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Trump’s Muslim Ban Underscores the Need for National Resistance

Rutgers University students and supporters gather for Muslim prayers during a rally to express discontent with President Donald Trump's executive order halting some immigrants from entering the United States on Tuesday, January 31, 2017, in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

It’s hard to imagine a worse unfurling of bad federal policy than President Donald Trump’s executive order preventing nationals of select Muslim nations from entering the United States.

The order curtailed all refugee resettlement for 120 days, suspended Syrian refugee resettlement indefinitely, and barred nationals from seven countries—Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Libya, and Yemen—from entering the United States for 90 days. White House officials claimed the order is a strategy of “extreme vetting” to screen out terrorists.

Of course, the policy shouldn’t come as a surprise. Trump said repeatedly during last year’s presidential campaign that he would, as president, bring about a “total and complete shutdown of the entry of Muslims to the United States.”

What is sadly surprising about Trump’s making good on a signature campaign pledge is the severe ineptitude of its execution. The executive order was drafted and discharged in such a ham-fisted manner that even its potential supporters—ranging from Trump administration officials to key GOP lawmakers–never saw it coming. As a result, once the order became public, easily predictable chaos ensued at international airports around the nation. There was virtually no oversight or guidance to execute the order. Other than the order’s know-nothing authors who were sequestered in White House bunkers frantically making excuses to explain their boss’ crazy policy, few federal officials were knowledgeable enough to defend it. Public protests accompanied court orders challenging its constitutionality.

Trump issued a statement last Sunday to argue, against prior statements and current reason, that his order isn’t a Muslim ban. “To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting,” he said. “This is not about religion—this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”

Note to readers: When someone tells you what something isn’t, you can be fairly certain that’s precisely what it is. Make no mistake about it: Trump’s executive order is, for all practical purposes and despite White House sycophantic denials, a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

It won’t make America safer. Quite the contrary, as my Center for American Progress colleague Ken Gude pointed out earlier this week, Trump’s Muslim ban endangers the nation because it helps the Islamic State, or IS, recruit adherents:

IS already is using the ban to drive a wedge between U.S. and Iraqi forces fighting the terrorist group on the ground in Iraq. Outrage and condemnation have rained down on the United States since Trump signed the order Friday afternoon. Trump has only been president for a week and he is already isolating the United States, emboldening IS, and endangering Americans lives.

Resistance to this immigration policy, like nearly everything that the new administration represents, is critical to making sure Americans—and an observant world audience – know that such foolishness isn’t normal and not representative of our country.

The lunacy from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is unlikely to abate any time soon. Certainly not when its occupants can point to polling that suggests half of the American public support the refugee and Muslim ban and can characterize any reporting it dislikes as “fake news.” But the reality of the matter will eventually emerge, however painfully and slowly, as the public realizes the truth. In the meantime, all manner of public hell looms over the nation and world.

Eliot A. Cohen, director of the Strategic Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, shared this point of view in a recent article in The Atlantic. Cohen, who served as a counselor to Secretary of State Condolezza Rice in the George W. Bush administration, makes the point the American public must resist Trump. He urged citizens to “dedicate themselves to restoring the qualities upon which this republic, like all republics depends: on reverence for the truth; on a sober patriotism grounded in duty, moderation, respect for law, commitment to tradition, knowledge of our history, and open-mindedness.”

Ultimately, Cohen predicts, our national ideals will prevail, despite the current threats. He writes:

In the end, however, [Trump] will fail. He will fail because however shrewd his tactics are, his strategy is terrible—The New York Times, the CIA, Mexican Americans, and all the others he has attacked are not going away. With every act he makes new enemies for himself and strengthens their commitment; he has his followers, but he gains no new friends. He will fail because he cannot corrupt the courts, and because even the most timid senator sooner or later will say “enough.” He will fail most of all because at the end of the day most Americans, including most of those who voted for him, are decent people who have no desire to live in an American version of Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, or Viktor Orban’s Hungary, or Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

As we pray that this national awakening happens sooner rather than later, we must act with daily resistance to ensure that it never wavers. To be sure, the fate of the nation hangs in the balance of what citizens do to resist Trump’s racist, xenophobic, nationalistic and fascist deviation from our most cherished national ideals.

Sam Fulwood III is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Director of the CAP Leadership Institute. His work with the Center’s Progress 2050 project examines the impact of policies on the nation when there will be no clear racial or ethnic majority by the year 2050.