Arnold for President?

Even though we just finished a Presidential election, it is never too early for candidates to start thinking about the next one. Here in California, there is a lot of speculation about whether Arnold Schwarzenegger will run for re-election in 2006 and/or push for a Constitutional amendment that would allow him to run for President in 2008 or beyond. The latter would require a major media campaign which has already begun in California. At work last week, I helped put together a program on this topic. As a result, I had the opportunity to speak with a few Constitutional scholars about the likelihood of a new amendment enabling foreign-born Americans to run for the country's highest office. Their general sense of things was that it would be extremely unlikely, although one suggested that the current political climate might make it more possible for such an amendment to be passed. He said that Constitutional amendments historically pass when either one party has a hegemony, or the amendment is seen to be in the best interest of both parties. He suggested the latter might be in play, since Arnold is not the only foreign-born politician with Presidential potential. Jennifer Granholm, the Democratic governor of Michigan is a rising star in the Democratic party, and she was born in Canada. So, if both parties think they would benefit from the proposed amendment, it is certainly more likely that such an amendment will be proposed. However, half of the US Senate and a number of governors, are at least considering making a run in 2008, and since we are talking about politicians, we have to remember that self-interest trumps everything. Bill Frist definitely has Presidential ambitions, and as the Senate Majority leader, he might have something to say about an amendment that would instantly create a major political rival. Same goes for people like Hillary Clinton and Diane Feinstein. The last thing they want is another Democratic female vying for national office. In other words, while it might be a mutual interest of the two parties, it isn't necessarily in the best interest for many of the people that will ultimately be responsible for voting on such a measure. In the end, I think the Republicans have more to gain in allowing Schwarzenegger to run, but they probably won't push it until they are out of the White House. I'm also not sure the Democrats have, dare I say, the political capital to do anything about this unless it is proposed by the Republicans. In the short term, then, I don't really see this going anywhere. Personally, I don't really see what the big deal is. We are a nation of immigrants and it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to prevent immigrants from aspiring to the nation's highest political office. We shouldn't destroy the illusion that anyone can grow up to be President of the United States, just because they are a naturalized citizen.