HomeBlogBusiness Secrets from the StarsEssaysNovels, Etc.Another Chance at Life: A Breast Cancer Survivor's JourneyTell a friend about this pageE-mail

I'll See Your Arnold and Raise You a Jennifer

by David Dvorkin

I keep getting in strange arguments, on liberal Web sites, with liberals, about the absurd Constitutional provision prohibiting naturalized citizens' becoming president or vice president. I expect xenophobia on the right, but I'm always surprised when I encounter it on the left.

Not that I want to run for president. A short, fat, bald atheist who hates suits and ties and would tell reporters that his personal life is none of their fucking business wouldn't have a chance, no matter where he was born. And if I somehow won, I wouldn't want to live in Washington - although Little Georgie has shown that that's not necessary. I certainly wouldn't want to answer that damned telephone at 3 a.m. "Mr. President! Mr. President! India and China are lobbing nuclear missiles at each other! Millions of people have already been incinerated! Radioactive clouds are drifting all over Asia! Non-combatant nations are putting all their forces on high alert! Your commanders are clamoring for instructions! Do you want to order the End of the World?" "Go awaaaaaay! Ten minutes' snoooooooze!"

The point is, I want to be able to run for pres or veep, if madness suddenly overcomes me. I don't want to be told that I'm not the equal of other citizens. I don't want to be told that a walking anal sphincter such as Little Georgie or Reagan the Abominable is legally qualified to run for president but that the Constitution says I'm not allowed to do so. Yes, that would mean that Arnold Schwarzenegger could run for president. And why not? It would also mean that Jennifer Granholm could do so. Or do liberals fear that Granholm, who was born in Vancouver, BC but moved to the U.S. when she was four years old, has divided loyalties? When no real Americans are within hearing, does she end her sentences with "eh"? If she became president, would she set in motion the secret plan to deliver us into the hellish hands of Canuckistan? (And why would that be bad?)

Suppose the Constitution required that, to be president or v.p., you had to be male. I hope that would have been amended away long ago. The natural-born requirement is no different. Whether or not it was justified in the 1780s (it wasn't), it certainly stopped being justified by, say, the 1840s.

Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey

The argument I usually hear - and I've heard this for decades - is that the Founding Fathers Feared, I mean feared, that Britain would invade and reconquer the former colonies and would install a puppet president to govern the new country on their behalf. An 18th century Manchurian Candidate! Maybe he'd be from Manchester - the Mancunian Candidate!

First of all, quislings have always been easy to find. Occupiers never encounter a shortage of them. Vide Iraq or the eponymous Quisling. It would have been easy enough for a foreign conqueror to find a Constitutionally qualified American citizen to serve as its puppet president.

The standard estimate is that at the time of the Revolution, one-third of the colonists were Rebels, one third were Loyalists, and the remaining one-third were No Opinions (or perhaps Waiting-See-Which-Way-The-Wind-Ends-Up-Blowings). Even with a lot of Loyalists having been driven out of the country after the Revolution ended, that still leaves us with a substantial pool from which quislings could have been drawn - native-born quislings, permitted by the Constitution to be president.

Second, even after the Revolution, immigrants continued to pour into the former colonies from England. Many of them were villagers and farmers drawn by the promise of great tracts of fertile land and a higher standard of living. But many were educated, urban types drawn by the politics of the new country. You can bet that there were many among those who would have made fine and dedicated presidents - better ones than the potential quisling who were born here.

Other Countries Don't Let Immigrants Become President!

Or prime minister, as the case may be. But they do.

In France, the requirement for becoming president is that you be a citizen and at least 23 years of age. It doesn't matter where you were born. In Canada, to become prime minister, you must be a Canadian citizen and at least 18 years of age. It doesn't matter where you were born. I can't see that Germany has even such minimal requirements for being Chancellor. And so on. In other words, American's xenophobia on the matter seems to be very unusual, possibly even unique.

Why, Our Family Has Been on This Land Since ... We Stole It from the Indians!

Ah, well. Xenophobia and nativism have always been popular in this nation of immigrants. The descendants of despised immigrant groups, whose ancestors were seen as a threat to the fundamental nature of Americanness, in their turn despise the current crop of immigrants and complain about how they're diluting what it means to be an American. And each such group insists that its contemptible xenophobia isn't really xenophobia, like that of its forebears, but rather a justified and rational fear because of the unique circumstances of the present day, blather, blather.

HomeBlogBusiness Secrets from the StarsEssaysNovels, Etc.Another Chance at Life: A Breast Cancer Survivor's JourneyTell a friend about this pageE-mail