other equally-applied methods of crime prevention, along with respecting court-approved libel standards rather than attempting to silence criticisms. For Secretary Clinton, the list is certainly shorter, but she should commit to advocating for legislation rather than execution action. On her website, she recognizes the frustration with current immigration reform. Her solution, if congress refuses to act, is to executively make immigration reform rather than to fight harder for congressional approval as the constitution demands in Article 1, Sec 8.
But Mr. Trump’s proposals are more limiting in liberty of individual citizens and for that they are more troubling. His message the last few months is that he is the law and order candidate, and if that to be true, he should justify his proposals with constitutional reasoning, not rhetoric.