by Andrei Cherny
One hundred fifty years ago this week, Abraham Lincoln was celebrating his birthday aboard the train carrying him on his journey from Springfield, Ill., to Washington, D.C. He would never return home again. Lincoln and so many others perished in the furies of the Civil War in defense of our Constitution and the very idea of America.
Today, those battles are being revisited through the actions of Arizona Republicans led by Senate President Russell Pearce and through the acquiescence of other Republicans who allow these actions to go forward with a wink and a nod. By pushing to give Arizona authority to nullify federal laws and change birthright citizenship as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, Republicans are trying to refight the Civil War-and they’ve picked the wrong side.
Illegal immigration is wrong, and we need tough measures to stop the smuggling rings. As a former Arizona prosecutor, I was on the front lines of that fight. But birthright citizenship isn’t the problem; it’s at the heart of what makes America the greatest nation in the world.
One could be born in China and never be Chinese; one could be born in Turkey and never be a Turk. But all children born in America are as American as anyone else-no matter who their parents are or where they came from or the color of their skin. That is the “proposition” that Lincoln enunciated at Gettysburg and that so many gave “the last full measure of devotion” to defend.
Attempting to ignore the Constitution to overrule federal laws and reopening the question of who is considered an American are the very sources of what led to the Civil War. At a time we should be striding into the 21st century, the Russell Pearce Republicans’ motto seems to be “Bring Back the Worst Ideas of the 19th Century.”
There is a better way forward for Arizona-one that rejects the Jefferson Davis agenda and embraces Abraham Lincoln’s vision. Even in the depths of the Civil War, Lincoln took measures that grew our economy and threw open the doors of opportunity for all who were willing to work hard.
Just as Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, let’s create new Arizona Enterprise Zones to help entrepreneurs and innovators start up the new companies that will create jobs for the future.
Just as Lincoln signed the Land-Grant College Act, let’s create a 21st-century education system for Arizona by reforming our public schools and refashioning our higher-education system so that schools prepare kids for a competitive economy.
And just as Lincoln provided businesses with the incentives to build the transcontinental railroad, let’s make Arizona “the Solar State” by working with cutting-edge companies that are searching for a home.
That’s the mainstream agenda Arizona Democrats believe in. We are the “big tent party” that welcomes independents and fed-up Republicans who are willing to work with us to put partisanship aside and rebuild the Arizona economy.
We’re confident Abraham Lincoln would be standing with us in our tent if he were around today, but-more importantly-we’re certain we are standing with him.
Andrei Cherny, Arizona Democratic Party chair, is a business consultant and former state treasurer candidate.