“Nature, Mr. Allnutt, is what we are put in this world to rise above.” (Rose Sayer, Audrey Hepburn’s character in the movie The African Queen)
Lately I’ve received communications from people in the GOP who are already trying to gull conservative American voters into participating in the Party’s sham primary process in 2016. Some of these missives come from folks working to make sure Marco Rubio is pre-selected as the GOP’s next “presumptive nominee”. This smacks of the balkanizing approach to politics the GOP wing of the elitist faction shares with its Democrat counterpart,
In this respect the prospect of Senator Rubio’s candidacy may serve the cynical requirements of the elitist faction’s corruptly un-American understanding of politics. Arguably, people of Spanish speaking parentage are next on the list of groups entitled, on specious ethnic grounds, to a star turn in the Oval Office. This notion- that ethnic parentage creates some kind of entitlement to public office- insidiously updates the elitist principle of birthright rulers, according to which having a certain parentage makes people eligible to rule.
The people who first ordained and established the Constitution of the United States were born into a world in which the idea of birthright rulers prevailed. That’s why it was truly exceptional for them to declare their existence as a free and independent nation with a statement that affirmed the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal.” Accordingly, with but one exception the U.S. Constitution nowhere requires that eligibility for office under the U.S. Constitution be limited in any way that takes account of someone’s parentage. Thus in Federalist 57 Madison writes:
Who are to be the objects of popular choice? Every citizen whose merit may recommend him to the esteem and confidence of his country. No qualifications of wealth, of birth, of religious faith, or of civil profession is permitted to fetter the judgment or disappoint the inclination of the people.
The notable exception comes in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, in words that should by now be familiar to readers concerned with the fate of the Constitution in our day: “No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President….”
For purposes of so-called diversity politics people have no problem identifying Senator Marco Rubio’s ethnic background. His parents hailed from Cuba. Spanish was their native tongue (i.e., the language they acquired from their parents.) Though not born in Cuba, Senator Rubio is a natural born Cuban Hispanic. Some Democrats who disagree with his political views claim that he is not, in fact, an Hispanic, much as some people claim that I and other people like me who reject socialism and moral relativism aren’t blacks. Obviously, people who promote Senator Rubio’s candidacy with a view to garnering support from voters of Hispanic heritage don’t agree with them. His parentage is proof enough.
With this in mind, we come to the question of whether Marco Rubio is a natural born citizen of the United States. Using the same common sense that allows us to recognize him as a natural born Hispanic, we must look to his parentage to answer the question.
At the time Marco Rubio was born his parents were not yet naturalized citizens of the United States. They became so some years after his birth. However, as someone born on U.S. soil, Rubio was recognized at birth, by U.S. law, as a U.S. citizen. But this grant of citizenship is a matter of opinion, specifically the opinion of the of the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898). The Court held that a child born to parents who are subjects of a foreign sovereign but who are permanent residents carrying on business in the United States, and who do not serve that foreign sovereign in any official or diplomatic capacity, “becomes at the time of his birth a citizen of the United States, by virtue of the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution,
‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.’”
This is the origin of what is called jus soli citizenship for children of immigrants (legal or illegal) born on U.S. soil. Ignorant or tendentious writers pretend that this somehow resolves the issue of natural born citizenship. But since the 14th Amendment refers to persons born or naturalized the category of citizenship it creates precisely does not, per se, address the distinction between natural born citizens and those who are not natural born. It simply declares that if, when the event of their birth takes place, they are in the United States and subject to U.S. jurisdiction, they are U.S. citizens for legal purposes. In this respect the Supreme Court’s decision citing the 14th Amendment makes them U.S. citizens by judicial fiat. It does so in much the same way as, by another decision (Nix v. Hedden(1893)), the Court declared that under U.S. law the tomato is a vegetable rather than a fruit. But when the Court stated this as a matter of fact for purposes of law, it did not purport to change or affect what a tomato is, or is not, by nature.
However, in the language that limits eligibility for the Office of President of the United States, the U.S. Constitution explicitly requires that the natural standard be applied. Unlike the botanist’s somewhat arcane classification of fruits and vegetables, the word ‘natural’ in the phrase “natural born” has a settled meaning in common usage. Like the phrase “natural child” it refers to the biological tie between parent and child; without regard to whether their relationship is or is not recognized by human law. It corresponds to the information we now find in a person’s DNA.
Given this common sense and scientific meaning of the phrase, does it make sense to refer to citizenship as a matter of biological heritage? No more or less sense than it makes to speak of a particular place on earth as the United States of America. Once ascertained, certain aspects of human perception(for example, things like justice or love) derive their meaning from the fact that they represent, in conceptual terms, material bonds and relationships that are transformed by human consciousness from mere accidents of nature into special artifacts of human nature.
Such is the country in which we live. Such are the bonds and relations that make a stretch of land and water into a dwelling place imbued over generations with the love and soul and spirit of the people who have made it their home.
America’s founders expected, with much warrant in human experience, that this artifact of human nature, as it developed in and through the generations, would inform the living heritage that passes from one generation to the next. Today we might call this information the nation’s DNA- a special code of existence that preserves the essential information from which each new generation develops the shared identity that it received from previous generations, and that it will adapt and pass on to the next.
Ironically, we have come to a time that both verifies and defies the expectation of America’s founders. There is no doubt that Barack Obama has, by way of his mother, a biological claim to be a natural born citizen of the United States. There is no doubt that, by nature thus understood, Marco Rubio, has no such claim, because his parents were, by law, not yet U.S. citizens when he was born.
But drawing on the analogy of nature, as we now experience it, there are possibilities to consider that America’s founding generation could not. We know, for example, that organisms can be genetically modified. By analogy, the nature of a particular person (as when we say, that it’s against his or her nature to do something) is modified by their upbringing (nurture). If we judge by their upbringings (nurture), it seems fair to say that, on the one hand Obama’s upbringing altered his nature to attenuate his biologically American heritage; and on the other, Rubio’s upbringing Americanized his biologically foreign heritage.
In the WND column I’m preparing for this week, I’ll go further into implications of the Constitution’s reliance on the standard of nature as the sine qua non of eligibility for the Constitution’s highest office.