Run, Arnold, Run!

Despite Disqualifying Constitutional Limits on His Candidacy, Trump Is Running for President. Only You-Know-Who Can Help Our FUBAR Country

Run, Arnold, Run! | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

If American devotion to the Constitution and its provisions on presidential eligibility is changing, then why not consider foreign-born candidates—like Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger? Columnist Joe Mathews argues that the FUBAR star can run in this year’s U.S. presidential race. Still of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Luke Brunner from Netflix TV series FUBAR. Courtesy of Netflix.

Dear Arnold,

I’m enjoying your new Netflix action series, FUBAR. You’re funny and convincing as a retiring CIA agent who is pulled back into a very messed-up intelligence conflict because he didn’t realize his daughter is also a secret agent.

You also may not realize that, in real life, the door just opened for you to be pulled back into the FUBAR (“F’ed Up Beyond All Recognition”) of our national politics. I’m writing to ask you to walk through that door immediately, and run for president for the good of our country and our world.

You’ve long said that you would run for president, if it weren’t for two facts: that you were born an Austrian citizen, and that Article II, Sec. 1 of the U.S. Constitution states that “no Person except a natural born Citizen… shall be eligible to the Office of President.”

The article hasn’t changed, but American devotion to the Constitution and its provisions on presidential eligibility has.

For the destruction of this rule and so many other norms, Donald Trump is responsible. Incredibly, he has inspired leading Democrats and Republicans to take the position that being constitutionally ineligible to serve as president is no longer a barrier to running for president.

A new consensus has emerged: Voters have the right to choose whomever they want as president, no matter what the Constitution says.

This is the product of Trump’s own ineligibility for the presidency. The Constitution’s 14th Amendment bars any officer of the U.S. who took a constitutional oath and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion”—as Trump did after losing the 2020 election—from holding any other government office. Leading constitutional scholars, from right and left, have delved into the law and history and affirmed that Trump isn’t eligible.

But being constitutionally ineligible hasn’t stopped Trump from running from office or taking the lead in the Republican polls. And it hasn’t stopped Trump from remaining on the ballot in every state, including the two states where he has been ruled ineligible (Colorado, by a court, and Maine, by the secretary of state). With the U.S. Supreme Court expected to decide the question of eligibility nationwide, and its conservative majority all but certain to keep Trump on the ballot, state actions have not taken effect.

Why do you need to run? It’s simple. Because Trump must be stopped. And no one will stop him.

Arnold, this makes it clear that you can run. Who could object without looking like a hypocrite?

The courts can’t, once they’ve blessed Trump’s unconstitutional run. And Trump certainly can’t, given both his own ineligibility and his repeated promises to “terminate” the U.S. Constitution itself, as he pursues dictatorial power in a new term.

You should be able to jump into the Republican primaries posthaste. If that doesn’t pan out, you’d be the perfect presidential candidate on the bipartisan No Labels ticket.

Why do you need to run? It’s simple. Because Trump must be stopped. And no one will stop him.

The media won’t stop him, because they need in the race to draw audiences to keep their desperate enterprises afloat. Democrats won’t stop him because they want to run against him—he’s the weakest and most beatable of the Republican presidential contenders in a general election. As California Gov. Gavin Newsom said, explaining why Trump remains on the state ballot, “In California, we defeat candidates at the polls. Everything else is a political distraction.”

The Republican Party would do better in the elections with a non-Trump candidate, but party leaders don’t want to risk losing Trump supporters. And Trump’s Republican challengers, fearful of his deranged base, are simply too scared to challenge him aggressively, even in debates when he’s not present.

You, on the other hand, have challenged him openly for years. And he hasn’t been able to lay a glove on you in response. That’s because you’re not a normal politician—you’re an entertainer both more popular than Trump (FUBAR is among the most watched shows on Netflix) and more skilled at parrying media attacks. (I know this firsthand, from covering you and writing two books about you.) You’re as famous as he is, but more respected. You’re that rare political figure who can make Trump look small.

In entering the race, you should emphasize that Republicans and Democrats, by allowing Trump to stay on the ballot, have all but rubber-stamped the notion that voters should get to choose whomever they want as president, Constitution be damned. You might also say that we should embrace this new American era of democratic openness. After all, the U.S. has long limited voter choice to just two parties, routinely striking smaller parties and their candidates from ballots.

And when your opponents refer to that Article II requirement that candidates be natural born, you should make two arguments. First: Despite the accident of your Austrian birth, you’ve always felt American in your heart and soul—a “natural born” American, in the vernacular of our times. Second: If the Biden vs. Trump matchup is the best that native-born citizens can do, then it’s high time to open the race to foreign-born contenders.

But you shouldn’t just run to stop Trump. You should run to win.

As I was reminded while interviewing you this summer, you have huge visions of the future—for massive improvements in education, for the restoration of health of a country whose people are dying younger, and for a complete revamping of American infrastructure to realize our greatest dreams in economy, technology, and environment. By contrast, the tired President Biden hasn’t offered a detailed second-term agenda, much less a vision. And Trump talks endlessly about the past, about history, about grievance, about the 2020 election.

By offering your ideas, you can show the poverty of Trump and Biden’s campaigns, and how America can escape its current malaise by dreaming big about the future. “When you don’t have a vision of the future, it’s easier to look back,” you wrote in 2023. “When you don’t have a vision, today doesn’t have much meaning because you don’t know why you’re here doing what you’re doing right now, and tomorrow is downright scary.”

Now, I know that running for president is hard, and let’s face it, you’re 76 years old. But you’re still younger than Trump and Biden.

I know that running for president when the Constitution still says you can’t might look crazy and illegitimate. But the recall that elected you in California was also called crazy and illegitimate.

I know that your friends, family, and co-stars won’t want you leaving them to jump into politics again.

But is anything more important than using your power to try to save our FUBAR country?


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