The governor of California has quite a following. Although Arnold Schwarzenegger has expressed little interest in the presidency, television spots and t-shirts already encourage his election. But if the Austrian-born actor-turned-politician is to hold the highest office in the land, it will take more than a simple victory at the ballot box.
Currently, the U.S. Constitution provides that "no person except a natural born citizen" is eligible to be elected president (Article II, Section 1). That means that even though Schwarzenegger became a citizen in 1983, he is not eligible.
Fight for Your Right to the Presidency
The fight to change that, however, has already begun. Several legislators have proposed constitutional amendments, but ratifying them will be no easy task.
Amending the Constitution requires, first of all, that a bill be introduced in Congress. Senator Orin Hatch has introduced a bill that would allow immigrants who have been citizens for 20 years or more to run for president. In the House, Representative Rohrbacker proposed a similar bill, as did Representatives Sherman and Conyers. Additionally, Representatives Snyder, Frank, and Issa proposed an amendment that requires 35 years of citizenship for a naturalized citizen to run for president.
Any one of these proposed amendments could be adopted, but only after it passes both the House and the Senate by a two-thirds majority vote. After that, the bill would go to the state legislatures. If three-fourths (38) of the states vote to adopt the amendment, it would then become part of our Constitution.
Who exactly is behind him?
Several organizations are leading the battle to allow Schwarzenegger to run for president, including arnoldamendment.org, which hosts an online petition, and AmendUS.org, with began running T.V. ads last year, encouraging citizens to join in the fight. But they are not only fighting for Arnold
Supporters of Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm, a popular Democrat and a Canadian-born naturalized citizen, are crossing party lines to get behind an amendment allowing foreign-born citizens to run for president, or even vice-president, an office which holds the same eligibility requirements.
"You can't choose where you are born," Granholm said, "but you can choose where you live and where you swear your allegiance."
Granholm and Schwarzenegger both support the proposed amendments, without saying whether they actually plan to run for president or not. And Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria Shriver, has been more active than her husband in the amendment campaign. "We are a nation of immigrants," Shriver said, but she is not optimistic that such an amendment would be ratified.
"Forget about it," Shriver said in a 2004 interview with Vanity Fair. "It is not going to happen. The process takes years, and this is as far as it goes."
She may very well be right. Literally hundreds of amendments have been proposed throughout our history, and only 27 have been ratified. Of the four proposed amendments mentioned in this article, none are scheduled for a vote anytime soon.
As for Arnold, he has never been one to let insurmountable odds keep him down. "Remember one thing," said Schwarzenegger in an interview with Hardball's Chris Matthews, "my mother-in-law Eunice Kennedy Shriver. She started the Special Olympics. She's never run for office, but she's made more impact worldwide than any politician."
In Schwarzenegger's view, you don't have to be the president to make a difference