TOMORROW'S US presidential election has significant implications for the protection of human rights – both domestically and internationally. During the past four years, the Trump administration has taken many actions which undermine human rights norms and institutions.

The US State Department has set up a commission to reconceptualise human rights along the lines of what are perceived to be the intentions of the authors of the US Constitution. This entails pulling back from an expanding and progressive understanding of human rights to a focus on religious rights as the most important set of rights. This would allow individuals and religious groups to discriminate against people under the guise of religious freedom.

This narrowing of the understanding of rights would reduce protections for many groups, including women and LGBT communities. As part of this agenda, President Trump has appointed to the Supreme Court judges who have, or are likely to, scale back many hard-won rights over the decades, including abortion and same-sex marriage. The most recent appointment to the Court, Amy Coney Barrett, seems likely to solidify an extreme conservative majority which will chip away at or completely erase many of these rights.

President Trump has praised authoritarian leaders around the world, and has acted in authoritarian ways himself domestically. The former condones and empowers anti-democratic leaders internationally, and the latter undermines democracy and the rule of law at home. Four more years of a Trump administration will solidify these anti-democratic tendencies.

He has undermined what had been the most generous (if still problematic) refugee resettlement programme in the world, drastically reducing the number of refugees the US accepts for resettlement. More broadly, he has attacked and vilified refugees and other immigrants, engaging in such abhorrent practices as family separation at the border and putting children in cages. Anti-immigrant practices look set to expand under a second Trump administration.

President Trump has advocated the use of torture, and while it is unclear whether such a practice has actually been used over the last four years, it remains a possibility. And further, such a public stance sends a message to other countries that it is OK to torture.

The Trump administration has attacked and sought to undermine key global human rights institutions, such as the UN Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court. Such attempts to undermine the global institutional fabric of human rights protection, however imperfect it may be, also look set to continue under a second Trump administration.

All of these actions – and many more – have undermined human rights domestically and internationally, and have undermined the Unites States' standing in the world and its claim – however problematic – to be the "leader of the free world". A second Trump administration would accelerate these trends, with devastating consequences for the rule of law and protection of human rights around the world and the US’s global standing.

Kurt Mills, Professor of International Relations and Human Rights at the University of Dundee.