Immigration

The Case for Abolishing the Requirement that the President Must be a "Natural Born" Citizen

I am reposting my 2016 post on this subject, on the occasion of Kevin Walsh's guest-blogging stint addressing the same issue.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

I look forward to Prof. Kevin Walsh's guest-blogging on his case for abolishing the constitutional requirement that the president must be a "natural born" citizen. Back in 2016, I wrote a post advocating much the same idea. The post was inspired in part by the then-ongoing controversy over whether Senator Ted Cruz (at the time a candidate for the GOP nomination) qualifies as a natural born citizen. Here is an excerpt:

Categorically excluding immigrants from the presidency is a form of arbitrary discrimination based on place of birth (or, in a few cases, parentage), which is ultimately little different from discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity. Both ethnicity and place of birth are morally arbitrary characteristics which do not, in themselves, determine a person's competence or moral fitness for high political office.

The "natural born" citizen requirement was originally inserted into the Constitution because some of the Founders feared that European royalty or nobles might move to the United States, get elected to the presidency, and then use the office to advance the interests of their houses. Whatever the merits of this concern back in the 1780s, it is hardly a plausible scenario today.

One can argue that immigrants have less knowledge of the country and its customs, and might make worse presidents for that reason. But that problem is surely addressed by the constitutional requirement that a candidate for president must have been resident in the United States for at least fourteen years. As a practical matter, anyone who attains the political connections and public recognition needed to make a serious run for the presidency is likely to have at least as much knowledge of the US and American politics as most serious native-born candidates do.

Perhaps the most obvious objection to letting immigrants ascend to the presidency is the fear that they might be less loyal than native-born citizens are. But there is no good reason to think that people who became Americans by choice are less likely to be loyal than those did so merely by accident of birth. Indeed, the reverse conjecture is at least equally plausible. Even if some immigrant groups might, on average, be less loyal than natives, the same conjecture can be made about members of some ethnic or racial groups, as compared to others. Such statistical correlations – even if valid – would not justify categorically excluding members of those groups from the presidency, and the same point applies to immigrants….

The significance of this issue should not be overstated. Only a few immigrants (myself definitely not included) have a serious desire to become president, and fewer still would have any real chance of winning. Exclusion from the presidency has little or no practical impact on the lives of the overwhelming majority of naturalized citizens. Nonetheless, categorical exclusion from eligibility for the nation's highest office is an important symbolic affront to immigrants, even those who have no desire to run for the presidency themselves. Consider, for example, how blacks, Hispanics, or Irish-Americans might feel if their group was similarly excluded….

Abraham Lincoln once said that "[w]hen [immigrants] look through that old Declaration of Independence, they find that those old men say that 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal'; and then they feel that that moral sentiment, taught in that day, evidences their relation to those men… and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh, of the men who wrote that Declaration; and so they are." That principle will only be fully realized when we abolish the discriminatory exclusion of immigrants from the nation's highest political office.

Because of the inherent difficulty of passing any constitutional amendment and strong anti-immigration sentiment within the Republican Party, I am not optimistic that an amendment repealing the Natural Born Citizen Clause will pass anytime soon. But I hope and expect that support for this idea will grow over time.

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109 responses to “The Case for Abolishing the Requirement that the President Must be a "Natural Born" Citizen

  1. Is the requirement that the US president be a “natural born citizen” really any more arbitrary than the requirement he be at least 35? The fact that it’s “arbitrary” is probably the least problem.

    1. If you are an open borders nut, yes.

      1. -yawn-

  2. 100% ambivalent. But we can’t even get the statutory fix enabling the 12th amendment to pass. What makes you think that anyone is spending any time spearheading this anachronism?

    1. In what respect do you think that the 12th amendment has not been enabled?

      1. 20th Amendment. I messed that up.

        1. Again, looking at the text of the 20th amendment, I’m not getting what you might think needs to be enabled that hasn’t been.

          1. Section 4. Congress has never passed legislation to set forth what happens when a president elect dies.

  3. strong anti-immigration sentiment within the Republican Party

    And once again, the detractors try to confuse illegal aliens with legal immigration. Just because Republicans are against open borders does not make them anti-immigration. Your repeated innability to acknowlege your opponents position does little to promote your position.

    1. Plenty of Republicans have supplemented their opposition to unlawful immigration with authoritarian, intolerant positions on general immigration.

      1. The U.S. lets in more immigrants than any other nation in the world. A PEW report says- “As of 2015, the United Nations estimates that 46.6 million people living in the United States were not born there.” There’s 327 million in the US, so that’s 14%, a significant percent and a significant amount of people.

        Do you think it intolerant to ask how many, how fast, and from where, assuming we avoid name-calling in asking?

        1. Do you think it’s intolerant to call immigrants rapists, question an Indiana-born judge’s judgment as a “Mexican,” propose important of “more Norwegians,” or call for a Muslim ban?

          1. To answer your questions in order:

            1) No. If Sotomayor is a “wise Latina” who can empathize with Americans more due to her ethnic status, it’ is not intolerant to ask if a Mexican heritage judge can be impartial when deciding a case against Trump (which admittedly, he deserved to lose, but that’s beside the point).

            2) No. If after immediately a visit by the Prime Minister of Norway where Trump was extolled on the wonders of the country by said prime minister, he asks why not “more Norwegians” in a subsequent meeting on immigration, it is not intolerant.

            3) Maybe. While I am on the fence about if the “Muslim ban” is actually a Muslim ban, considering it doesn’t include many countries with majority Muslim populations. However, “animus” against Muslims in general is perfectly rational and indeed warranted, given the history of terrorist attacks by Muslim immigrants and their 2nd gen offspring in all counties, not just the US, as well as the incompatibility of Sharia with the values of a liberal democracy that both of us prefer.

            I was forthright. So I ask again, do you think it is intolerant (if one avoids name calling) to ask how many and from where? According to the Census, there is one new international migrant into the US every 29 seconds. That’s an awful lot of people, and worthy of asking probing questions about.

            1. And the Mexican rapists?

              1. Ah, missed that one. Thanks.

                No. A simple internet search for “raping of migrants at the border by Mexicans” shows plenty of media reports going back long before Trump began his campaign. The prevelance of said reporting is because it was making a case that “we can’t send them back, they will get raped again!”

                Granted, one can debate whether we should let them stay so they don’t get raped when they go back, or close the border off so they don’t even try to come in, and thus don’t get raped on they way. But it’s a strange sort of animal to be called racist by the media when using the media’s own reporting.

                1. Trump’s comment was that “the people Mexico sends” are rapists, not that they are rape victims.

              2. Are you implying no rapists in the U.S. are border jumping Mexicans?

              3. Did you read Trump’s actual comments Bernard? Or just the idiot summary of the comments? Nowhere in his comments did he say all crossers were rapists. He said open borders allowed murderers, criminals, and rapists to cross.. Hint: an open border does. MS-13 is a grand example of it, but choose any cartel you wish.

                Sorry that you can’t be bothered to read full citations and seem to stick to Media Matters headlines.

                1. Did you read Trump’s actual comments Bernard? Or just the idiot summary of the comments? Nowhere in his comments did he say all crossers were rapists.

                  True. Some of them were drug dealers.

                  He said open borders allowed murderers, criminals, and rapists to cross..

                  False. Here’s the actual quote, which is so famous that I thought people wouldn’t deny it: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

                  1. You gotta remember, Trump was on TV like 24/7, the media thought they were sabotaging the general election by having him on. There TONS of quotes about this. I was thinking of this one from July 2015, specifically that line about 80% of women coming into the country illegally are raped:

                    DON LEMON: “Well, why did you have to say?? Donald, why did you have to say Mexicans are rapists?”

                    DONALD: I didn’t say it about Mexicans. I said the illegal immigrants. You look at the statistics on rape, on crime, on everything coming in illegally into this country; they’re mind-boggling. If you go to Fusion, you’ll see a story about 80% of the women coming in. I mean, you have to take a look at these stories. And you know who owns Fusion? Univision!

                    LEMON: I read the Washington Post. I read the Fusion. I read the Huffington Post. And that’s about women being raped. It’s not about criminals coming across the border or entering the country.

                    DONALD: Well, somebody’s doing the raping, Don. You know, I mean, somebody is doing it. You saying it’s women being raped. Well, who is doing the raping? Who’s doing the raping?

                    1. Yes Trump did get his stories mixed up, but although that July interview might have been the comment you were thinking of it is not the one the Rev asked about. He asked whether it’s intolerant to call immigrants rapists, a reference to the quote David Nieporent provides. That one Trump made in the speech formally announcing his candidacy on June 16, 2015.

                    2. Yes, Trump is somewhat notorious for taking snippets of information and putting them out of context.

                      However, this is exactly the one I am referring to, in that he’s saying male Mexicans (who are the majority of illegal aliens) and other male migrants are raping the female migrants. There are tons and tons of pre-2016 reports about this problem. When Trump uses the media’s own information to advocate for a border wall to prevent (among other things) the raping from happening, Don Lemon on CNN (and others) uncharitably spin it as Trump saying ALL Mexicans are rapists, rather than the subclass of Mexicans who are illegally coming to America.

                      Granted, Trump’s poor elocution of the female migrant rape problem and its source is at much as fault as CNN for their fake news, but Trump is right to say “somebody’s doing the raping.” It ain’t Italians or Swedes as it’s happening to female migrants enroute to the U.S. both in South America and through Mexico.

            2. Mad, don’t bother. The reverend, is a libtard CNN junky. He hears what he wants regardless of what was said.

    2. The Republicans are hardly confusing the two. President Trump has endorsed the RAISE Act, which would cut legal immigration by 43%,and HR 4760 imposes the greatest reduction in legal immigration since the 1920s.

      1. One of the great accomplishments of America during my lifetime is that Republicans and conservatives no longer wish to be known as bigots, at least not publicly. Fifty years ago, the intolerance was open, and casual, and common, and the deplorables wanted everyone to know that they were bigots.

        Today’s bigots try to cloak their stale intolerance with terms such as “colorblind” and “traditional values.” They might let their hair down in militia meetings or at Republican committee conventions, with audiences they believe can be trusted, but in public they pretend to be tolerant, inclusive, and decent.

        This is progress.

        1. “Today’s bigots try to cloak their stale intolerance with terms such as “colorblind””

          Bigots like Justice Harlan, the lone dissenter in Plessy v. Ferguson?

          1. No, he means the bigots in the KKK that the DNC embraced. And the ones they still celebrate like Sanger.

            1. Or the ones, like Patrick Little in California, that are running as Republicans, and who has called for a government “free from Jews,” or in Chicago, who are active Holocaust deniers.

            2. It’s also interesting how the right (alt or otherwise) seems obsessed with political positions of the past, rather than dealing with the present and future. This is a very apparent in JesseAz’s post, referencing political alignments of the distant past. No one would confuse today’s Democratic Party with the party of segregation, it’s obvious voters don’t. They conveniently forget Nixon’s Southern Strategy.

              The main part of Sanger’s career was from the mid-1910s to 1948, at least three generations ago. Further, she favored contraception over abortion, a position that even Republicans support (and probably practice). American society was bigoted and racist during up until the 1960s, she was hardly outside the mainstream.

              Along with legal immigration restrictions, It’s all part of the Make America White Again strain of Trumpism.

              1. Planned Parenthood has been handing out a lot of Margaret Sanger Awards.

                Sanger, in the name of peace, suggested this:

                “(d) apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization, and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring….

                “(f) the whole dysgenic population would have its choice of segregation or sterilization.”

                If she had a statue somewhere, they’d be trying to pull it down.

                1. And as for the plea that “everyone was doing it,” that’s not the case, as indicated by what Pope Pius XI was saying at the same time:

                  “68. Finally, that pernicious practice must be condemned which closely touches upon the natural right of man to enter matrimony but affects also in a real way the welfare of the offspring. For there are some who over solicitous for the cause of eugenics, not only give salutary counsel for more certainly procuring the strength and health of the future child – which, indeed, is not contrary to right reason – but put eugenics before aims of a higher order, and by public authority wish to prevent from marrying all those whom, even though naturally fit for marriage, they consider, according to the norms and conjectures of their investigations, would, through hereditary transmission, bring forth defective offspring. And more, they wish to legislate to deprive these of that natural faculty by medical action despite their unwillingness; and this they do not propose as an infliction of grave punishment under the authority of the state for a crime committed, not to prevent future crimes by guilty persons, but against every right and good they wish the civil authority to arrogate to itself a power over a faculty which it never had and can never legitimately possess.

                  1. “69. Those who act in this way are at fault in losing sight of the fact that the family is more sacred than the State and that men are begotten not for the earth and for time, but for Heaven and eternity. Although often these individuals are to be dissuaded from entering into matrimony, certainly it is wrong to brand men with the stigma of crime because they contract marriage, on the ground that, despite the fact that they are in every respect capable of matrimony, they will give birth only to defective children, even though they use all care and diligence.

                    “70. Public magistrates have no direct power over the bodies of their subjects; therefore, where no crime has taken place and there is no cause present for grave punishment, they can never directly harm, or tamper with the integrity of the body, either for the reasons of eugenics or for any other reason.”

                    1. Still don’t know what you think you’re proving about abortion…

                    2. Then enlighten us, eh?

                    3. Don’t know what there is to enlighten you about – I honestly can’t seem to follow Eidde’s thesis.

                    4. Ah, I misunderstood your comment as trying to say that Eidde was showing the opposite of what the point he was trying to make (which I didn’t see either, other than eugenics=bad).

                    5. I apologize for any vagueness.

                      1. Sanger continues to be honored by Planned Parenthood in the present day. So it’s a legitimate present-day question to ask if Sanger ought to be honored.

                      2. Sanger was for compulsory sterilization and stopping those she deemed unfit from marrying – all by government compulsion.

                      3. Her supporters can’t claim she was merely a product of a racist or bigoted era, because people at the time (like the Pope) were arguing against the position she defended.

                      By all means stop obsession over the past – and let Planned Parenthood set a good example by disavowing its constant – and very recent – praise of Sanger.

                    6. If the Democratic Party can rename its Jefferson/Jackson Day dinners, Planned Parenthood can rename its Sanger Award.

                      Or was Sanger a better person than Jefferson and Jackson?

                    7. Odd place to start this argument…But feel free to charge against that injustice. I won’t shed any tears if Sanger’s name fades away.

                      But somehow I’m not sure your cause is Sanger, so much as it is an attempt to attack Planned Parenthood via association. Which is a popular meme on the right, but not really gaining much traction among those not terminally online.

                      Your mythicized Sanger who is all about eugenics and nothing else, versus their mythological Sanger who is all about choice and nothing else. Meh.

                    8. Strangely, I don’t like Planned Parenthood *or* Sanger.

                      Anyway, here are the remarks to which I was responding:

                      “It’s also interesting how the right (alt or otherwise) seems obsessed with political positions of the past, rather than dealing with the present and future….

                      “The main part of Sanger’s career was from the mid-1910s to 1948, at least three generations ago….American society was bigoted and racist during up until the 1960s, she was hardly outside the mainstream.”

                      In fact, as I noted (I should have been more specific), there are still left-wing people honoring Margaret Sanger today, and it’s not simply right-wingers arbitrarily bringing up the past.

                      (Suppose, for example, that some right-wing group periodically gave out a Jefferson Davis Award. Suppose they were *founded* by Jefferson Davis. Yet whenever some left-wing critic points this out, it’s “why are you left-wingers so hung up on the past?”)

                      And Sanger doesn’t have the “everyone was doing it” excuse because prominent people were responding to her position, and criticizing it, at the time.

                      “Your mythicized Sanger who is all about eugenics and nothing else, versus their mythological Sanger who is all about choice and nothing else. Meh.”

                      I didn’t say she was about nothing else. Just as Jefferson Davis wasn’t all about slavery, he was also a fine Secretary of War in the 1850s, he was against nativism, and he wanted the Confederate Post Office to be self-supporting.

                2. Again, obsession with the past.

                  1. Exactly, stop naming awards after discredited figures from the past.

              2. “No one would confuse today’s Democratic Party with the party of segregation, it’s obvious voters don’t.”

                But they ARE the party of racial quotas. Hard to avoid noticing that.

                1. And yet affirmative action and segregation are different issues, other than both involve race.

                  You can argue both are wrong, but analogizing the two requires more work than your comment did.

  4. There are various people who are unable to be President because of the provision and that includes both liberals and conservatives. Certain Republicans in the past did support ending the provision. It should be ended.

    There is no special magic moment sort of thing that makes being a natural born citizen necessary to be a good President. Age or residency or citizenship requirements make sense. We can debate when is the best moment for such things. It will be an inexact line. But, turning it on birth is traditionally a no no in this country.

    A person can be naturalized at five and still be unable to to be President. This is absurd really and should no longer be the rule. This is not exactly an apt time for it though the poll tax amendment suggests some ability to draw lines that target a specifically egregious aspect of current policy while leaving the rest in place.

    1. It’s not absurd. The provision is intended to ensure that a president will have an attachment to the land of his birth, and thus by that natural attachment by dint of birth and being raised here, they will look out for America’s best interests. Granted, Obama was born in Hawaii and still dislike this country, or you could have a president born in America but raised in Iceland and have no attachment to the land of his birth, but the idea behind it is not “absurd.”

      If you were suddenly made president of Sweden, would you know the country’s culture and have the same affection for the place as a natural born citizen? No, of course not.

      1. If I were suddenly made president of Sweden I would assume that the Swedes decided my talents outweighed my lack of understanding of Swedish culture.

        The naturalized citizen still has to be elected, you know.

        1. Yea, true, a person has to get elected. But considering there are plenty of qualified natural born citizens to be president, and being a natural born citizen at least *inclines* a person towards love of country, are we really missing out on a lot of qualified naturalized immigrants?

        2. I’m not so sure that’s much of a safeguard; the conventional wisdom is that $10-15K in Facebook ads can swing an election.

      2. “suddenly” and “a resident for xx years”; one of these is not the same as the other.

      3. It is also not absurd to believe that someone who chose to become American, and who maybe overcame some adversity to fulfill that dream, might have a stronger attachment than an accidental citizen.

      4. A person can be a “natural born citizen” [a term that is somewhat open to debate as we seen with Ted Cruz et. al.] and have little attachment to the land of their birth — they need not be “raised here” either. There is a limited residency requirement that actually does more in that respect than the natural born requirement. A person who was born in Sweden but came to this country at age five is unlikely to fro that reason alone not know U.S. culture or have the affection of this country any less. In fact, many immigrants to this country seem to have more passion and knowledge than those born here.

  5. The Constitution has three eligibility requirements: 35 years of age, a resident within the United States for 14 years, and a natural born Citizen. All three can be argued as “arbitrary.”

    1. But the first two can be met by anybody. The third one is insuperable for some citizens.

    2. Yes, it can be so argued. We would next have to determine if the lines are reasonable enough that they are not “arbitrary” or arbitrary enough to warrant change.

  6. Its just one more check and balance to keep non-Americans from destroying the United State of America.

    I would NOT be for changing this presidential requirement. In fact, I would add a natural born citizen requirement to all federal political positions.

    1. “I would add a natural born citizen requirement to all federal political positions”

      HA! Funny. (I know you’re serious, but my first thought is that we might have a little trouble procuring Oracle database programmers for IT departments at the GS-11 rate that they pay, if that provision were in place. Most of those guys are from the subcontinent.

      1. Yet another job Americans won’t do: database programmer.

        1. I was being a bit of a troll.

          When you can get an Indian to do it for 1/3 less with an H1B Visa, they crowd out the natives. IT departments end up outsourcing to contractors rather than hire full time as they had sticker shock when the H1B Visa pipeline was cut off because they are now forced to pay more commensurate rates..

          1. Sounds like an issue for free markets to sift.

            If you’re a libertarian, that is.

            1. Exactly. BTW, are you going to answer my question above, about whether, without name calling, it’s intolerant to ask “how many and how fast”?

      2. Oracle database programmer is not a federal _political_ position.

    2. And First Ladies. Melania Trump, doing a job no American would.

  7. This sounds like a good area for compromise. We pass an amendment that removes the natural born citizen requirement for POTUS and also eliminates automatic birthright citizenship unless one of the child’s parents are legal residents of the U.S. at the time of the child’s birth.

    1. Fine idea, but in order to get bipartisan compromise on the issue and thus get 3/4ths of the states to agree, then both sides would have to have something to gain. As it stands, Democrats, who disproportionately get Hispanic immigrant votes (the majority of immigrants) would be losing millions of potential votes, so it ain’t gonna happen.

    2. Harvey, I do not understand your point. If it were a liberal position that immigrants should be allowed to be president and a conservative position that they not be allowed, then I get what you’re saying. But that premise is obviously not true–lots (most?) liberals are not advocating for this, and that’s probably true also of conservatives.

      Personally, I would be fine with this, but it’s about 1,373rd on my list of actual concerns. The one thing I *would* care about it to make sure that it (if it were to pass) would take effect only after, say, 21 years. I would have a huge objection to someone passing a constitutional amendment with the primary purpose of making a specific person eligible. My objection would be 100% consistent, regardless of the values and/or party association with that particular person.

      1. My comment was to Ilya’s position specifically. As best as I can tell he is in favor of no restrictions on immigration. And he is in favor of removing the “natural born citizen” requirement. So if he is willing to give up something he favors to get something else he favors that is a compromise.

        1. Personally, I see no reason to change the status quo for presidential qualifications. But I would be willing to accept a change to a “citizen of the U.S. for 35 years” to replace “natural born citizen”.

  8. One can argue that immigrants have less knowledge of the country and its customs, and might make worse presidents for that reason. But that problem is surely addressed by the constitutional requirement that a candidate for president must have been resident in the United States for at least fourteen years.

    That is far from obvious. There has always been a marked generational component in American presidential politics, with, for example, the baby boomers succeeding the WWII generation, with the Great Depression generation skipped over entirely. Whatever makes that happen would be short-circuited in the case of someone from abroad who shared a chronological age with his generation, but not their formative experiences.

    I’m not arguing that is good or bad, or even that it ought to be relevant. Just pointing out that Somin’s presumption about 14 years’ residence washing away all the differences is off base.

  9. In the Sylvester Stallone movie “Demolition Man” there is a reference to President Arnold Schwarzenegger. An a comment about him getting the Constitution changed.

    1. President Schwarzenegger is in the Simpsons movie too.

  10. The natural-born citizen requirement hasn’t been repealed in 200 years – we can’t blame all of that on Republicans. Really, nobody seems to have been willing to stick their neck out.

    Which is too bad.

    Get rid of the natural-born requirement, require Presidents to be 35, and require them (like Senators) to have been citizens for nine years. Or choose a higher number if there’s “anti-immigrant sentiment” to be appeased.

    The time to push for such an amendment is *before* some naturalized citizen begins building up a following and there’s demand to make them President. That person’s opponents will then have an incentive to block the amendment by preventing it from getting the needed supermajority.

    Let us legislate as if we were behind Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance.

    1. Note how the Founders grandfathered their generation in by saying that anyone who was a citizen at the time of the Constitution’s adoption could be President. Of course that makes sense because the founding generation were all born under foreign sovereignty – usually meaning Britain, but sometimes meaning Switzerland (Gallatin) or Denmark (Hamilton). None of them were natural born citizens because when they were born there was no USA for to be natural-born citizens of.

      In effect, the entire founding generation started out as foreigners and were “naturalized” when the USA became independent.

      So if you can be born a foreigner, become part of a mass naturalization and still be President, then why can’t someone come to this country, show their fitness for citizenship, and after a period of seasoning (like a Senator) be eligible for the Presidency if the people want him/her?

    2. While the Rawl’s Veil of Ignorance is a good mental exercise for thinking about individual rights and individual flourishing, it doesn’t work very well when extended to a utilitarian approach for societies when there are other counties and societies we must compete against, and even the vagaries of nature itself. Think of this example tied directly to the question at hand:

      50 people go into a box any any one could theoretically come out eligible to be leader of the tribe in our imaginary society constructed behind the veil of ignorance. The new leader could be a person who was a member of the tribe for a day, or a person who was a member of the tribe since birth. If you or I were one of those 50, we wouldn’t want want to discriminate as we don’t know what will happen when we come out of the box because it would not maximize our own potential and chance for flourishing. But what about person 50, who was a new member of the tribe, and who possessed animus against it due to being kidnapped? We would maximize he chance of flourishing if we constructed a society behind the veil that would allow him a chance at being leader, but not the society’s chances of flourishing.

      Just because we would maximize our individual benefit if we constructed a society behind that veil, does not mean that that tribe of 50 will maximize its ability to flourish.

      1. Hmmm…I was actually trying to say let’s discuss the amendment without knowing who will try to benefit from it.

        Ahnold is probably out of the running after being such a disappointment as governor of California, but one never knows. I wouldn’t want to vote for him on the merits, though I wouldn’t like to discriminate against him because of his nativity. There’s so many other reasons.

        1. As for being a citizen for just a day, I’d repeat that at the least I’d like to do with the President what we do with Senators and require them to be citizens for nine years as a prerequisite for office.

          1. I like things the way they are, but I see your point. I just wanted to illustrate the flaw with the Veil of Ignorance. I was a huge fan of the concept before I did some listening to podcasts with Nicholas Taleb and his discussions of black swans and tail risks shows that a society constructed entirely behind a veil would be not so good.

  11. Because of the inherent difficulty of passing any constitutional amendment and strong anti-immigration sentiment within the Republican Party, I am not optimistic that an amendment repealing the Natural Born Citizen Clause will pass anytime soon

    I’d like to hear the logic behind this. Does he think that an immigrant who won the Democratic nomination would be more left-wing or something than the native Democrat who would have otherwise won the nomination, and thus less palatable to Republicans if they won? He can’t think that it would be a problem for a Republican candidate, because if it is they couldn’t win the nomination.

    More likely, he didn’t think this through

    1. Welcome to CNN.

    2. It’s because the Republican party has become increasingly nativist.

      1. Careless, read the posts on this thread!

  12. “The Americans” – implanted foreign operatives seeking to destroy the country by infiltating government? What foreign government would do that? I can think of a few.

    1. And it’s somehow harder to do that with suborned citizens?

  13. “One can argue that immigrants have less knowledge of the country and its customs, and might make worse presidents for that reason. But that problem is surely addressed by the constitutional requirement that a candidate for president must have been resident in the United States for at least fourteen years. ”

    The issue is not abstract knowledge of American culture, but actually being of that culture. The natural born citizen clause may be inadequate to guarantee such membership, but it at least is a step in that direction.

    1. The residency (and citizenship) requirement is a better rule if “of that culture” is your concern than blocking those who became citizens as children or decades ago & are very well “of that culture” from being elected President.

  14. “Whatever the merits of this concern back in the 1780s, it is hardly a plausible scenario today.”

    Why is it less plausible today than in the 1780s that a foreign government might try to seize control of the US government by trying to get a foreign operative elected president? It may have been unlikely both in the 1780s and now, but why is it less likely now? If anything, given the power of the Imperial Presidency, it seems like the risk of a foreign government seizing presidential power now is more costly, even if not necessarily more likely.

    1. It’s extremely unlikely today. They’d have to win an election first and native citizens have distinct advantages in that area. The higher magnitude (and I’m not entirely sure that it’s much higher relative to the nation) doesn’t matter if you consider that it almost definitely won’t happen, probably ever. The magnitude of the next President attempting to slingshot asteroids into the Earth is existential, but the unlikelihood makes it not a concern.

      In the 1780s, though, it wasn’t that unlikely. There were a good number of people who weren’t native-born citizens and there was some expectation that British colonists from nearby colonies might immigrate, along with the ongoing German immigration. Considering the heavy polarization of views towards the new USA in the British empire, it was probably prudent to try to exclude such immigrants from the Presidency.

  15. It’s a good requirement that makes it marginally more likely a President will be more attuned to and loyal to America’s true best interests. I like the idea posted on the other thread about requiring that both parents are also US citizens.

    On the other hand this issue makes for a nice politically correct academic hobby horse, no matter how quixotic and futile.

    1. This is actually politically incorrect. I understand that you are trying to say that he’s appeasing people who don’t like racism but this amendment wouldn’t fly in the Democrat or Republican party; it’d be political suicide for most politicians.

    2. Imagine having so little faith in American democracy that you’re willing to be more nativist than the Founders.

      1. Were the Founders, by comparison, any more nativist than anywhere else in the world? By comparison, if you look at the variability of the original 13 colonies, they were downright cosmopolitan.

        1. You are correct. And yet we have become substantially more diverse and open since then.

      2. I’m not nativist. I am nationalist, in the sense that I believe that a country should prioritize the best interests of its people over foreign interests. And apparently you agree with that premise, since your statement is that you have “faith” that the American democratic process will produce this result without the need for this particular presidential qualification. In my opinion, the requirement furthers the objective we agree upon, which is prioritizing the interests of all Americans, absolutely and fully including all actual (not potential) immigrants, since they become Americans upon becoming immigrants.

        1. I have faith the democratic process is better than all the rest.

          If you like our nation, why are you excluding many of it’s citizens from the Presidency because of a speculative marginal change in risk of disloyalty?

          In my opinion, the requirement you posit has an exclusionary and anti-democratic result for little concrete benefit.

          1. That a non-native born citizen elected to the presidency (should this requirement change via an amendment) will be a hazard to the well-being of America is a small risk. By small, I mean that there it is not very likely to occur, both because of the small number of people elected to the office is so few, as well as the probability that such a non-native citizen would actually be threat to our Republic. On the other hand, should the event occur (surely a tail risk if ever there was one) the consequences would be very, very bad. Every time you cross a busy street, the probability you’ll be hit is small, but if you are, it’s gonna put you in the hospital. Same situation here.

            Seeing as the system works now, lets leave it alone. How many potentially qualified people are we overlooking anyway? We do a fair enough job of picking losers who are native born. It’s not worth the risks when the payoff is virtue signaling only.

            1. Not just a non-native born, but one not born to citizen parents. Why not require citizen grandparents as well? Or native-born parents? Your risk pseudo-analysis has no limiting principal.

              And you still haven’t proven that the risk of a hazardous President being from non-native non-citizen-parents stock is any materially different from any other citizen President.

              ‘We can’t take that risk’ is the call of all sorts of authoritarian or anti-democratic claptrap; you have not demonstrated your claim is any different from all of those.

              Finally, it’s not just the pool of people you are overlooking. I don’t care about that – I care about the stigma you are placing on a subgroup of citizens as potentially less loyal. For all your speculation about risk, you’ve provided no support.

              So far, all I see is exclusion for the sake of being exclusive.

    3. It’s a good requirement that makes it marginally more likely a President will be more attuned to and loyal to America’s true best interests.

      Too bad we haven’t seen much of that lately.

  16. My daughter was born in China; we adopted her and brought her to the United States when she was 11 months old, and she has lived here ever since. There is absolutely no logical reason to disqualify her from seeking the Presidency merely because she was born elsewhere, and the same is true of tens of thousands of other similarly-situated adoptees.

  17. My daughter was born in China; we adopted her and brought her to the United States when she was 11 months old, and she has lived here ever since. There is absolutely no logical reason to disqualify her from seeking the Presidency merely because she was born elsewhere, and the same is true of tens of thousands of other similarly-situated adoptees.

    1. Lot’s of logical reasons were given, you just failed to agree with them. Moreover, you fail to state why your adopted daughter is different, specifically. I will do so for you; you want an exemption for adoptions of babies, who are American in all but birth. At what age would you give a cut-off?

      1. On this thread and the last, I saw appeals to historical practice, appeals to anecdote, and appeals to ipse-dixit sociology.

        I did not see logic.

        1. The problem, then, is between the keyboard and the chair.

          1. Eye of the beholder, then. All I see is ipse dixit that native soil has some relationship to loyalty.

            1. Native soil has a relationship to loyalty, going back to ancient times. Calling the received wisdom of the ages ipse dixit is a misuse of the phrase. For heavens sake we celebrate the lands of our ancestors three generations gone from it, like by dying the river green in Chicago every St Patty’s Day. Or “my county right or wrong” or “these colors don’t run.” Need I go on about Americans’ clearly biased patriotism by provincial people who’ve never even been to a foreign county?

              1. Appeal to historical practice is not enough, else we’d still be into slavery and feudalism.
                Celebrating ancestors is not the same as putting them above your country.

                You’re only proving my point about how weak the case is.

                1. And you’re only proving my point of how you want change for the sake of change to virtue signal, because if the system works as is, it is the burden of those who wish to change it to show why the change will not hard the system, or possibly improve it. All you’ve shown in anecdotal evidence that new citizens are more patriotic, when history shows we all have an attachment to the lands of our ancestors.

  18. My daughter was born in China; we adopted her and brought her to the United States when she was 11 months old, and she has lived here ever since. There is absolutely no logical reason to disqualify her from seeking the Presidency merely because she was born elsewhere, and the same is true of tens of thousands of other similarly-situated adoptees.

  19. My daughter was born in China; we adopted her and brought her to the United States when she was 11 months old, and she has lived here ever since. There is absolutely no logical reason to disqualify her from seeking the Presidency merely because she was born elsewhere, and the same is true of tens of thousands of other similarly-situated adoptees.

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