The announcement of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate and possibly the future vice president of these United States has ripped a hole in the space-time continuum and has brought forward a version of Donald Trump from 2009. This version is just as horrible as the 2020 version but with the added seasoning of birtherism, a concept Trump and the far-right continue to only apply to Black people and people of color somehow forgetting that white people have the ability to be born in countries other than America.
In keeping with the tradition of being skeptical of the citizenship of any person in political office that is not white, Trump has raised and reiterated the question of whether Kamala Harris, a former state prosecutor and member of the US Senate who was born in California, is constitutionally eligible to be vice president. “I heard it today that [Harris] doesn’t meet the requirements,” Trump said during a press conference, according to the Washington Post, referring to a racist dog whistle of a Newsweek article. “And, by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer....I would have assumed the Democrats would have checked that out.”
The piece Trump is referring to is a Newsweek article by law professor John C. Eastman who cited the 12th and 14th Amendments to question if a Black woman born in America is eligible to hold the office of vice president. While I am the farthest thing from a lawyer, I got pretty high marks on reading comprehension. The quotes that Eastman pulls from the 12th amendment are, “no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States,” and adds, “[n]o person except a natural born citizen...shall be eligible to the office of President.” As nothing but a simple-minded blogger, my understanding is that Kamala Harris who is an American citizen over the age of 35, was born in the US, and has been a resident of the US for the last 14 years is eligible to hold the office if the election results dictate she and Joe Biden are the winners.
But Trump is a man willing to defy logic and constitutional law in an effort to otherize people who aren’t white, and he has been remarkably successful at it. When Barack Obama was running for president, Trump was busy spearheading a birtherism smear campaign to demand that Obama show the American people his birth certificate to prove he was born in the United States. He even suggested that if Obama was born in the US, the birthplace of his parents and grandparents cast a shadow over his eligibility to be president, twice. The argument is as nonsensical then as it is now but nonsense doesn’t matter because Trump used the publicity to drum up support among those who felt angry at Obama, and ride that tidal-wave of white nationalism to the Oval Office.
This is Trump doing what he does best: Giving pundits something to argue over that isn’t policy, competency, or actual qualifications. Instead of having debates based in fact, the racist segment of the right will continue to further demonize Harris’s identity to get their base all hopped up in time to re-elect Trump in November.
It’s painfully evident that the racists who support every word that comes out of Trump’s mouth have no idea what to do with a woman who is Black and also Indian and also American. Rather than figure out a new strategy, they’re simply returning to the move they made the last time–when they didn’t know what to do with a president that was Black and white and had an unpopular middle name.