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Amend but not for Arnold

I think Byron is right about the potential trap in the “Amend for Arnold” movement, and I approve of his solution:

If Republicans are smart, they’ll turn this into a campaign about supporting immigrants, and enlist prominent Hispanic elected officials and donors to bankroll the campaign. They’ll turn this into a wedge issue to paint Democrats not supporting the amendment as anti-immigrant. And frankly, there’s no reason Democrats should be running from this issue. After all, we’ve historically been the party of immigrants.

So how do we balance the concerns of supporting immigrants and of not wanting an amendment to our constitution designed to benefit one particular person? I see an easy solution that would take the politics out. As long as this amendment is seen as benefiting one politician or one party or another, there’s no way that it will pass. There’s no way it gets two-thirds majorities in both houses and three-quarters of the state legislatures if this is seen as a partisan issue. So take the politics out of it.

Pass an amendment that allows naturalized American citizens to run for president that are born after 34 years prior to the amendment’s enactment. For example, should the amendment pass in 2005, any naturalized citizen born after 1971 would be eligible to run for president (assuming they meet the other requirements). Thus, no current politician would benefit, but within a few decades most leading non-U.S. born politicians would be eligible to run for president.

One can quibble over the details, but I think the basic concept is right on – the Constitution should not be amended for the primary benefit of one person, but for the benefit of a whole class of people. Amending “for Arnold”, or on the Democratic side, for Canadian-born Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, is wrong. Since it’s also wrong to single people out for exclusion, the best compromise is to aim the amendment for the Presidents of the future, namely those who aren’t old enough to qualify yet.

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  1. R. Alex says:

    I find it very odd that the Democrats are so worried about Arnold that they’re willing to tailor the Constitution to prevent him from running (or willing to oppose the amendment altogether). I doubt Arnold would even be able to get the GOP nod. Considering the scope of the change, that Arnold wouldn’t be the only beneficiary (or even a likely one in my view), and how it’s unlikely it would be re-changable after a failed of successful Arnold run, I find Democratic hesitence and distrust on this particular issue a bit silly. Arnold is a great high-profile example of why the Constitution might need to be changed, but Granholm is another good one. But the biggest reason is some man or woman we may not even be aware of yet who might just be over the age of 34.

  2. Kent says:

    I agree:

    First I don’t think this amendment is going anywhere. Amending the constitution is a long and grueling process and I just don’t see it happening for something this narrow. You’re going to have to get 2/3rds of state legislatures fired up about Arnold and I don’t see that.

    On the other hand, it will be even more difficult to get a theoretical amendment through that doesn’t benefit Arnold because then the wind really goes out of the sails.

    That said, as a Democrat, I don’t favor playing games to try to exclude Arnold. Just let the amendment follow its course. By tying it to Arnold the supporters are making it political and perhaps jeopardizing its passage. But let them do it. There are more important things to worry about. I don’t see Arnold winning the nomination in any Republican primary, especially Iowa and New Hampshire. And if he freaks out the Shiite wing of the Republican party and the radical clerics who support it, more fun.

  3. Tim says:

    I agree with Kent here. I think that the chances of getting this amendment through both houses of Congress and 38 state legislatures are reduced if the obvious goal behind the proponents is to specifically amend the Constitution for one man. It’s a lot like some of the talk about amending the term limits for presidents during the reigns of Reagan and Clinton.

    I actually like the idea of amending the “natural born” requirement with citizenship for (say) 20-30 years for folks born after a certain date, perhaps for those less than 35 years old as of the first presidential election after the ratification date. Then it’s seen less as a political game to position current ineligible candidates and more of a way to acknowledge that many immigrants have demonstrated themselves to be every bit as American as the rest of us.

  4. tom 47 says:

    Yes, I agree — nothing for A.S. specifically (any legislation or constitution-amending that’s tailored for any individual is on its face questionable), but I think, for example, that my son, born in and adopted from another country, but a citizen with all OTHER rights, should be able to be eligible to become President. In fact, I’d argue more so for people who did not become citizens as adults, but grew up and acculturated and BECAME adults as citizens of the US.

  5. Jason Stokes says:

    Here’s a suggestion: how about if the Democratic party simply supported the amendment. As is. Swarzenegger and all.

    I suspect most Americans see the fairness in the proposal. If it has taken a charismatic immigrant on the Republican side to put it on the agenda, and if the motivations of many are simply to “amend for Arnold”, that doesn’t mean that isn’t a fair proposal on its own merits.

    In fact, it’s a rare and golden opportunity for immigrant activists who’ve left this issue in the “futile” department for decades to get bipartisan support. How can you consider passing it up?

    As for the threat to Democratic prospects from Arnold himself, the man is already so offside from his own party’s controlling ultraconservative base on the stem cell research issue, that Arlen Specter has more chance of winning a nomination at this point. So why not see this is a rare free shot for a progressive, rights-expanding amendment to pass?

  6. Mathwiz says:

    There’s another way to accomplish this goal.

    Pass an amendment that says anyone who has been a citizen solely of the U.S. for twenty years can be President.

    Arnold holds dual citizenship, so he’d be ineligible until 20 years after he renounces his Austrian citizenship.

    Will he still want to run in 2028?

  7. Mathwiz says:

    I find it very odd that the Democrats are so worried about Arnold that they’re willing to tailor the Constitution to prevent him from running….

    We aren’t the ones trying to “tailor the Constitution” here. We simply don’t agree with your preferred method for tailoring it!

    You’re going to have to get 2/3rds of state legislatures….

    Nitpick, but it’s 3/4ths. If it were only 2/3rds we’d have the ERA now.

  8. Roger Helmer MEP initially wrote me that it was a stupid question but didn’t respond when I asked him if it was impossible for Arnold to hold EUROPEAN office.

    I’ve since graciously received Mr. Helmer’s thoughtful reasons why he doesn’t believe Arnold would leave the United States for Europe’s political arena:

    Dear David,

    1. He has an enviable position in the US political system

    2. He has made it clear that “all he has he owes to America”. And you think he would leave?

    3. If he has any further ambitions, surely he wants a change in the US Constitution and a run at the US Presidency.




    And, when I offered him in a separate email, Beyond Babylon, gratis, his gracious reply:

    Dear David,

    Perhaps I misjudged you!

    Are you also one of us, who are working for the post-EU Europe? If so, I think I may owe you an apology!

    I am not an accredited media reviewer, but if you want to send me the book (and if I like it) I shall certainly feature it in my e-newsletter.

    Street Address:
    11 Central Park,
    Leicestershire LE17 4PN,

    Best regards,



    And my response:

    Dear Roger,

    All’s well, that ends well!

    Thank you for your thoughtful reasons why you don’t believe Arnold would seek a European office.

    I’ve forwarded your mailing address to my publishers for them to send you a copy of Beyond Babylon: Europe’s Rise and Fall.

    It’s just amazing how life is sometimes. That my English ancestors would’ve never dreamed they would come to America, have a descendant write a book, and correspond with their representative (they were from Leicestershire – the Mervins & Rileys).

    May you have a wonderful weekend!

    Most Sincerely,
    David Ben-Ariel