The funny truth about birtherism 

Born Identities

As if America needed any further reminders about the absurdist political parody the GOP nomination process has been this election cycle, the most recent Republican debate offered up yet another twist. No, it wasn't about which one of these raving lunatics in poorly fitted clothing was the most dangerous to our cherished ideals. Instead, it was a new take on an old chestnut: birtherism. Specifically, the eligibility of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to serve as president of the United States of America.

The fun part this time around is that there's not even a conspiracy involved. As in the case of President Barack Obama, there's no need to babble on about long-form birth certificates or forgeries or mysterious intrigue. Ted Cruz admits he was born in Canada, and everyone knows he was born there. It's not even a fact that can be debated. Then again, Republicans don't necessarily deal in facts.

More often than not, that kind of fact-free approach to politics can backfire, but in this case it hasn't. Well, not exactly anyway. It all comes down to the Constitution (of course) and how one interprets it (naturally). After all, the Founding Fathers were smart enough to give us the best framework for the best system of government ever created by man, but they weren't smart enough to just use plain language or leave a codex lying around to help figure out the odder bits.

And that's why for a few days after the debate a pretty evenly balanced number of Very Serious Opinion Pieces appeared in major news outlets about what the Founding Fathers meant when they said only natural-born citizens could be president. Fortunately, we have a court system that can finalize the legal issues that arise from the fact that our forebears were actually too clever for their own good, at least part of the time.

Still, this question of being a "natural-born citizen" reeks of the same sort of patronizing nonsense that leads people in Charleston — and, in all fairness, almost everywhere else in the country — to decry the influx of "outsiders." Inevitably, these outsiders screw up literally everything that was once great about the town. In fact, this type of nativism was so bad last year that Charleston mayoral candidate Ginny Deerin was criticized for moving off of Sullivan's Island and into West Ashley in order to run for mayor of the Holy City.

Well, OK. So what if she did? Can anyone honestly say that it matters where she lives or where she was born or where she grew up? After all, we no longer live in a nation where people are born, grow up, marry, start a family, retire, and die all within the same town. Worse than that, we no longer really have any claims to local "authenticity" in most areas of our lives.

Our local college sports teams are filled with men and women from other towns, states, and even countries. The colleges they came from recruit from out of state, as well. At this point, there are even high schools with athletes who don't live in the areas their school is meant to serve. Not only do we understand this, we want it this way. How else will our local team be better than someone else's.

Now, you may say that sports and public policy are two entirely different things and shouldn't be compared. Well, fine. The rule also applies to other areas as well. Our school districts conduct national searches for superintendents and other administrators. Our cities and towns do the same for their managers. In fact, the increasingly professional nature of running our civic institutions practically demands that we treat running our cities as less a matter of public policy than a good business decision, right? Isn't that what most of our political system is geared toward these days — the neo-liberal dream of running the public sector just like any other business?

So then, why shouldn't we be out recruiting the best and brightest for the nation's highest office? (A quick note: I do not, in any way, shape, or form consider Ted Cruz to be the best and brightest of anything. He's a callous and vicious person in the estimation of almost every single person the question is put to.)

Several times already in this election cycle, I've heard the pundits and the press refer to this process of debates, campaign ads, primaries, more debates, and even more ads as a "job interview," so why don't we just place classifieds in newspapers around the world and see who applies? After all, if Trump thinks America is run by idiots and other countries are passing us by on the road to bigger and better things, shouldn't we look at getting some of that foreign talent on our team? It's the most American thing we could do.


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