14th Amendment Chatter’s Too Much for Even Bush-Era GOP

Aug 10, 2010

Bush-era Republicans have become the voice of reason inside the party on the 14th Amendment. That’s how craven today’s GOP leaders have become in their effort to drum up votes by stoking xenophobia. Politico reports:

Cesar Conda, who served as domestic policy adviser to Cheney, has called such proposals "offensive." Mark McKinnon, who served as media adviser in Bush’s two presidential campaigns, said Republicans risk losing their "rightful claim" to the 14th Amendment if they continue to "demagogue" the issue.

"The 14th Amendment is a great legacy of the Republican party. It is a shame and an embarrassment that the GOP now wants to amend it for starkly political reasons," McKinnon told POLITICO. "Initially Republicans rallied around the amendment to welcome more citizens to this country. Now it is being used to drive people away."


"That is the wisdom of the authors of the 14th Amendment: They essentially wanted to take this very difficult issue — citizenship — outside of the political realm," Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, a former Bush speechwriter, said Sunday on ABC’s "This Week." "They wanted to take an objective standard, birth, instead of a subjective standard, which is the majorities at the time. I think that’s a much better way to deal with an issue like this."

Politico goes on to explain that the idea of making the 14th Amendment an issue grew out of one of South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham’s South town hall meetings:

Graham said he began thinking about birth citizenship after a woman asked him at a recent town hall meeting why children of illegal immigrants were citizens. He couldn’t give her a good answer, he said, and decided to check into it.

The good answer, of course, is it’s a foundational idea in our Constitution, that we created an amendment after a bloody Civil War with the express purpose of disentangling politics and citizenship. 

It’s striking how readily conservative Republicans discard their own ideals about the wisdom of our predecessors. When’s the last time you heard progressives suggest we change the Constitution? You don’t hear it because the document itself is a pretty good one. From abolitionists forward, reform movements have strived to make our laws live up to our Constitution’s world-changing ideas. Conservatives have consistently tarred those people as un-American–while themselves working to create and enforce laws that stand in contrast to America’s founding principles. Maybe "conservative" is the wrong political identity for today’s "conservative" leaders. Maybe that moniker dresses things up as a coherent political ideology when, in fact, we’re talking about something far more base.