We Need to Define “Natural-Born” Once and for All



Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at the North Texas Presidential Forum at Prestonwood Baptist Church Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015 in Plano, Texas. (PHOTO COURTESY OF RICHARD W. RODRIGUEZ/ FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM VIA TNS)


With the 2016 Iowa Caucuses now behind us, Hillary Clinton has emerged as the victorious Democratic candidate while the Republican candidate is Ted Cruz. Donald Trump, who took second place, expectedly did not take defeat as gracefully as he could have, making yet another jab at an issue he’s been bellowing about for months now—that Ted Cruz was born in Canada and therefore shouldn’t even be eligible to run for president in the first place.

Yet, believe it or not, Donald Trump may actually have a point, and it’s one we desperately need to start talking about, though not for the selfish reasons he is using to bring them up. 

Aside from Trump, very few groups or individuals have raised the issue of Cruz’s actual birthplace, and whether or not it prevents him from running for president. A few lawsuits have been filed by certain citizens of the United States, like one by five Trump supporters in Alabama, that allege that Cruz is not eligible to be president due to his Canadian origin. However, cases such as these are largely swept under the rug by the media, and some lawyers  go so far as to say that they will never be taken seriously because the plaintiffs have no personal stake in the lawsuit itself.

Contrast this to Obama’s first run for the presidency, and we see a remarkable difference in the level of “outrage” on the part of American citizens. Back then, Donald Trump was certainly among the loudest of the voices calling out for Obama’s birth certificate to be released, but he was only one of many. The conspiracy theory that Obama was not an American citizen had gained an incredible amount of traction across the country. Billboards, like one which read “Where’s the Birth Certificate?” in California put up by WorldNetDaily, a conservative website, made sure that the typical American voter could not possibly forget about the scrutiny that Obama as a candidate was placed under. In response, Obama had to publically release these documents not once, but twice; in 2008, and again in 2011 when his critics still weren’t satisfied with the short form document he initially released.

We simply don’t see this level of scrutiny placed on Ted Cruz, simply because he doesn’t “look” like he’s a foreigner. Ted Cruz is a conservative, Christian family man, and to many people this comes across as “safe”—so much so that the issue of precisely which country he comes from ends up being less  important.

I understand that the Natural-born-citizen clause was specifically designed by the Founding Fathers to protect the United States from extra-national influence, and because Ted Cruz has no diplomatic ties to Canada, it would therefore be difficult to label him as a threat to American interests. However, this argument was virtually nonexistent during Barack Obama’s first bid for the presidency. Despite him being quite open with who his mother was and what she meant to him—she was a white anthropologist born in Wichita, Kansas—the cries for proof of Obama’s true nationality persisted. Cruz’s excuse that his mother was born in the United States was, for some reason, unacceptable when Obama found himself in similar circumstances.

And therein lies the problem; Obama had to prove that he was an American despite lack of evidence to the contrary, whereas Ted Cruz doesn’t need to do so despite having the exact opposite situation. The problem here is that vagueness in our Constitution’s language is creating a situation where we are publicly constructing the image of what we call “The American,” and frankly it’s becoming ridiculous. We’ve reached a point in our nation’s development where it would be foolish to hold up one individual or a group of individuals as being representative of the entire population. It works for places like China, Great Britain and Russia, but we have serious discrepancy if, in a nation with a moniker such as “the melting pot of the world,” the type of person who doesn’t have to prove his “Americanness” is the white Christian man. To make the matter even more ridiculous, whites are projected to make up less than 50 percent of the nation’s population by the year 2045, according to projections from the U.S. Census Bureau.

I am not suggesting that the Constitution needs to do away with the National-born-citizen clause, but we as a people need to cement what the clause actually means. Article II Section One Clause Five establishes, but does not define, the natural-born pre-requisite. There is far too much ambiguity and a lack of definite, descriptive language that allows for the uninformed and the paranoid to dictate who gets to be an American. Regardless of whether or not the dispute regarding Obama’s birthplace harmed his image, it is unfair to expect that anyone should fall under such scrutiny because they do not “look” like what we call an American. The problem will only replicate itself the next time someone who is Mexican-American, Asian-American or Arab-American wants to run for president.