Three Core Presidential Responsibilities: Territorial, Cultural, and Governing Integrity

By Stanley Renshon on July 29, 2014

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion.

— United States Constitution, Article 4, Section 4

In the push to respond to the substantial pressures of public expectations and, in some cases, their own enormous ambitions, some presidents have lost sight of three of their core responsibilities: the integrity of the country's established boundaries, the integrity of the cultural premises on which the country was founded and developed, and the responsibility of governing integrity that comes with the grant of public and political power.

Immigration is a policy area that involves all three of these, and no modern president has made these links clearer than Barack Obama.

Nationality is an identity forged in a cultural and political history and cemented in its association with an established territory. Geography is not destiny, but a national identity without an established place to root and confirm it endures a ghost-like existence until it can find its logical and ultimate expression in a clearly defined territory over which the people and the government they select have dominion.

Having a country "of one's own" is the sine qua non of a coherent, viable, and stable national identity. And a coherent, viable, and stable national identity is an essential foundation for effective and legitimate cultural, economic, and governing institutions.

The "United States of America" is, of course, a set of philosophical, political, cultural, and economic ideas, but it is also a specific territory in which these ideas are practiced and debated. Whether one thinks of American national identity as being primarily creedal, or whether you also include, as I do, a set of cultural assumptions and emotional attachments, it is clear to the point of obviousness that America is an actual place as well as an idea.

Modern Americans don't give much thought to the territorial foundation of their national identity. It has been a long time since wagon masters bellowed "Westward Ho!", the British sacked Washington, or presidential candidates ran on the platform "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!"

America has been attacked more than once in its history, but in modern times never invaded, at least in so far as Americans have traditionally understood that term.

Modern Americans therefore have had the luxury and security of being able to take their country's boundaries for granted. One reason that George W. Bush decided on the name Department of Homeland Security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks was to remind Americans that they had a homeland.

And therein lies the dilemma for Americans considering illegal migration.

Illegal migration is not an armed invasion, but it is a definitely a major boundary transgression. It is not a transgression based on hostile intent but on illegal migrant self-interest. It is not a boundary transgression meant intentionally to do harm, but it does so in many ways, from undermining public confidence in the rule of law to encouraging some, like our president, to subvert the law for political reasons.

Next: Territorial Integrity, the Rule of Law, and Immigration Enforcement



Topics: Politics