Remember when you were a kid, and whenever anyone asked you how old you were, you’d always tack on a “and a half” because it made you feel good to sound older? Fast forward a few decades later and I’ve now become my parents; you know:
Me: “Mom how old are you?”
Me: (Me, wondering why this is taking so long)
Mom: (Does the math … )
Mom: “Uh I think this year I’m 42….”
Yeah. Now I’M the one doing the math, as I jokingly forgo birthday celebrations in favor of celebrating anniversaries of my 29th birthday.
Joking aside, I came across a piece on Vox.com this week—and age was a big point of contention.
“…a completely ridiculous constitutional provision makes her ineligible to run for president,” wrote the Vox.com author, bemoaning the fact that newly-elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is Constitutionally too young to run for president.
You see, the Constitution (Article II, Section I, Clause 5) states in no uncertain terms:
“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”
- You have to be a natural born citizen (hardly an extraordinary request considering the position is that of Commander and Chief of the country you’re supposed to be a citizen of)
- You have to be at least 35 (because—well, we’ll get to that; hang tight).
- You have to have lived in the United States for 14 years (meaning you shouldn’t be off living abroad endlessly and then be able whirl around and want to run the country of your birth).
James C. Ho, a judge in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of appeals, writes in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution:
“The Framers established these qualifications in order to increase the chances of electing a person of patriotism, judgement, and civic virtue.”
Simple, sage words that describe the common sense parameters our Framers—the ones who risked everything to found this country—felt were the bare minimum we ought to expect of the person leading this country.
Yet as we pivot back to the Vox.com piece (see: “It’s ridiculous that it’s unconstitutional for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to run for president”), we’re met with the following justification for the author’s demand that we literally change our Constitution to let a woman who can’t even correctly name the three branches of government run for president:
“Young is better than old.”
To use a line from my generation: I can’t even. I literally can’t even.
The careless, reckless, emptiness of that statement alone is just sheer torture. It’s painful to read. It’s painful to think that someone would actually suggest we alter the course of our country because, well—the old geezers are just too… how did the author put it? Oh yes—mental.
“We currently have a septuagenarian in the White House whose frequent nonsensical diatribes and notoriously scattered Twitter outbursts repeatedly raise the prospect of mental decline.”
He continues: “There’s nothing wrong with old people per se, but essentially everyone has lost a step or two both mentally and physically by their mid-70s.”
(I personally love that “per se” thrown in there. But I’ve digressed.)
Look—he’s not wrong that the older you get, the more your body and mind have a propensity to break down. That’s just nature. And for some people, that precludes them from serving effectively in such a high stress job, and they shouldn’t be in such a position. (I’m looking at you, Senator Coughing Fits Clinton.)
What’s also nature is the fact that when you’re young (and specifically when you’re young in this day and age, when a decent portion of 20 somethings still live with their parents) there’s a pretty good chance you haven’t been around the block long enough to be able to lead a country.
That’s just simple mathematics.
The piece references the fact that many twenty and thirty somethings are “routinely trusted with life-and-death situations in a huge array of contexts, ranging from parenting to military service.”
Since when does the ability to save someone’s life qualify you to run a country? Since when does the ability to save someone’s life justify the altering (arduous altering, I might add) of the document that holds our country together?
Nothing against my fellow youngsters who serve in law enforcement, the military, or who are currently serving tours as parents of toddlers (I see you, believe me), but that’s an incredibly broad and intellectually lazy equivocation.
Even the most talented among my generation … the brightest minds, the quickest wits, the biggest heroes out there still have one thing against us: we simply haven’t been on the planet long enough. Most of us haven’t experienced life to the extent that we’d be able to preside over a country. And while we’re at it, by today’s standards, if we’re going to alter the presidential eligibility clause, I’d actually be in favor of upping it by a decade or so. Quite a few 35 year olds are just coming out of something called “delayed adulthood” anyway—and are hardly in a position to run a country.
(For the record life expectancy at the turn of the 18th century as the Founders were penning this document didn’t usually surpass 40. hovered in the 30s. This meant that for someone to be 35 years old, they would be in the latter phases of their life and in a far different place than a 35-year-old would be today.)
But let’s lay all that aside for a second. Let’s set aside the fact that the Founders established parameters around age, civic duty and loyalty to country for a reason.
Let’s say that the presidential eligibility clause truly is, as the Vox.com author puts it, a “weird lacuna that was handed down to us from the 18th century but that nobody would seriously propose creating today if not for status quo bias.”
Ok, so is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (or “AOC” as she’s now called) the hill you want to die on? The woman who, as a now-sitting Congresswoman, cannot properly name the three branches of government? A woman who (incidentally, graduated cum laude from Boston University with a degree in ECONOMICS) thinks that “unemployment is low because people are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week and can barely feed their family”? A woman who cannot even remotely explain her very definite stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Ok. Let’s set THAT aside as well. Let’s say that age doesn’t matter, and Ms. AOC is indeed a Rhodes scholar with the gravitas of Margaret Thatcher herself.
Do you really want to open that Pandora’s box? You want to alter the Constitution to let THIS person run—without giving any thought to the millions of other 30 something possibilities out there? Potential candidates who aren’t perhaps as smart or as ready?
Let’s expand this even further, since our friendly Vox.com author Matthew Yglesias did. Let’s expand the right to run to immigrants as well. Let’s remove the provision limiting the presidency to natural born citizens. I’m sure there’s plenty of loyal, patriotic immigrant citizens out there who would do just fine. In fact, some might argue (and rightfully so) that certain immigrants are even MORE patriotic than their natural-born counterparts. So, you want to alter the Constitution to let them run as well, without giving so much as a thought to how that could be used and abused by our enemies?
Oh, oh but the voters will weed out the bad ones, he writes. (“voters can judge for themselves without worrying about lurking problems.”)
Really, Mr. Yglesias. That’s interesting because just a few paragraphs ago you insinuated in no uncertain terms that we’ve got a man in the White House who more rightfully belongs in an insane asylum. By your OWN descriptors you nullify your reasoning. But again, I’ve digressed.
There’s more holes in this than Swiss cheese. The Founders’ parameters weren’t “silly;” they were intended to protect a nation from the recklessness of youth and the very real existence of dual loyalties of new citizens.
Look, if you’re going to do something as outrageous as flippantly calling for amending the Constitution, at least have the decency to do it with a *slightly* better poster child.
Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com, and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show on KSEV 700 Radio in Houston. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree