Parsing Persuasion: Birthright Citizenship Edition

Students of persuasion:

Today Trump announced that he would end birthright citizenship (the conferring of US citizenship on all babies born on US soil) via an executive order.

This is wonderfully effective persuasion.

https://www.axios.com/trump-birthright-citizenship-executive-order-0cf4285a-16c6-48f2-a933-bd71fd72ea82.html

First Let’s Talk Technique

The first technique is that this is highly attention-getting. It comes one week before mid term elections when people are paying more attention.┬áIt’s also in light of the headlines of caravans from Latin America, so people are already paying attention to immigration issues.

And all those in opposition in the media will “fact check” the claim right into the first story of every news website, propagating his message far and wide.

It’s also surprising. It has been assumed for a long time that it would take a constitutional amendment to change the laws regarding citizenship of babies born in the United States.

Some more techniques:

  1. Trump uses authority: he has top men working on it, presumably experts in the law.
  2. Pacing and leading: “It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t”
  3. Imagining a future: “It’s in the process. It’ll happen”
  4. Artfully vague language: “But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”
    • Who is “they?” If you’re on the anti-anchor baby side, “they” means authoritative legal scholars.
  5. Confirmation bias: Trump says it’s possible, so when his supporters hear any evidence, they will interpret it to support that pre-existing idea.

Now Let’s Talk Strategy

With a single announcement he turned birthright citizenship from something that the public assumed would be too difficult and not worth trying into something that people now think is possible.

Overnight, Trump will have millions of Americans who want anchor baby laws to end, to newly think it’s possible to end them, and will be more motivated to vote in the mid-terms so they can make it happen.

He also gets *millions* of people to research the legal possibilities. The sides will make the arguments for him. In the first day alone we learned that prior to 1960 it was not applied to illegal aliens and that the amendment’s original author never intended it to apply to aliens.

And here’s the 3D chess: He forces Democrats to be constitutional originalists. They cannot claim the 1st and 2nd amendments require a modern interpretation but the 14th amendment must be interpreted as original text only. They have to pick one or the other. Either he gets the 14th amendment re-interpreted, or he saves the 2nd amendment.

Bonus persuasion: the liberals want the 2nd amendment repealed and the 1st amendment modified or reinterpreted. Trump wants the same for the 14th amendment (and possibly the 17th). Now both sides are interested in the possibility of altering the Constitution. This makes it much more likely to actually happen because its no longer outside the realm of possibility.


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