We Need a President Who Doesn’t Entertain Racist Conspiracy Theories. Trump Is Not That President.

In other news, the sky is blue.

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President Trump is back on his birtherism bullshit.

At his Thursday afternoon press conference, a reporter asked if he thought Sen. Kamala Harris met the legal requirements to run for vice president. “I heard today that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” Trump responded, adding that he’d look into it.

Before we get into this, let’s be clear: Harris was born in Oakland, California.

But an opinion article in Newsweek written by the law professor John Eastman spurred the social media frenzy leading to this moment. In the article, Eastman uses discredited theories to suggest that Harris would be ineligible for the vice presidency because her parents were not naturalized citizens at the time of her birth.

Trump could have simply shot this down. Keep in mind that in 2008, when a woman at a campaign event called Barack Obama an “Arab”—a notion Trump helped spread— John McCain snatched the microphone from the woman’s hand and said, “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

But, Trump being Trump, the president opted to fan the conspiratorial flames.

“The lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer,” he began, never confirming the theory explicitly but not discounting it, either.

Eastman is not, in fact, the man Trump describes. As my colleague Pema Levy wrote in 2018, he is a member of a group of extreme theorists about citizenship:

The [14th amendment] states, ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” The condition “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” is widely understood as a narrow carve-out for the children of foreign diplomats, enemy combatants on US soil, and American Indian tribes. But according to Eastman, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” actually means that in addition to being born in the United States, a child must have at least one parent who owes allegiance to the US government by being a permanent legal resident­…

Scholars on both sides of the aisle have pushed back against this idea. Garrett Epps, a liberal constitutional scholar, wrote in The Atlantic in July, “Erler’s work is, at best, scholarly malpractice. Anton’s reliance on this work is the constitutional equivalent of flat-earthism.” The congressional record, Epps argues, clearly shows that the members of Congress who wrote the 14th Amendment intended for it to include anyone born in the United States, with only narrow exceptions including the children of diplomats.

In Eastman’s hands, a faux nitpicking of legal theory provides a decoy for racism.

The man who jumpstarted his political career by claiming President Obama was not born in the United States couldn’t resist. “You’re saying that she doesn’t qualify because she wasn’t born in this country?” Trump said.

“She was born in this country,” the reporter clarified, “but the claims say that her parents did not receive their permanent residence at that time.”

“I don’t know about it,” Trump said. “I just heard about it. I’ll take a look.”

It’s not that hard to simply not engage in conspiracy theories—for anyone other than Trump.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

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