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Unthinkable Thoughts

In one session dedicated to polling, three panelists [at the annual convention of the International Association of Political Consultants] who had predicted Mrs. Clinton would win took to the stage, framed by a royal blue backdrop. Instead of PowerPoint presentations and state-by-state voter analyses, there was morose self-flagellation, as some admitted they had spent the election seduced by “magical thinking,” unable to envision a Trump presidency and therefore blind to the story in front of them. ...
“It was impossible to conceive of an incoming President Trump,” said Ms. Omero, whose firm has worked for both former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton over the years.
- Julie Turkewitz, At Conference, Political Consultants Wonder Where They Went Wrong, Nov. 14, 2016


The “precedent” ... is Executive Order 9066, issued by President Franklin Roosevelt in February 1942. It was a blatantly racist act by a government swept up in wartime hysteria. Americans who were not suspected of any crime, or even of sympathies to a hostile government, were torn from their communities, homes and jobs, and locked in barbed-wire camps for three years.

The Bill of Rights was written precisely to protect individuals against governmental abuses of power like this. And yet, in 1944, the Supreme Court upheld the order’s constitutionality. Writing for the majority in Korematsu v. United States, Justice Hugo Black said Americans of Japanese descent were incarcerated “because we are at war with the Japanese empire,” not because of racial “hostility.” But that was obviously untrue, as Justice Black suggested in an interview decades later, saying that “people were rightly fearful of the Japanese” because to non-Japanese people “they all look alike.”

Today the Korematsu decision is widely regarded as one of the court’s most shameful. But it has never been overturned because the issue hasn’t come up again.

How much will that matter in the coming months and years? The consensus among lawyers and legal scholars has long been that the ruling is “so thoroughly discredited,” as Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in a 2010 book, “that it is hard to conceive of any future court referring to it favorably or relying on it.”

But many things that were hard to conceive of only two weeks ago now appear in a very different light. Mr. Trump’s vow to register Muslims is already on the path to reality.
- The New York Times Editorial Board, 1942 All Over Again?, Nov. 17, 2016



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