Friday, January 28, 2011

"Birthers", Anti-Immigration and The Repeal Of The 14th Amendment



The recent Mid-Term elections in the US was freak show event. From Rand Paul in Kentucky to Carl Paladino in New York, Tea Party candidates have swept Primary races knocking aside the establishment candidates of the Republican Party. Their political pronouncements and policy platforms represent a shift to the far-right in American politics. Rand Paul is on record stating that he believes the Title II section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in private business, is an infringement of Constitutional rights. Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle has suggested armed insurrection and revolution against the government. Carl Paladino has called for the poor on welfare to be sent to prison in order to learn “personal hygiene.



What connects all these Tea Party candidates is a disdain for minority rights and immigrants, as well as a sharing a view that the federal government has no role as a protector and guarantor of civil rights and equal justice. The Tea Party calls itself a movement of “Patriots” and “ Constitutionalists “. The Second Amendment, which provides the legal protection to carry and use firearms, is the most important for the Tea Party. However, there are other amendments which they seek to overturn. The Tea Party is the reconstitution of Confederate politics.
The social layers which support the Tea Party movement are at best confused and at worst delusional. “Birthers”, the name given to the political movement that insists that President Obama was not born in the US and thus not eligible to hold elected office, represents both poles at once. Given that Obama has an East African Islamic name, the “Birthers” are confused about his name and origins. Since he does not have an “American”, read Anglo-Saxon Christian name, he must not be a real American. Since his father was from Kenya, Obama therefore he can’t be a legitimate President. The “Birthers” are delusional to believe that a person in the era of the Internet and 24 hour cable news can get elected to both the US Senate and the White House if the candidate was not legitimate. If Obama wasn’t born in the US, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation would have exposed the truth long ago and Obama’s political career would never have taken off.

Alongside the confused and delusional social layers of the Tea Party movement are xenophobes that fear that the US is no longer a majority white and christian country. This explains the angst regarding the President and calls for sealing the border with Mexico and the institution of a police regime in Arizona against Latino people. This is why, on first glance, the Tea Party wants to repeal the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution which states at any person born in the US is automatically a citizen. The argument goes that illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico and Central America, come to the US to give birth to children who automatically become citizens in order to remain. The language employs the use of the term “ Anchor Babies“.

The real logic of the repeal of the 14th Amendment is to strip people of color; Blacks, Latinos and Asians of civil, legal and constitutional rights. The 14th Amendment was one of a series of post Civil War amendments to give the newly emancipated Black slaves the full protection of the citizenship. It was to correct the fatal compromise in the original constitution which held that Blacks slaves in the Southern states were only 3/5 of a person and therefore not eligible for the rights and protections of citizenship. Prior to the Civil War, Blacks slaves were less than human and therefore not entitled to legal protection. This was most brutally affirmed in the notorious 1857 Dred Scott decision of the US Supreme Court which stated unequivocally that Blacks ” had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” The Dred Scott decision lit the fuse which exploded with the Civil War.

The most important clause of the 14th Amendment is the “ equal protection clause“. Prior to the 14th Amendment, there was not any legal or constitutional provision of protection which stated that all citizens of the country were equal. Though Jefferson famously wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “all men were created equal”, this language was nowhere to be found in the original Constitution nor any of the first 13 amendments.

The 14th Amendment is arguably the most important of the entire Constitution. The equal protection clause has been used to overturn discriminatory laws both on the Federal and State level. Most recently, various state courts across the country have cited the 14th Amendment to overturn prohibitions against same sex marriage. Moreover, the 14th Amendment ensured that constitutional rights applied to the States. Previously, the US Constitution only offered protection from the Federal government. The individual States routinely infringed on individual rights claiming that the Constitution only applied to the Federal level but not to the State level.

The movement to repeal the 14th Amendment is one of the gravest threats to American democracy since the end of the Civil War. The repeal of the 14th Amendment would legalise discrimination. It would be the establishment of Orwell’s Animal Farm. Some citizens will be less equal than others. Plessy v Ferguson, the Supreme Court decision of 1896, which legalised racial discrimination still upheld the Equality clause of the 14th Amendment. “Separate but equal” was the legal argument to justify racial segregation. It took nearly 60 years before the Supreme Court overturned that decision in Brown v. Board of Education of 1954. The repeal of the 14th Amendment would allow for the States and the Federal government to implement laws and policies which will set into place the legal doctrine of separate and unequal.

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