“I’ve Got A Little List”

The Next Six Months Under Trumpism

In the two weeks since Trial Balloon for a Coup, I’ve been looking forward to writing the essay explaining how I was wrong, and things are getting better. And it looks like I’m going to get to continue looking forward to the day that I can write that essay for some time to come, because reality has this harsh way of interfering.

Sergeant Spartan, you have been sentenced to 70 years in the California Cryo-Penitentiary. From “Demolition Man.”

One of the challenges of discussing the transition from democracy to authoritarianism is that it’s hard to put your finger on concrete risks which we might face. That’s mostly because authoritarianism goes against our instincts about how government works; while an order may be blatantly unconstitutional and so will certainly ultimately be struck down by a court, for example, we tend to forget that from an initial challenge to a Supreme Court ruling is generally five years or so, and if there are unconstitutional orders every week, courts trying to engage in “business as usual” may be completely overwhelmed.

So today, I’d like to discuss some concrete threat models: ways in which the Trump regime seems likely to try to attack Americans while undermining public capability to resist. After discussing five models which I’d consider especially likely for the next six months, I’ll step back and discuss what the “bigger picture” of Trumpism is which this serves.

And since this is not going to a cheerful place, I’m going to return to sticking pictures of cute animals in every so often. If nothing else, I certainly need them while writing this.

And what better way to start than with a raccoon eating a birthday cake?

Before any of these, though, I’d recommend you take a look at sociologist Katherine Crossrecent essay. In addition to a good discussion of the way the Muslim Ban was implemented, she highlights a very important point that makes what’s about to follow easier to understand: Ambiguity is a core strategy of authoritarian regimes.

An ambiguous public statement, of course, can serve as a dog-whistle to your supporters while giving you plausible deniability. Ambiguous orders are even more useful: they put all of the details of what the orders actually mean in the hands of ground-level enforcers.

This has several important benefits for autocrats:

  • When rules are explicit, people can obey them. When rules are vague but penalties are harsh, people censor themselves: they keep far away from anything which might violate the rules.
  • When rules are explicit, they can be used as defenses. If deporting someone requires a court finding that they are in the country illegally, for example, then there are suddenly lawyers involved, there is a burden of proof to be met, and the process is slow and deliberate, in much the way you would expect a legal process which is capable of taking away someone’s home, work, family, and country all at once would be. If, on the other hand, ICE can raid businesses and round people up by the hundreds if they can’t prove their legal right to work on the spot (can you?), or if CBP can detain people at the border more or less arbitrarily (something we’ll get to below), it’s a lot harder to figure out who you have to convince to let you go, and how you might do that. Personal relationships with people in power become much more useful than procedural guards.
  • And, of course, ambiguous orders can be “changed” in ambiguous ways that don’t really matter — much as the Muslim Ban order first included permanent residents, then didn’t, and (as the 9th Circuit wisely recognized) there’s nothing whatsoever to prevent them from changing it again later.

A more direct version of this shows up in an essay of mine from late 2015, talking about the logistics of Trump’s plan to deport 11 million people in two years. The hard first step of such a plan is figuring out who you want to deport; but as I noted there,

Identifying people is harder than it sounds, since it’s not like everyone has proof of citizenship tattooed on their arms. You’ll have to put people in the field, and they’ll have to have a lot of leeway to deal with ambiguous cases. Which is another way of saying they need the power to decree someone an outsider and deport them.

I am sad to say that this essay seems more relevant with each passing month.

To reiterate an important point, none of this is saying that Trump is an evil genius, or that this is a carefully orchestrated plan — everything in this piece is simply about Trump doing exactly what he said he would.

With this in mind, let’s look at some ways things could go wrong.

But first, a cute dog. Isn’t he sweet?

Threat Model #1: I’ve Got A Little List

Last week, Hina Shamsi, the director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, and a US permanent resident, was flying back from the Dominican Republic when she was taken aside by border patrol and questioned extensively about her activities and what she was doing outside the country. Why would someone working for an organization with “American” in its name not be a US Citizen? Why would someone whose job supposedly has to do with the Constitution be traveling so much outside the country?

The extensive questioning while not free to leave and without counsel is hardly unusual; CBP has long had essentially unlimited powers at the border. What’s important about this story is that the CBP agents immediately recognized her as an ACLU lawyer.

That’s the biggest part of this story. For this to have happened at all, the CBP needed to have a list of potential “anti-American” actors which flagged Shamsi’s name, as well as enough details about those individuals to support an interrogation on the spot. And it’s very clear that no amount of power is likely to protect you from such a list; Shamsi literally represents a building full of angry lawyers, and if you are willing to poke at that, there isn’t much that wouldn’t make sense to poke.

A second story this week was that Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly told Congress that he would like to demand passwords from all visa applicants. In parallel, the government has subpoenaed Facebook for access to the accounts of people rounded up in D.C. during Inauguration Day protests. Police already can, and do, demand these — and citizens at the border are no exception, as US-born NASA scientist Sidd Bikkanavar found a few days ago.

To understand how these two items are related, ask yourself what information you get from accessing someone’s social media accounts, or by getting the passwords to their phone or accounts.

  • You get people’s private messages and photos. If you do this by demanding someone’s password (and suggesting that they will be deported, their visa revoked, etc., if they don’t comply), then you can do this without having to go through Facebook’s, Google’s, Apple’s, Snapchat’s, or Twitter’s lawyers — another set of buildings full of angry lawyers that you don’t necessarily want to poke. Done this way, you also get SMS messages, Signal messages, and so on, all straight from the phone.
  • You get people’s complete social graph: their contacts (on the phone plus on all the various social services). That’s especially juicy if the person is a journalist or a lawyer (“hey, look, here are this person’s sources / clients!”).

The first thing lets you find out what people have been talking about. This is useful in the context of ambiguous orders — like when Canadian citizen Fadwa Alaoui was turned back at the border (after a password search) because they “found videos on [her] phone which are against us.” The videos in question were simply Muslim prayers, but CBP has effectively unreviewable discretion — and now her DHS record includes that she has been “previously denied access to the United States,” a major red mark.

The second thing lets you connect people: do you follow subversives? Say, people who are organizing demonstrations? How about ACLU lawyers? Relationships can be used to both incriminate you and others.

This is one of those points where it’s particularly important to remember what ambiguity means. If you’ve written something down in social media, you might have thought about whether it’s defensible in court (i.e., if it’s legal) or whether it’s defensible in public (i.e., if it’s moral). But you probably haven’t asked yourself if it’s defensible when you’re being interrogated by a border patrol agent at the end of a flight, in a secluded room where you have no access to your family or lawyers, and yet no right to leave.

If you grew up under an authoritarian regime, you’ll of course recognize this last category: it’s “defensible to the secret police,” which is a very different bar indeed.

As a technical note: If you’re wondering how much information they could get from having your password for a few minutes, standard forensic software lets you plug in a phone and basically suck down the entire contents of everything on it, plus signed-in accounts from a variety of common apps, quite quickly. Half an hour should give them everything for most users.

If we put all of this together, here’s meaningful threat model #1: Dissidence, or knowing dissidents, or expressing support for them, is now enough to get you on a List. These lists are in the hands of Border Patrol, and likely soon a range of other police and police-like agencies, and are being used as the basis for interrogations. If you aren’t a US Citizen, this can easily mean deportation, even if you’re under a green card.

Watch for more reports of people being detained at the border, or by police for reasons like “being too close to a demonstration,” and facing consequences due to their political or religious speech. You might also keep an eye out for propaganda describing various kinds of opposition groups as being anti-American or terrorist organizations — antifascist groups being a likely first target.

A symbol of Jewish Antifascists — triple parentheses and the “Iron Front” triple arrows. Getting caught with this in your social media could get you branded a terrorist supporter.

Support for a terrorist organization is, of course, a serious crime, and simply having reference to such things on your phone is very good reason for the police to arrest and/or deport you. At least, so they assure us.

Threat Model #2: Roundup Ready

This week, ICE agents have engaged in a stream of raids across at least six states, charging into workplaces, laying in wait for parents outside schools, and going door-to-door in neighborhoods, demanding proof of citizenship. Hundreds of people were arrested and are being deported. Here’s a key line from the news story:

A DHS official confirmed that while immigration agents were targeting criminals, given the broader range defined by Trump’s executive order, they also were sweeping up noncriminals in the vicinity who were found to be lacking documentation.

“Noncriminals in the vicinity who were found to be lacking documentation” means that people were asked to show their papers, and if they couldn’t do so, were arrested. I leave it as a question for the reader whether (a) any of the people asked to show their papers had last names like Schmidt or Andersen and (b) whether you, if asked on the spot, could provide proof of your legal right to be inside the US.

“May we see your papers, please?”

An immediate response to this might be “well, they’re here illegally, isn’t it the police’s job to catch them and deport them?” Even to the extent that this statement is true, it ignores three points. First, anything, once illegal, is indeed the police’s job to enforce; this is a statement about what police are, it’s not a statement about the particular policy. Second, there are very few misdemeanors (as “failure to file correct paperwork” is, all rhetoric aside) punishable by loss of one’s home, work, and family. And third, the purpose of these raids is much more than to arrest a few hundred people: it’s to remind those communities that they can be raided at any time, that they aren’t safe at home, or picking their children up from school. That fear is meant to encourage what both Attorney-General Jeff Sessions and Mitt Romney describe as “self-deportation:” making people decide they could do better by fleeing the country.

That fear is not, of course, meant to apply to white neighborhoods. This is something we’ll come back to below.

Look, another cute animal! “Hello!,” by Philip Marazzi, was one of the winners of the 2016 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. You can get canvases and prints from them, which also support worthwhile causes, not least protecting cubs like the one above.

One important thing to remember is that by making people “illegal,” you keep them from receiving the protection of the law. You can’t go to the police, or to the courts, if your mere detection by them could easily lead to arrest (and loss of your job, and thousands of dollars in “court costs”) at best. This makes it very easy to exploit people; is someone going to complain when they aren’t paid, or if they’re robbed, or if they’re raped, under these circumstances?

That principle applies to a lot more than just immigrants, of course: it’s the very basis of our “war on crime,” and is the reason why Black Lives Matter is so important. It’s also the reason why the criminalization of sex work, or of the homeless, or of transness is important. For all these very different groups, the police is a threat, not a promise, and that makes them easy targets.

We’ll come back to all of this below.

But here’s the threat model: ICE will continue and regularly step up its raids against Latino communities. If you look Latino and can’t prove your right to be in the country on-demand, you’re likely to be imprisoned and have one last chance to do so before being deported.

People who are known by the system in some way — say, people brought unlawfully to the US as small children who were trying to become citizens through the DREAM Act — are likely to quickly become targets. State and city governments who refuse to help identify such people are already the targets of federal pressure; you can expect private employers and landlords to be next.

Something that goes with this is the mass revocation of visas or green cards; it’s unclear whether the President could unilaterally revoke the visa of every single Muslim, or every single person from any Muslim country, or every person with an Arabic name. If he did so, it would certainly be challenged in court; but as noted above, court challenges like this can take years to resolve, and ICE can deport people much more quickly.

The order to build extra detention center capacity next to this new Mexican wall wasn’t done at random.

Threat Model #3: Criminalize Protest (and Blackness)

Criminalizing protest in the US is far from new; it happens whenever there are major protest movements. And instead of giving you a summary of how it works, I’m going to point you to David Wong’s article in Cracked, which explains the methods all too well. (“Wait for one protester to break the law, then talk only about that” is a good example)

What makes this interesting is that the past few years in the US have already seen an active protest movement being the target of this — namely, Black Lives Matter. Ever since protests began after Michael Brown was killed by police, and his body left out on display in the streets for four hours, there has been a countermovement aimed at arguing that BLM’s aims are absurd, that its aims are secretly terroristic, and ultimately that it’s a criminal organization which needs to be shut down.

The counterarguments to it have always been very strange, but they’re very illustrative of how things work. On the public messaging side, we first had “All Lives Matter;” a statement which is easy to argue (since it’s obviously true), and whose purpose is to imply that “Black Lives Matter,” by focusing on Black lives, is implicitly against everyone who isn’t Black. That is, it tries to reposition a call for police agencies to treat Black lives with as much value as they treat white ones as a call for some kind of war against whites. But by “sounding reasonable,” it can appeal to a much wider range of people, people who would never dream of talking about “white genocide” (an alt-right catchphrase for “OMG race mixing!”).

The second step was “Blue Lives Matter.” This does several things; first and foremost, it positions “Black Lives Matter” as being the enemy of the police, and therefore of public order and safety. Done in combination with a PR push (especially aimed at police organizations themselves) to argue that police deaths are at unprecedented levels (they’re not; they’re down sharply since their peak in the early 1970’s, and have been steadily decreasing for decades even as the number of police increased), this turns into a justification for increased police power against any Black Lives Matter protests or organizers.

This ties in to what happened in parallel with this PR strategy: a tremendous militarized response to protests. The original (peaceful) protests in Ferguson were not met by friendly police officers posing for pictures; they were met with battle lines set to cordon off roads, volleys of tear gas, and walls of police officers dressed more for Fallujah than the Midwest.

What actually happened varied tremendously from place to place. Dallas’ police department particularly stood out for its honorable behavior during protests, even when a sniper suddenly attacked officers; that behavior was not isolated, but part of a multi-year effort by the DPD to build ties to the community. By contrast, two years (almost to the day) after the Ferguson protests, Chicago’s PD was described in a formal report as having “no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.”

Contrast all of the above to the recent Women’s March on Washington, which (the organizers note) didn’t result in a single arrest. What was the difference?

There are two pretty glaring things. The first is that the Black Lives Matter protests were protests specifically against police misconduct — and the police responding to them were often the ones whose egregious and bloodthirsty misconduct had led to the protests in the first place. The second is something Americans are often afraid to talk about. The Women’s March was dominated by middle-class white women; Black Lives Matter was dominated by black men and women.

From a legal perspective, black men are considered deadly weapons, and use of force against them is justified.

It’s hard to overstate the extent to which blackness is expressed as frightening in the media. When Brock Turner was convicted after being caught in the act of raping a woman behind a dumpster, he was sentenced to only six months because the judge didn’t want to harm his future prospects. Newspapers invariably headlined him as a “Stanford swimmer.” When Trayvon Martin was killed for walking home from the corner store with Skittles in his pocket, the media spent much of their coverage arguing about why his hoodie made him look older and more threatening.

This has legal consequences, as well. George Zimmerman was acquitted of Martin’s murder, not because a jury refused to follow the laws, but because it did: according to Florida law, what he did was as legal as church on Sunday. Florida has a combination of laws and court rulings which effectively remove the “duty to retreat” common in self-defense laws around the country; it means that you can legally respond with deadly force at almost any time you legitimately fear for your life. The hidden thing implicit in this is that a young black man is considered intrinsically threatening; even though Zimmerman was larger than Martin, and armed, a jury agreed that he had sufficient reason to fear for his life, simply because he was talking to a young black man on the street, that he had reason to shoot.

This is the heart of why Black Lives Matter is such an important statement: from a legal perspective, black men are considered deadly weapons per se, and use of force against them is justified. This is not limited to Florida; Philando Castile’s (fully licensed) possession of a weapon was considered to justify his killing in Minnesota just two years after Brown’s death.

Now, how does this history lesson tie in with the Trump administration? For the past few decades, there has been a distinct line in American politics: Black demonstrations are dangerous events and forceful police presence is nearly mandatory; white demonstrations, especially ones led by women, are “peaceful protests” and will be protected.

But Trump has made some fairly clear signals that more and more categories of protest could become subject to the same treatment as Black protests. Trump has quite openly backed “Blue Lives Matter” movements, and a recent set of executive orders do things like create a “Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety,” or adding tens of thousands of police officers under the DHS. He’s also threatened to send in “the feds” (unclear whether he meant police or National Guard) to take over Chicago if that city fails to stop its “carnage.”

If you are white, you’re probably wondering what that increased police presence has to do with stopping protest. If you are, go back and re-read the section on Ferguson, and consider what happens whenever the police force sees itself as separate from, and opposed to, the protesting body. White women do not have an intrinsic magic which protects them.

But in order to pull this together, we need one more ingredient: a discussion of what the Trumpist view of America actually is.

Trumpist America

It’s important to recognize that Trumpism isn’t a unitary thing. Within the core of the administration, there are already a few key groups. Trump himself, along with his family members, represent what you might call the “kleptocratic wing” of the movement: while they certainly have some fairly strong political ideas, they are ideologically flexible if money is on the table. Bannon and Miller, on the other hand, represent a more “ideological wing,” with a clear vision of the country which is their top priority. Pence represents an equally ideological wing of a different movement, namely the traditional American right wing; this includes a desire for a certain branch of Evangelical Christianity to be the de facto state religion, as opposed to the more European right wing (concerned with things like eliminating immigration) that Trumpism prefers. And then there are the people who are “just doing their jobs,” people like Priebus and Conway who don’t have an obvious ideology of their own beyond a willingness to do whatever it takes to support their boss.

But despite these differences, there are ideas in common between not only these senior leaders, but the bulk of ordinary believers in Trumpism. It’s a vision of an America which is wealthy and powerful, in which the government has a duty to help and protect Americans, but has no such duty to anybody else; it can and should help Americans at the expense of others whenever possible. But importantly, Trumpism also has very specific ideas about who is a “real American.”

First and foremost: Immigrants — including permanent residents, naturalized citizens, and even second-generation immigrants — are not Americans in Trumpism. You can only become American over a period of several generations, and even that may be limited by how “American” you look. While “illegal immigrants” are a popular campaign slogan, it’s no coincidence that the Muslim Ban began by barring permanent residents as well.

Second, Muslims are never Americans. Period, no matter how long your family has been in the country.

Third, certain groups are conditionally American: that condition is based on their playing their appropriate roles in the American drama. In particular, Black people’s role is subservience: taking menial jobs, being sexually available for white needs, being cheated and exploited, and above all, never rocking the boat. (Trump’s long history of lawsuits for very explicit racial discrimination in housing is not coincidental; games with housing have been one of the core ways money was extracted in bulk from Black communities in the 20th century.)

For Jews and the LGBTQ community, different parts of the Trumpist coalition disagree. Trump himself is quite fine with Jews: they’re “the only kind of people I want counting my money.” But Bannon and his friends in the alt-right definitely consider Jews beyond the pale; Bannon himself considers the American Jewish community, together with universities and the media, to be a sort of Muslim fifth column. Trump himself seems indifferent to the LGB community, and his daughter and son-in-law are rumored to be willing to stand up for them; but Trump is also quite willing to sell them down the river to secure the backing of Pence and his ideological wing, with everything from laws to lawsuits to executive orders institutionalizing discrimination against them. The trans community, on the other hand, is entirely un-American in the Trumpist view: social roles, including gender roles, are absolutely immutable.

(I have no idea where Native Americans fit into this story. I suspect strongly that they are simply not American in Trumpism, which would make my head explode if it didn’t want to make me spit even more)

For the rest of the public, Americanism is conditional on your loyalty. People who are actively trying to thwart the vision of Trumpism are traitors, and profoundly un-American. This includes the entire state of California, the media, academia, anyone who has spoken against him, and (importantly) anyone who has attempted to “rock the boat” of appropriate social limits of different groups.

To understand Trumpism, you must understand this combination: Nationalism (that the government should take active measures to protect and support the people of the nation, including measures to ensure that everyone has jobs and so on; and the government’s only responsibility to people not part of the nation is to use them to maximize the nation’s wealth) combined with “I decide who’s part of the nation.”

Putting It All Together

We can now put all of the above together into a story of what you can expect in the near future, depending on who you are.

For immigrants, or anyone who looks like an immigrant, we should expect a full press by the government to force you out of the country. This will include ICE raids to terrify people into leaving; withdrawal of visas, green cards, and of attempts at naturalization, which will affect Muslim countries first but potentially far more countries later; and very likely, a sequence of laws requiring that various jobs, contracts, and so on be limited to citizens.

Nazi publications routinely listed Jews who had been arrested and charged with crimes.

It’s important to study the precedent of the German 1933 Civil Service Law, which placed quotas on how many Jews would be allowed to hold a wide variety of jobs. This law proved very popular, because it was combined with a PR push to portray the people pushed out as “criminals,” and it opened up all sorts of jobs for “good Germans.”

For Muslims, there will simply be an out-and-out push to de-Americanize. On the legal front, you can expect things like the mass revocation of visas and the like. On the extra-legal front, expect a nonstop barrage of speeches against Muslims, combined with unambiguous signals to police agencies that crimes against Muslims are not to be taken seriously, while crimes by Muslims are of the utmost importance. (The pending instruction to the DHS to cease studying non-Muslim terrorists, even though white supremacists make up the large bulk of terror attacks in the US, is a good first example)

For the Black, Jewish, and LGBTQ communities, the media, academics, and the public more broadly, the rule is going to be that you’re fine so long as you don’t rock the boat. (NB that being trans means you rock the boat by your very existence) In particular, I would look for more laws which not only criminalize dissent, but tie it to longer-term consequences. For example:

  • Creating “terrorism-like” classifications for things like Black Lives Matter and antifascism, with relationships to those things leading to the same kind of heightened “scrutiny” (and likelihood of arrest on various charges, deportation, and so on) on those grounds;
  • Using existing tools like sex offender registries as weapons; for example, an increased criminalization of “walking while trans” (often prosecuted as “manifesting prostitution”) or “going to the bathroom while trans.” Sex offenders are typically barred from living close to (often within 1,000' or 2,000' of) a school or church, from holding most jobs, and have to notify their neighbors of their existence; in practice, this means a bar on living within almost any town or city, except in specially designated zones on the outskirts of town.
  • For the press and academics, more use of legal methods like libel suits, and extra-legal methods such as blocking of grants, to silence anyone who disagrees. Scientists who publish results unfavorable to administration policies, for example, are likely to be described as “fake science,” just as journalists who criticize the regime are the “lying press.”

Given all of this, you may wonder “why rock the boat?” If you aren’t directly affected, might it not make more sense for you to stay quiet and see what happens? Should you protest?

I could quote Martin Niemöller (“First they came for the Socialists…”) or Patrick Henry (“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”), but instead I want to draw your attention to a pattern I’ve seen in many areas: the 10–80–10 rule.

This rule seems to show up in many areas of study; from discussions of popular support of the Nazis in 1930’s Germany, to studies of how police corruption does or doesn’t spread, to psychology experiments. It boils down to this:

Roughly 10% of the population will, in almost any circumstance, be heroes. Their moral compass will not waver, no matter what happens.

Roughly 10% of the population will, in almost any circumstance, be villains. They will inflict harm on others for their own benefit whenever they can get away with it.

The remaining 80% of the population sits on a spectrum between these two, but ultimately will wait to see what people around them are doing, and what’s considered socially acceptable. If they find themselves in a place where the social norms encourage honesty and morality, they will follow suit; if they find themselves in a place where certain kinds of violence and thievery are normalized, they will engage in them as well.

10% of people will always be heroes; 10% will be villains. The other 80% will wait to see what people around them are doing, and take their cues about what’s right and wrong from social norms.

This was the secret of the Nazi rise to power; it’s the secret of structural racism; it’s the secret of how every vile movement either does or doesn’t succeed. These issues are never decided by converting one 10% or the other; they’re decided by the social norms which the 80% see around them, which determine for them what is and isn’t allowable.

(The exact numbers vary from circumstance to circumstance; “10” can really be anything from five to twenty-five, depending on what we’re discussing.)

And these norms can be decided quite suddenly. Even though the 80% are not going to fight for morality under absolutely all circumstances, that doesn’t mean they have no moral compass of their own; most people are uncomfortable with evil, and will only participate in it if there’s no consistent voice against it. In Asch’s experiment, or Milgram’s, only a few people had to refuse to participate (in lying and shocking people, respectively) before everyone else refused, as well.

The effect of protest and dissent is to show that dissent is a legitimate option: that a blind acceptance of the ideas of Trumpism is not the norm, either in America or elsewhere. The first objective of the regime is quite simply to quiet dissent: to make objections quiet down enough that they can go to their main objectives (money and/or national purification) with not only the compliance, but even the assistance, of the public.

The immediate next steps I discussed above are simply first steps, and if you are not directly affected, they may seem mild. But these are not small groups: there are over 42 million immigrants in the US, and for them, a sudden visa revocation or ICE raid could mean not only losing their jobs and their homes, but being forcibly separated from their children and their spouses. For the people saying that Black Lives Matter, this is a choice between continuing to teach their children the exaggeratedly humble poses required not to be killed with impunity by a police officer, and not only parents worrying about their children when they leave the house, but children worrying each day that their parents won’t come home. For trans people, it means that simply needing to go to the bathroom could get one branded a sex offender, and losing everything from one’s home to one’s children.

People have been saying that Trump isn’t setting up extermination camps, and if it’s not that, then we shouldn’t be taking it as seriously as Nazism. But you don’t have to set up death camps to make things life-threateningly serious for anyone not regarded as a “real American” — and you can’t rely on your own history of whiteness, or money, or education, to protect you. If they will go after ACLU lawyers, believe me that they will go after you if it ever suits their interest.

There is only one way to stop this: with continued and unwavering protest and dissent. This includes everything from people marching in the streets by the tens and by the millions, to lawyers who will fight cases and courts who will stand up to Trumpist demands for unquestioned, unreviewable power.

The “next steps” that I’ve listed above are just that — next steps. If you are not willing to draw the line at the point where actual people are actually being harmed, where will you draw the line?

And when you are called to account for your life, how will you have spent it?

Looking to do your part? One way to get involved is to read the Indivisible Guide, which is written by former congressional staffers and is loaded with best practices for making Congress listen. Or follow this publication, connect with us on Twitter, and join us on Facebook.