We can't let America become Trumpistan

Story highlights

  • With less than a week to go before Election Day, the presidential race is as tight as ever
  • Dean Obeidallah: If Trump wins, we can expect to lose the freedoms we hold dear, including press, religion and assembly

Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM's radio's daily program "The Dean Obeidallah Show" and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @TheDeansreport. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)"If you disrespect the Constitution by threatening to shut down the press when it doesn't say things you like or threaten to throw your opponent in jail or discriminate against people of different faiths -- if you do that before you are elected, then what are you gonna do when you have actual power to do those things?"

Those were the impassioned words of President Barack Obama on Tuesday as he warned us about a Donald Trump presidency. And Obama was right to ring the alarm bell. We need to ask ourselves: would a President Trump try to implement -- via legislation, regulations or executive orders -- his promises to limit freedom of religion, jail political opponents and curtail freedom of the press?
Dean Obeidallah
And if he did, are you satisfied with the idea of Trump transforming our nation from the United States of America into Trumpistan? No, our country would not become Afghanistan. But under a President Trump it would no longer be "the shining city on the hill" with "people of all kinds living in harmony and peace," as Ronald Reagan stated in his 1989 farewell speech.
    Instead, it would be a nation ruled by a thin-skinned, egotistical, serial liar who seems to have little respect for our democratic institutions. Now, some might be inclined to dismiss all this as just hyperbolic talk, but they could be making a dangerous mistake given Trump's vindictive nature. He has lashed out against anyone critical of him, from other politicians to the media to "Saturday Night Live," tweeting that the show should be taken off the air when it mocked him in a way he found objectionable.
    And, alarmingly, as his long-time friend and surrogate Omarosa boasted in September, if Trump wins, "Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump." That certainly sounds like something a warlord in Afghanistan might demand, not a US President.
    As Obama correctly noted Tuesday, Trump is no fan of freedom of the press, at least when it comes to media outlets that criticize him in ways he deems unfair. Trump has done more than serve up run-of-the-mill media bashing. In May, Trump told us he wants to "open up our libel laws" so he can sue media outlets not just when they write false stories but also ones he deems as "purposely negative." (Under that standard, I and any writer who criticizes Trump could be sued.)
    What Trump's 'libel law' warning really means
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      What Trump's 'libel law' warning really means


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    Obviously, the First Amendment protects freedom of the press. But would a President Trump issue executive orders that effectively curtailed criticism of the government under the guise of fighting terrorism akin to what we now see in Pakistan? Given the passion of Trump supporters who have booed the media with gusto at Trump events, it's plausible that many would go along with a crackdown on media outlets critical of Trump.
    Trump has not only vowed to have his political opponent Hillary Clinton criminally investigated but also told her at the second presidential debate that if he were in charge of the law in our country, "you'd be in jail." Sure, in countries like Uzbekistan political opponents have been imprisoned, but not in our nation.
    And then there is freedom of religion. Trump, while backing off his Muslim ban, has still not rescinded his pledge for surveillance of Muslim Americans simply because of their faith. In fact, in June, Trump reiterated, "we have to be very strong in terms of looking at the mosques."
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    This violates the very essence of freedom of religion, which guarantees freedom from being harassed or singled out by our government simply for our faith. How different is this from what we see in Tajikistan, where the government has persecuted minority faiths like the Jehovah's Witnesses as well as certain Islamic and Protestant sects?
    The truth is we have no idea what Trump would actually do as President if elected. He might back off these promised attacks on our democracy and freedoms. Or he could be even more emboldened to silence his critics, investigate and possibly imprison political opponents and deprive certain minority faiths of freedom of religion. In reality, the only way to ensure the United States doesn't morph into Trumpistan is to make certain that we never ever have a President Trump.