Why America Needs a 28th Amendment
Though the titanic Trump campaign is finally sinking, his debate performance last night serving as the iceberg to his unsinkable ego, how close he came to the presidency remains a matter of grave concern. Before the first debate, he was polling within the margin of error with Hillary Rodham Clinton, the media’s and the Democratic party’s pre-ordained candidate for the past two election cycles. This reflects poorly upon both the state of American politics and the mindsets of the voters themselves; something clearly is wrong.
Voters reject facts and data, reject what will be best for the country as a whole, and instead focus on the fears that drive their own interests. Low-skilled laborers fear immigrants with the same work ethic and ability to accept lower wages as the enemy. Those standing in the unemployment line as they hear about bank bailouts and millions given in golden parachutes look at the financial sector with visceral hate. Many, upon seeing a lone turban or hearing a foreign accent, begin to question their very public safety, fearing the imminent threat of a terrorist attack.
These fears drove prospective voters into the arms of demagogues, Trump on the right and Bernie on the left, whose apparent honesty and simple solutions were panacea to those millions sick and tired of eight years of numbing numbers-driven policy. Those on the debate stage were not offering stories of hope, but of punishment, of exclusion; feeding on a climate of fear instead of attempting to change said climate is clearly an easy, guaranteed route to national fame and/or notoriety.
Yet what if we were to change the narrative? What if we, as a nation, allowed those with the most hope and confidence in our system and our way of life to lead? I am speaking of those who come to our country as immigrants, who see America as the beacon of opportunity, hope, and freedom that it is.
America has long been plagued by obstacles to full representative democracy, not becoming truly free until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave all citizens the ability to vote, regardless of race, gender, or any discriminatory conditions. However, such discrimination still exists in the requirements for higher office, notably the requirement that American presidents be natural born citizens.
One does not choose where one is born, just as one does not choose one’s race, sexual orientation, or family background. We do not discriminate upon any of the above factors aside from birthplace, thereby removing what are arguably some of the most qualified American citizens from the chance at becoming president.
When born a citizen of the United States, the rights and networks that America offers are immediately available. An American citizen should not want for food, primary school education, and freedom, whereas billions across the world live deprived of such necessities. Someone who chooses to come to America does so out of conscious choice; they choose America because to them, it represents opportunity and a force for good.
The single objection that one might have to the allowing of immigrant citizens to run for presidency is security. There is no way to be absolutely sure that whomever is elected to office from a foreign country is not a sleeper agent of sorts out to sabotage the country. Yet, due to the construction of the executive office and the checks on its power by the judiciary and the legislative branch, insidious sabotage of that nature could never be carried out.
Alexander Hamilton, one of our nation’s founders and first presidents, was from the West Indies, yet was American as key lime pie. He carried the country through the Revolutionary War and set the foundations for the modern banking sector as we know it, all as an immigrant. Granted, as a citizen of the colonies his natural citizenship in the United States was assured, but his story of immigration and self-actualization is one that can be seen again and again throughout history. During the Gilded Age, men like Andrew Carnegie, escaping poverty in Europe, came to America seeking new lives and fresh starts, building the massive engines of American economic growth and leaving behind philanthropic legacies that continue to enrich the lives of millions of everyday Americans. And then we have today’s generation of America-defining immigrants, those like Elon Musk. Musk, from South Africa, built the country’s first successful automobile startup in decades, transformed the solar energy sector, and is in the midst of completely redefining the private-public space sector. He, more than anyone, has used the power and freedom afforded to him by being in the United States to better the world and himself.
Men and women born in the United States, however, seem to take it for granted. Voting rates among youth are falling to all time lows. Joblessness is up, and compromises are made daily. There are exceptions to the rule, but more and more Americans seem to be accepting mediocrity and the status quo, not asking for any more because they cannot see what it might possibly become.
Such a change in vision could only be brought about by someone with a true passion for the country and for its values. The staid politicians we elect to Washington and state office, with their airbrushed campaign advertisements and focus-group tested smiles, do not have the real enthusiasm necessary to revitalize the American public. Do we want to allow for pandering passivity to continue, or do we want to change the rules to let better candidates have a chance? I say we try to make a change, and a 28th amendment to remove the requirement that presidents be natural born citizens is one necessary act of many that could drastically change the future of our country for the better.