Last week, the Republican Party held their latest US Presidential debate. Their leading candidate, Donald Trump, decided to trot out an old tactic and use the birther argument to take down his nearest rival, Ted Cruz.
Let’s rewind to around 2009/2010. Barack Obama had just been elected the first African-American President of the United States of America and many people, even here in the UK, believed he could change everything. What a difference six or seven years makes! But there was one section of American society that was far from happy Obama made it to the White House; those who voted Republican.
They were furious, and this rabid anger helped kick-start what has since become known as the ‘birther’ movement. The US constitution states that to become President, you must be a ‘natural born citizen’ of the United States. There’s no clear definition of ‘natural born citizen’ (it’s never been tested in Court, to my knowledge) but most legal experts believe it means that in order to become President, at least one of your parents must have been an American citizen.
But some people believe you must have been born in the United States to be eligible. Here’s where Obama comes in; he was born in Hawaii (a US state), so under any definition of ‘natural born citizen’ he was allowed to run for President. However, his father was Kenyan and the birthers believed that Obama himself had been born in Kenya. Thus under the literal definition of ‘natural born citizen,’ they argued he should never have made it to the Oval Office.
New York Billionaire and perennial reality TV star Donald Trump was an early leader of the birther movement. According to ABC, a US news outlet, Trump has spoken extensively about whether Obama was actually born in Hawaii. In 2011, he even launched a public campaign to find the President’s birth certificate. After Trump went as far as sending private investigators to Hawaii, Obama released his long-form birth certificate and that supposedly ended the debate.
Back then, Donald Trump was nothing more than a third rate celebrity; oh how times have changed. In mid-2015, the billionaire announced he was going to run to become US President in 2016 as a Republican. The parties choose their candidates in votes called Primaries, and these candidates then go on to face each other in the general election in November.
At first, everyone saw Donald Trump as a joke but it turns out he’s a fantastic candidate. In the last few months he’s offended practically everyone; Mexicans, black people, women, Muslims (especially Muslims), the LGBT community and even members of his own party. But the thing is, there’s a vocal part of the Republican Party that likes Trump’s willingness to offend minorities. As a result, Trump has performed better than any other Republican candidate in voter opinion polls for months now and increasingly, it looks like he really could win the nomination.
Turning on Cruz
There was one candidate, however, who escaped Trump’s ire. Ted Cruz, the junior United States Senator from the State of Texas. Over the course of his political career, Cruz has established himself as a hard-liner. Famously, he led the charge to shutdown the US government in 2013, in order to get the President to overturn the ‘Obamacare’ law, which extended healthcare coverage to more Americans and was despised by the ‘fiscally conservative’ Republican Party.
The two men seemed to have a pact; they’re both courting similar voters so they’ve left each other alone. Cruz has actually been pretty complimentary to Trump. However, we’re now one month away from the first votes, which will take place in the states of Iowa and New Hampshire. The pressure’s ramping up and Cruz is now second in national opinion polls, so at last week’s Republican Party Presidential debate Trump finally decided to attack Cruz and he used an old weapon in his arsenal to wound his opponent.
Ted Cruz has an American mother, but he was actually born in Canada. BBC News recently reported that the billionaire turned back to his old birther ways at the debate, and questioned whether Cruz, as someone who was born in Canada, was eligible to become President of the United States of America. At one point he even said to Crux “there’s a big question mark over your head.” implying that if Republican voters chose the Texas Senator as their candidate, his Canadian birth certificate may keep them out of the Oval Office for another four years.
Fight on the issues
I want to make one thing clear. I’m not a fan of Ted Cruz, in fact I despise the man. Everything seems to suggest he’s the worst kind of Republican – virulently Homophobic, rabidly opportunistic and fiscally conservative to the point of insanity. Therefore, you may think that I support Trump’s decision to use Cruz’s Canadian birth certificate against him.
I don’t, because then I’d be a hypocrite. The best way to keep Ted Cruz from ever entering the Oval Office is to defeat him on the issues – to show American voters why he’d make a horrific President. Maybe that’s why Trump’s gone all birther. His policy proposals include building a wall on the US border with Mexico and banning all Muslims from entering the country, which are not that much worse than Cruz’s.
The New York billionaire is running to capture the same kind of Republican voters as Ted Cruz, so he has to persuade these people he’s the better option. Birtherism brought him international attention before, so I can understand why Donald Trump would use it again to show Republican voters that he’s the more obvious choice, because he was certainly born in the US, so would definitely be eligible to become President. But in my opinion, resorting to Birtherism rather than trying to win on the issues shows just how bad a President Donald Trump would make.