This weekend, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump both spoke at the evangelical Family Leadership Summit in Iowa. Cruz’s visit furthered widespread national speculation that he will run for president in 2016. But his pelt-haired fellow speaker doesn’t necessarily think Cruz can be president since he was born in Canada. In an interview there with ABC, Trump questioned Ted Cruz’s eligibility to run for president.
Trump, who is also considering a run for president, said in response to a question about where Cruz is eligible: “If he was born in Canada, perhaps not…You’ll have to ask him that question, but perhaps not.”
Trump is an utter clown, but he inadvertently raised some good questions about a Cruz run. Will birthers hurt the Cruz campaign? Republicans have notoriously vicious presidential primaries. Will Cruz’s opponents use this? Will it work?
Perhaps Cruz has already boned up his extreme-conservative bonafides so much that they won’t. He is unquestionably leading the tea party’s national pet causes: defunding Obamacare and opposing a pathway to citizenship. Maybe that’s a factor of his political calculus. Republicans, far older than Democrats in general, tend to nominate older candidates, but their base is also increasingly extreme. Maybe the best way for Cruz to overcome his age, and his birth certificate is to win Best Republican Extremist badge four years in a row to overcome his challenges. Unquestionably, his last name will hurt him with the party’s racists, but his strategy may quell any potential for that to derail his campaign. After all, he is working vigilantly to make immigration far more difficult for people in situations like his Cuban father was a few decades ago.
Unlike the far-right’s ridiculous questioning of President Obama’s birth certificate, the Cruz eligibility debate is clearly a legitimate one. Cruz was not born in the United States or on a military base. He was born in Canada, no ifs ands or buts about it. Our constitution requires that presidents be “natural born citizen[s]” of the United States. No matter what you believe, you can’t say that “natural born” has a clear definition in the Constitution. And it is equally unquestionable that the general understanding – for over two centuries – has been that it means physical birth on American land.
Whether significant birther resistance to Cruz emerges will also illuminate the true reasons behind the fanaticism about President Obama. For six years, and especially during campaigns, Republicans high and low asserted that he was born in Kenya a Muslim and thus has anti-American allegiances. How about Cruz’s secret agenda? And remember how much they repeated his middle name, Hussein? Ted Cruz’s real name is Rafael Edward Cruz. How much will Republicans repeat that?
We already know why Republicans tried so hard to “otherize” President Obama with the birther nonsense. But if we don’t see significant birthplace resistance to Cruz in a primary, they will have once and for all confirmed that the same opposition to Obama was (a) purely partisan, (b) often racist, and (c) baseless. What we know for sure is that you won’t see Democrats yelling at campaign rallies about it, a secret Cuban agenda, or making racist ads against Cruz. That’s reserved for the small-tent-for-big-hypocrites party.