A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took a young Peruvian friend down to the federal courthouse to receive his naturalized American citizenship. I was thinking a lot about him and the 52 other new Americans naturalized in Columbus, Ohio as I watched this year’s Republican National Convention.

Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich spoke and brought her twin daughters to attend the immigration ceremony to lend it special significance.  Most of the new Americans came here from Africa, and the majority seemed to be from Somalia.  Only two were from Europe. The lone new citizen from Syria said it was the best day of his life, and our friend Luis said he couldn’t wait to vote. Luis was partly raised in a Hare Krishna ashram in Florida, attended the Columbus College of Art and Design and is building websites for us and several of our neighbors.

Since, by definition, most of those attaining citizenship had grown to adulthood somewhere outside our borders, and many of them seriously affected by the identity politics that are a comparatively more intrusive feature of life in America in recent times, I could not help but wonder what these new Americans think about our political campaigns. Do they believe that “likeability” is an important reason to vote for one candidate for president over another?  Do they believe New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who says elected officials now have to choose respect over love?

The newbies were not released from the holding pen for the actual ceremony until they had filled out voter registration cards.  Do they use new political prowess to demand that our Columbus, Ohio courts and administrative offices provide translations for people who came here speaking dozens of languages?  If they voted before they came here, they had to show a card that had both their faces and fingerprints on it in many countries.  Is what we are trying to accomplish here to mitigate some of the voter fraud at every election really racist, in their view?  Did they think that the comments relating to the president’s golfing are racist, as has been asserted by Lawrence O’Donnell?

When Condoleezza Rice took the stage, following several governors who pointed out that they have been sued by the federal government for trying to protect their citizens from the expenses of rapid and extensive illegal immigration, she acknowledged that losing control of one’s finances correspondingly allows the grip on one’s destiny to slip.  Brilliantly, she tied all of the main party themes together by reminding us that the job growth we are proudest to measure in Austin, Silicon Valley, along Route128 in Massachusetts, and in the Research Triangle Park was “built” by a lot of people who weren’t born here.

If they all studied as much as Luis did, they know something about the U.S. Constitution, and probably more about it than most citizens of this country who got to be Americans by virtue of being born here.  Especially since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court opinion on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it is becoming more difficult for most of us to discern what actually would be considered unconstitutional anymore.  The high-profile fights used to be over protection of minorities, but most of the constitutional amendments proposed these days are to protect the states from being made superfluous against the march of federal power and authority, which is clearly not the “rising tide” that the president swore to stop when he was elected.

I liked the Republican convention.  I like the idea that more people than ever before are trying to discover what our Constitution means.  I appreciate that the GOP is actually trying to get elected by discussing all the elephants in the room, and that the policy discussions on the appropriate size and nature of government have almost replaced the constant attention to group politics and whether the Tea Party and other Republicans can get along at all.

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