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The surprising reason why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can’t run for President in 2020

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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Even though 74% of Democrats have said that they would be interested in voting for her.     

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is still in the first month of her term as representative for the 14th district in Congress, but already Democrats are seeing in her the qualities of a leader.

A new poll from Axios of more than 2,200 adult Democrats has found that 74% would “consider” voting for the congresswoman if she ran for President. A further 17% would “definitely” vote for her. It’s a massive show of confidence for the 29-year-old, who last year became the youngest congresswoman in the history of American politics, and a testament to her rise as a powerful and influential policy-maker. 

But the survey was also moot, as Axios noted, because Ocasio-Cortez isn’t actually eligible to run for President in 2020. She’s not old enough.

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As per the American Constitution, presidential candidates need to be over 35 in order to run for the highest office in the country. This is not true in the UK, where technically speaking you only have to be 18 and a British citizen. The youngest prime minister in history was William Pitt the Younger, who became prime minister at 24 in 1783.

The youngest American president, by contrast, was Theodore Roosevelt, who took office when he was 42. The oldest American president is the one currently serving: Donald Trump was 70 when he was inaugurated in 2017.

The earliest Ocasio-Cortez could run for president would be two elections from now in 2028, at which point the congresswoman would be 38.

There are other rules prescribing who can and cannot be president in the US. According to the Constitution, the president must have been a resident in the country for the last 14 years and they must have been a “natural born citizen”.

Trump has sp0ken out against the widening of abortion laws.

It’s this last requirement that has proven so difficult to define over the years, as it’s not actually defined in the constitution. Most agree that it means a person born in the US or who are granted US citizenship at birth.

One of the most popular criticisms to level at a potential presidential hopeful is that they are not a “natural born citizen”. It was this claim that was most often thrown at Barack Obama, largely by conservative republicans. They alleged that Obama was not born in Honolulu, Hawaii as displayed on his birth certificate but in foreign lands undisclosed. The intention was to whip up Islamophobia around Obama, claiming that he was an “Arab” and not fit to be president.

The largest proponent of this was Trump, who in 2011 claimed that he was sending a team of investigators to Hawaii to unearth the truth about Obama’s birth. He offered a $5 million (£3.8 million) charity reward to anyone who could convince him Obama was a “natural born citizen”. As he ramped up his own campaign for president, Trump doubled down on the claims, exhorting hackers to break into Obama’s college records to find his birth certificate and alleging that an expert had confirmed to Trump that Obama’s birth certificate was a fraud. 

Obama was the victim of a conspiracy theory around his birthplace

Writing in her memoir Becoming, Michelle Obama said that she will “never forgive” Trump for his comments about Obama’s citizenship.

“The whole [birther] thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia… But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks,” she wrote. “What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this, I’d never forgive him.”

A similar allegation has just been leveled at 2020 presidential hopeful Kamala Harris by the right wing conspiracy theorist Jacob Wohl. He claimed that because her parents were immigrants and that she was raised in Canada that is “NOT eligible” to be president. 

Kamala Harris has only just announced her presidential campaign, and already the birther conspiracy theorists are out

No matter that Harris was born in Oakland, California, making her immediately eligible to be president as a result of her citizenship by birth. The conspiracy theory has been roundly criticised on social media. 

Just as it was with Obama, the accusations against Harris have a dark subtext of racism. Harris’ camp has so far refused to give the theory any airtime, as they should. They have far more important things to do, like mounting their campaign for Harris to secure the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election.

Considering that in her first day of campaigning Harris raised $1.5 million (£1.15 million) in donations, it’s clear that there are many people who want to see Harris in the White House.

Images: Getty