-By Warner Todd Huston
Well. I am sure that this is going to anger some of you. But, I have to say it anyway…
OK, I have basically stayed silent about this whole Obama birth certificate dust up until now because I have been trying to resolve the dichotomy in my mind between being a Constitutional constructionist and a pragmatist. But, at long last I have realized that the two really aren’t as much at odds as it might seem. In fact, I found my answer in the words of Thomas Jefferson — as well as Madison, Franklin and a few others, but we’ll stick with Jefferson quotes for the sake of a sharply focused discussion.
I have discovered that Thomas Jefferson has already told us upon which side we as conservatives should descend over the question concerning Barack Obama’s birth certificate and his eligibility for the office of president of the United States. Mister Jefferson would tell you all to shut up, accept cruel fate, and get ready to claim Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States of America.
That’s right, forget about it. Move on. Nothing to see here.
Before you get your Constitutional shorts in a bunch, I absolutely agree with you that we are a nation of laws and not men. Jefferson did too, once saying that we must consider what the original intent of the Constitution was before we rush into a decision and the original intent in this case was clearly to make sure every president was a natural born citizen of this country before being eligible to run for that highest of offices. (“The Constitution on which our Union rests, shall be administered … according to the safe and honest meaning contemplated by the plain understanding of the people of the United States at the time of its adoption — a meaning to be found in the explanations of those who advocated [for it]…”– Thomas Jefferson)
The simple reason that the founders wanted the president to be a natural born citizen was because they were keen students of history. The phrase “let history be our guide” was not just a trope. The founders knew well the many instances when a foreign ruler had entered a country and, using that country’s own laws and customs, immorally proclaimed himself the ruler of a subjugated nation. The founders wanted to prevent that possibility and also wanted to make sure that there were no divided loyalties in an American president, that the welfare of the USA would be first and foremost in the mind of anyone elected to that office. What better way than to preclude the foreign born?
So, yes, the proscriptions against the foreign born candidate are important and should not be cast aside. We should never knowingly present a candidate not born as a citizen of the U.S. Further, we should take pains to verify the provenance of every candidate’s claim to natural citizenship.
But… and you knew the “but” was coming. There is an original intent that rises above the Constitution itself. In fact, there are a few, but one in particular comes to bear here.
Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Franklin, nearly every member of the founding generation placed a particular emphasis upon the locus of power in the governing philosophy of the American system and it was a locus that was unique for its day — as well as the reason many detractors felt we could not survive as a nation.
That locus was in the will of the people.
Let’s start with an 1813 letter to Samuel Dupont authored by Jefferson. In that letter, Thomas Jefferson said that the people “are in truth the only legitimate proprietors of the soil and government.” In 1821 he wrote to Spencer Roane that, “[It is] the people, to whom all authority belongs.” And in 1823 he told William Johnson that, “The ultimate arbiter is the people of the Union.”
Earlier in 1799, to Edmund Randolph Jefferson made for a longer explanation.
“The whole body of the nation is the sovereign legislative, judiciary, and executive power for itself. The inconvenience of meeting to exercise these powers in person, and their inaptitude to exercise them, induce them to appoint special organs to declare their legislative will, to judge and to execute it. It is the will of the nation which makes the law obligatory; it is their will which creates or annihilates the organ which is to declare and announce it…”
Near the end of his life he took up the theme once again. In an 1824 letter to John Cartwright he also reiterated the meaning of the Second Amendment and the rest of The Bill of Rights.
“The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves in all cases to which they think themselves competent (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved), or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of the press.”
What are we to make of these words then? Only that in the people of the United States is vested the true power in our system. We decide. We hire and fire, we create and destroy. We the people are sovereign.
Unfortunately for our side, on November 4th, 2008, the people made their will known. Over 39 million voted to place Barack Obama in the White House. There is no doubt that the people have spoken.
Now here is the problem a conservative constructionist faces. You may have heard the saying that the Constitution is not a suicide pact? Well, that sentiment applies here. We have suffered through eight years of the left illegitimately claiming that the Supreme Court “chose” George W. Bush, that his election was not legitimate. In the minds of many we placed the will of the people in doubt that time and got away with it — whether true or not a very large number of people feel this way. But, trying it a second time, and so soon on top of that, will undermine the integrity of the election process especially in this case where it was a clear majority that voted for Barack Obama.
The last time the people felt their will was so thwarted, a major upheaval in our system occurred. That upheaval resulted in the system being changed to one of popular election and Andrew Jackson took his seat in the White House after being previously denied that seat by what he claimed was a corrupt bargain. After Jackson won his first election, the anger of the people gave his party, the Democratic Party, controlling power for decades afterward.
The question remains, do we now strangle our conservative movement by making it to appear forever more that we don’t care what “we the people” have authoritatively decided in a fair election? Do we commit suicide with the letter of the law even when the people voted for their man in good faith? Worse, do we want a major upheaval of our current system should we deign to thwart this particular election?
Perhaps Barack Obama is knowingly lying about his status as a natural born citizen. But those that voted for him did not have the slightest inkling that he may not be eligible when they cast their ballot. And it will not be taken lightly should he be barred from the office millions elected him to take. In fact, it is likely that if we nullify Obama’s election, conservatives would only stave off but briefly a resurgent Democratic Party that would end up having the fullest support of the people for decades to come, putting conservatives in a self-manufactured seemingly permanent minority.
Of course, Obama’s foreign birth, if it comes to be true, will undermine his presidency. But better to have a single president’s legitimacy undermined due to his actions than to undermine the entire electoral process. It should be noted that Nixon understood this point well. In 1960 it was pretty clear that the Kennedy’s stole the election in Chicago and that LBJ stole it in Texas in order to put Kennedy into the White House. Nixon could easily and legitimately have contested that election. But Nixon did not dispute the 1960 election so as not to undermine the entire system. He felt the will of the people had been heard and for the good of the nation it should stand.
So, while the Constitution is mighty important, the will of the people is supreme. And the will of the people has been clearly heard in this case. The vote was not close. Barack Obama won, fair and square in the minds of the electorate.
There have been rules of ascension before. Constitutions existed before 1780, too. But a true first American principle is that the people hold the highest power. And we as conservatives, we who claim the mantle of the founders as our own, should not be so quick to obviate that truest of our first principles.
Believe me, I don’t want this clearly socialist man as our president. I think he will do us some damage. I want his policies stifled as much as you do. So, let us oppose this man certainly. But let us do it manfully and in the spirit of our most cherished ideal.
And let us plan for 2010 and 2012.
Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer, has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and is featured on many websites such as newsbusters.org, Human Events Magazine, townhall.com, New Media Journal, Men’s News Daily and the New Media Alliance among many, many others. Additionally, he has been a frequent guest on talk-radio programs to discuss his opinion editorials and current events. He has also written for several history magazines and appears in the new book “Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture” which can be purchased on amazon.com. He is also the owner and operator of publiusforum.com. Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions : EMAIL Warner Todd Huston
Fair Use: This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. I believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research, educational, or satirical purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site/blog for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.