Sunday, May 31, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to make nationwide protests about him.

Today, Trump threatened (not for the first time) to designate the so-called Antifa movement as a terrorist organization. 

There are two problems with this. The first is that it's almost certainly illegal for Trump to make any such declaration about a group of Americans based on their politics. Foreign organizations like al-Qaeda can be given that designation, because the First Amendment doesn't apply to non-citizens acting outside of the United States. 

The other is that it's not clear if "Antifa"—or even anyone claiming to be like it—is involved in the violence that has swept across American cities since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Trump generally uses the term as a synonym for people opposed to him politically. (It's short for "anti-fascist.") 

But the genuine protests have not been about Trump, but systemic racism at the local level. Trump himself hasn't really been a focus of them at all, which may be why he's trying to make himself one. (Trump's advisors are openly admitting that he is desperate for distractions from the ongoing health and economic disasters.)

Trump's threat also conspicuously ignores the groups that are known to be trying to foment racial and anti-government violence, many of whom he feels politically beholden to and has supported in other protests

Why does this matter?

  • Declaring political factions you don't like to be criminal organizations is what dictators do.
  • It should not be this hard for the President of the United States to condemn racial violence.