It was adopted in 1868 in the aftermath of the civil war, as part of the Reconstruction effort, designed to right the injustice of former slaves not being counted by the Constitution as human beings and citizens. It provides for equal protection under law, and formed the basis of George W. Bush’s appeal to a friendly Supreme Court, which rewarded his entreaty with the presidency of the United States. And it is one of the distinguishing characteristics between pluralistic America, where the children of Irish and Polish and African and Honduran immigrants are Americans by birth; and bloodline-centric Europe, where swarthy children of north African parents can never, ever be sufficiently French or English.
So why would the right want to scrap the venerable 14th Amendment? Yes, yes, to punish all those “illegals” who came to the U.S. to clog our obstetric wards with ill-gotten babies. But is there more to their disdain for A14? Let’s look at the text … wingers love it when you read the constitution… The amendment is written in four sections:
Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
That’s the one Lindsey Graham, John Kyl, Rand Paul and other assorted bad guys say they are looking to scrap. Their plans are aimed specifically at Mexicans … sorry, “illegals.” But there is much more to A14 than that…
Section. 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
Aha! The evil apportionment that comes with the left wing conspiracy that is the Census! (Now, if you could just take the Census itself out of the constitution…)
And look at that second bit: the right of citizens to vote “cannot be abridged”… “except for participation in rebellion, or other crime.” If you scrap the 14th amendment, could our tea party “revolutionaries” go to war against the federal government and still vote as usual at their local precinct?
Section. 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Let’s call that the “gather your armies” clause. If removed, our tea partying friends would be free to take up arms against the government, and then hold office in that same government. I’m thinking Alan Keyes would be really happy with that.
Section. 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Invalidating the U.S. debt? Well the right would be down with that too, right?
Section. 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
So what have we learned today, kids? The right, in one fell constitutional swoop, if they could find a way to strike the 14th Amendment out of the constitution, could deny citizenship to millions of persistently brown children, mount jihad against the federal government and still vote and hold office afterward, and invalidate the hated U.S. debt.
Sounds like the total tea party package.