Civil Rights

What President Trump means to the future of human rights

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As the election dust settles, strategists and policymakers are beginning to ponder the implications of a Donald Trump presidency.

{mosads}At the top of the agenda are concerns about the disparaging remarks the president-elect has made about a host of American constituencies. These groups include the disabled, women, Muslims, and racial and ethnic minorities.

The election of Trump casts a pall over the prospects for human rights, and places the constitutional principles of equality and freedom at risk.

All Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law, but many of those denigrated this campaign season would be subject to systematic discrimination if Trump’s proposed policy changes move forward.

Take, for example, disabled people. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibition on discrimination provides an important safeguard, especially for those with preexisting conditions. If Trump keeps his pledge to completely dismantle the existing law, what harms will be done to the one in five Americans living with a disability?

Similarly, the ACA has expanded women’s reproductive health coverage to include contraception and teen pregnancy prevention. These protections are critical since nearly half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned. Can the “grab them by the p—-” president-elect guarantee the nondiscriminatory treatment of women? Not likely if he nominates a Antonin Scalia-like constitutionalist to the Supreme Court and the Republican-led Congress confirms the nominee.

Even religious freedom, a bedrock of U.S. constitutional law, is not immune.

The family of fallen U.S. soldier Humayan Khan, a Muslim American, was a target on the campaign trail. How can the future commander-in-chief purport to protect religious freedom for Muslim Americans — a religious minority that make up only 1 percent of the U.S. population — when Islam is at the literal and metaphorical center of his plan to “defeat radical Islamic terrorism“?

The language of the Ku Klux Klan-endorsed man we have elected begs a question.

Are we at our collective core racist, misogynistic and xenophobic?

I sincerely hope not. The American voters that comprise our multicultural society are counting on it. Trump’s inflammatory speech has alienated them; it has also galvanized others who have similarly — and perhaps legitimately — felt disenfranchised.

This election is wake-up call for the values we hold sacrosanct in this country.

The test of our belief in freedom of speech — and all human rights — lies in the extent to which we are willing not only to tolerate, but advocate for the rights of those who are different from us. This entire election season has been an exercise in the limits of that tolerance.

Given the divides among us there will likely be more to come. All Americans — and especially those in public office — must prepare to see, hear and experience opinions and actions with which we fundamentally disagree.

We must also be prepared to come together to ensure that democratic principles enshrined under U.S. and international law are respected, protected and fulfilled.

In 1963, President John Kennedy advised, “in a time of domestic crisis, men of goodwill and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics.”

Now is that time. Failure to do so will ensure the campaign slogan for the next presidential election: Hindsight 2020.

Evans is an assistant professor and director of the Institute of Human Rights at Emory University.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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