Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


I have gone on record in this blog saying that I didn't want to see the Constitution amended for anything but ditching the Electoral College. But I have changed my mind. There's another idea floating around right now that I'm starting to like -- amending to allow foreign-born naturalized citizens to become President.

Now I know what you're thinking -- this is the Arnold amendment, right? After all, the most popular website promoting this idea is (The site is also billing it as an amendment for Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, but I think this is just to pretend to be bipartisan). Well, maybe in the short run, this is the Arnold amendment. But that's why we have to do it now.


Think about it. In the short run, passage of this amendment might lead to Arnold Schwarzenegger being elected President. However, that is far from a certainty (especially given the recent evangelical tilt of the Republican party) and it is good for America in the long run. Moreover, this may be the only chance we ever have of getting conservatives on board for this amendment.

So what do we think? Is the possible short-term pain worth the long-term gain?


Dr. Strangelove said...

I agree. There should be one kind of citizen--there should be no second class of naturalized citizens who don't have all the rights and privileges of "real" Americans. The LA Times came out in support of such an amendment also, and for precisely the same reasons Bell Curve mentioned.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Representatives must be 25, senators 30, and the President 35 years old to be elected. Are those also archaic, to be ditched? What about the residency requirements (14 years for president)?

The natural-born citizen provision was intended to prevent any foreign agent from being forced upon us. It was also intended to prevent foreign-born pretenders overseas from returning here (Bonnie Prince Charlie was on their minds). My anger at this proposal to change the provision is that it is a huge waste of political capital. Abolishing the electoral college is important; changing the natural-born requirement is not. I would hold the latter hostage to the former, and demand a real reform of the whole archaic presidential system, not just one little bit.

Bell Curve said...

Ooh, good idea. Bill it as a Presidential Election Reform Amendment and include the abolition of the E.C. and the abolition of the birth requirement. You'd get more backing this way anyway. The next question is, once we ditch the E.C., do we need a run-off if no one gets a majority? But maybe this is a discussion for another day.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Yes, I'd like to get rid of the EC most of all and if this could be bundled as part of it, more the better. I've been griping about the EC for years (as most of us have). I'm not sold on the age limits, but I see a clear distinction between age limits and a birthplace/bloodline requirement. We have age limits on lots of things, and its considered OK to deny privileges to younger people that adults have. As I said, I'm not thrilled about those limits, but age requirements are generally considered fair by most people who would not consider any other kind of requirement (gender, race, sexual orientation, religion) to be fair.

Raised By Republicans said...

I have to say I'm against letting naturalized citizens become President. Let me ask why we need to have the change? What compelling interest do we have in opening things up to foreign born citizens? I fail to see any serious advantage to the US from allowing foreign born citizens to run. What are the specific advantages we would gain from making this change?

Easier to just say, "Tough cookies Ahnold. If it was a good enough rule for Alexander Hamilton its a good enough rule for you....and by the way, Ahnold, you're no Alexander Hamilton!"

Gaoshan said...

I am against changing any part of the constitution unless there is a seriously compelling reason to do so.

I don't see enabling foreign born citizens to be eligible for the presidency as a compelling issue at all.

Raised By Republicans said...

Allow me to elaborate on my previous comment/question.

If foreign born citizens are no different than native born citizens in their political opinions then why should we bother with the amendment?

If, on the other hand, foreign born citizens have systematically different political opinions than native born citizens, then these opinions should be considered alien and there is a compelling reason to exclude them until they are held by native born citizens as well.

Dr. Strangelove said...

A fine point, RBR... but why stop by merely excluding naturalized citizens? We should ask ourselves: what do we gain by permitting women and minorities to run for president? If their opinions are the same as those of white men, then "we" gain nothing--and if their opinions are different, then that's a reason to exclude them. I can hear the ghost of Strom Thurmond cheering from the beyond the grave.

(It's not an issue of advantage, but inclusiveness and fairness.)

Dr. Strangelove said...

I gotta say it.. I just can't help thinking that if Arnold were a Democrat, everyone on this blog would be outraged that he could not run for President.

Raised By Republicans said...

I have to admit that Arnold's political philosophy is what sinched it for me. But its not a knee jerk partisan thing. Afterall, Arnold is fairly moderate by current Republican standards. Sure, he's the greatest enemy higher education has ever had in California but he's no Trent Lott. Besides, I'm smart enough to realize that there are also Democrats who would be able to run - and that most of them would probably be Canadian born.

But consider Arnold's political philosophy and where it comes from and how dangerous it is. Arnold is on record repeatedly saying things like, "The problem in California is that we have too many politicians. What we need is a single leader who represents all the people and who has the power to get things done." That scares me. Its also a profoundly UNAMERICAN point of view. Its very European and European at its worst. Its closely related to the philosophy espoused by Arnold's NAZI father and that represented by the current Prime Minister of Italy.

I've had a lot of naturalized citizens in my classes and about once a quarter I would hear similar comments from students brave enough to suggest fascism as an alternative to democracy. "What we need is a single righteous leader who pick all the best policies." I hear this from a lot of 1st generation Asian students - many of whom grew up in authoritarian or totalitarian societies.

Women and native born minorities just want to be represented at the table - they don't want to own the whole table. And don't forget the current system allows that kind of representation for naturalized citizens too (they can be members of Congress and even Governors). But if we allow people who have not grown up embedded in a culture and education system centered on the idea of seperated power and limited state power over the individual, we are in danger.

Before you say it, I'll say that naturalized citizens are not the only source of such a threat. The Religious Right poses exactly the same problem. But we can't so easily deal with them.

Bell Curve said...

If, on the other hand, foreign born citizens have systematically different political opinions than native born citizens, then these opinions should be considered alien and there is a compelling reason to exclude them until they are held by native born citizens as well.What?

Since when should it be unconstitutional to bring a different idea to the table? Isn't this a good thing instead of a bad thing? It sounds like you want to censor these American citizens because they have "un-American" ideas. That's ridiculous.

Raised By Republicans said...

Well, actually, we're not talking about total exclusion of foreign born citizens. They can vote and hold every office except the Presidency. Also, it's been unconstitutional to include them in the Presidency since the Constitution was first ratified. I'm not the one proposing a change here.

For the moment, I'm sticking by my concern that non-native citizens often have a very different attitude towards political power and democracy.

I'm not one of these mushy gooshy post-modernists who think that all ideas are equally valid. They are not. Ideas based on collective identity, fascism and related philosophies are not only flawed they are a major threat to our society and should be excluded whenever possible - especially from the executive branch.

I think Arnold is dangerously close to being a fascist in his basic world view ("a single leader who represents all the people"). He's built up quite the cult of personality around himself in California too. A larger scale concern is the common view of political power among 1st generation immigrants from authoritarian and totalitarian regimes around the world. My friend Gao Shan could tell us horror stories about politics among the Cuban community in Florida for example.

Of course there are native born Americans who think like that too. But, for the moment, they are in the minority (albeit not in the minority in the GOP). But we can't do anything to remove native born fascists/theocrats from our system. But we can exclude - partially - foreign born citizens.

I'm willing to tolerate excluding the Granholms of the world in exchange for keeping the Arnold's of the world out.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed by RBR's views here. Stating that the President shouldn't be a foreigner so they don't bring in any foreign ideas is laughable. A combination of prejudging possible candidates (assuming they could have some "nasty" ideas) and not trusting your own democratic process (assuming the people of America may agree with those nasty ideas). It appears the fears of your republican upbringing are clouding your judgement. Moreover, who are under the assumption that what you think is "right". Whether that is true or not, restricting the voting system to protect your interest is highly regressive.

If the USA is to look to reform of the political process then complete reform should be examined. The whole presidental voting system seems to need an overhaul. Nevertheless, maybe your real concern is that the American people may agree with some facist ideal.


Dr. Strangelove said...

Fascism: bad. (I'm sure we all agree on that.) That's not at issue. What's at issue is RBR's claim that naturalized citizens more likely to be fascist than natural born citizens. In fact, RBR is (apparently) claiming that naturalized citizens are so much more likely be fascist that it makes sense to exclude them from the Presidency (even though we're OK letting them do everything else.)

To support this claim, RBR has offered some anecdotes about the beliefs of some naturalized citizens (e.g. Ahnold). But I've met a few naturalized citizens who seem to value the freedoms we have more than most natural born citizens--often because they came from places that lacked them. Anecdotes go both ways on this. Furthermore, Sam's remark is right on the money: there *are* fascists in the USA too (heck, we may just have re-elected one.) Sorry, RBR, but that part of your argument isn't convincing.

But RBR is correct: he's not the one proposing a change. It's not his burden to defend the status quo. "Why fix it if it ain't broken?" is a perfectly legitimate argument. And the fact that the likely beneficiary of such a change is Arnold Schwarzenegger is a fair reason to oppose it. So let me make the argument FOR change and give RBR something to pick at :)

1. Acceptance. In many nations, no matter how long you live there, you're always viewed as an outsider. But not here. In America, when a person completes the process of becoming a citizen, we say, in effect, "You are an American--as American as anyone else--and as far as we're concerned, you might as well have always been an American." For a nation of immigrants, that's a wonderful principle to keep, and something we can be proud of. The only exception is the Presidency provision, so it would be nice to remove that little stain.

2. Fairness. To say that a naturalized citizen is not fit to serve as President is to say that there is something special about being born on American soil that they will never share. Remember: it's not about how long you've lived here, or even where you grew up. A natural born citizen could have grown up elsewhere--the only requirement is 14 years residency--while a naturalized citizen who has lived in the U.S. his entire life (save the day he was born) is deemed eligible. Doesn't this seem unfair? Unless you believe our soil has been uniquely sanctified by God, how can this make sense?

Raised By Republicans said...

OK, I'll come clean. I've been arguing against this string for a while even though I'm not convinced of the position I've been espousing. I was just kind of annoyed that everyone on the blog jumped on the band wagon for amending the Constitution so easily and without much serious consideration.

Master of Time and Space has FINALLY made an attempt at justifying the change. So I'll come clean now and say what I really think.

OK, so what do I really think....I think it won't matter one way or the other. To be honest I think our time would be MUCH better spent dealing with the tax issues raised in "Red State Blue State Your State Screwed State" which are both more likely to happen and more likely to make a difference in our lives!

Why won't it matter? Because naturalized Citizens already have the right to vote (which means politicians have to pay attention to them) and they have the right to hold every office besides the Presidency. The Presidency is an over rated position in American politics. Sure US Presidents can screw things up pretty badly especially with regard to foreign policy - see our current idiot in chief - but from a domestic policy perspective control of the House of Representatives is more important. In the end, this proposed amendment can only matter with respect to a particular individual - Arnold Schwarzenegger. This would amending the Constitution in a way that would make little policy difference but would greatly satify the ambitions of a particular politician.

Now, as for learning from non-Americans. I'm all for learning from other democracies (that's what I do for a living for Pete's sake) - like Australia which I think has a really cool electoral system or France which as very flexible way of organizing its executive branch or Germany which has a dramatically different approach to federalism. And other democracies have varied approaches to service provision and accountability that should be of interest to us. But I refuse to acknowledge that non-democracies have anything to offer us except a warning of how bad it is not to be a democracy. All democratic regimes are superior forms of government to all non-democratic regimes.

One note of interest: Some historians believe that President Andrew Jackson was not born in the United States. He always claimed to have been born in the Carolinas in 1767. But there have always been rumors that Jackson was actually born at sea on the trip over from Ireland (based on incongruities in the time line of his life that he pushed when he was running for office). If Jackson was born at sea, that would make him foreign born and constitutionally forbidden from being President.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Would an amendment to permit naturalized citizens to be President make much of a difference? RBR says no, and it's hard to argue with that. Unless, of course, you believe that what we really need is a single leader who represents all the people and who has the power to get things done... (But even then, I've heard LTG and RBR argue that Arnold could never get elected anyhow.)

Hey, speaking of restrictions on being President--does anyone think that removing the two-term limit on the Presidency is a good idea? Now that probably *would* make a difference, and it wasn't in the original document. Or perhaps we should just let this thread die peacefully...?

Raised By Republicans said...

Hmmm, removing the term limit on the Presidency? I'm not sure that's a good idea. Turnover in power is a good thing. By the time FDR won reelection for the 3rd time there were people voting for him who had no real memory of anyone besides him being President. I'm not sure that was a good thing in of itself.

I've heard Clinton say that he wishes he could run again and that he would like to see the rule changed to no more than 2 CONSECUTIVE terms. That would allow young politicians to continue in their careers after they serve in the White House while keeping a rule that encourages turnover in power.

Frankly, I'm not a big fan of changes to the constitution that seem tailor made for particular politicians without any real policy goals in mind.

Anonymous said...


If you’re like me, you’re tired of the whole presidential election process in this country. After all, when less than half of the people eligible to vote in this country actually vote, something is wrong.

It’s time to do away with this system that has candidates traveling all over the place, making the same speech over and over, appearing on talk shows, raising hundreds of millions of dollars and selling their souls to the special interest groups with the most money. It’s time we replaced the current system that leads up to election day with a new system modeled after popular television shows.

We’ll replace the whole presidential primary elections with a show we’ll call,
Who Wants to be President?

Much like the ABC show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, Who Wants to be President? will make it possible for any legally-qualified person in this country to be on the show and compete for a chance to run for president.

From a group of ten prospective candidates at a time, the candidate who answers a fastest-finger question before anyone else will make it into “the hot seat” previously known as the presidential primary.

Candidates who make it to the hot seat will be required to answer 15 multiple-choice questions, each a little harder than the one before, with topics ranging from foreign relations and military spending to healthcare and supermarket product pricing (correct answers here show if he’s “in touch” with the common man).

Each time a candidate answers a question correctly, he moves on to a harder question worth more votes. Candidates who need help along the way will be offered three types of assistance, known as “lifelines.”

Since politicians love polls, they can poll the audience.

Since many politicians are indecisive, they can ask to have the four possible answers narrowed down to two.

And, finally, they can phone a friend – if they have any, that is.

Any contestant who answers the first 14 questions correctly will get the chance to answer one final question. If he gets that right, he wins a spot on another program, American Idol: The Presidential Election Special, during which every American voter will be asked to judge each candidate’s performance and then text-message his or her vote for the next president of the United States. Problem solved!

[Note: More humorous articles like this one can be found at my blog:].

Copyright © 2006 Bob McCarty, L.L.C. 

// posted by Bob McCarty