What qualifies a person to be president?

There’s an article over at Slate that asks how liberals would respond if the choice for president were between a liberal version of Donald Trump (they use Sean Penn as their example but it could be anyone on the political left who is sufficiently famous outside of the world of politics) and the likes of Ted Cruz or Rick Santorum.  It’s a fascinating article and definitely worth the read.   

While I haven’t tried making that particular argument, it raises a good point.   I have been making two related arguments, though, that tie in a little bit with this, and that also represent arguments I wish those on the left would stop making.  

The first is with regard to Donald Trump’s qualifications to be president.   This has nothing to do with whether or not he should be president but instead to whether he meets the criteria put forth by the constitution: since he is over age 35, a natural-born citizen who has lived the last fourteen years in this country, and is not term-limited under the 22nd amendment, he checks off every necessary box to be president.  That says absolutely nothing about whether he deserves any votes, but he does qualify.   Then again, so do I.  So feel free to vote for me.  

The other argument is about Hillary’s experience putting her in a good position to be president.   Eight years as First Lady, eight years as a senator, and four as Secretary of State, and yes she does have a fair amount of experience.  (It’s questionable whether that makes her the most experienced in history, as President Obama said during the convention a couple of weeks ago; even in recent memory, George H W Bush rivaled her experience when you figure that he was Vice President for eight years, after having been head of the CIA, ambassador to China, and a congressman; and that’s not even getting into the fact that he was a senator’s son…)  But when it comes to the presidency, how much experience is ideal?  We have a lot of respect for many presidents who had relatively little experience (Lincoln, JFK, Obama and many others come to mind) and many of the presidents with the most experience actually rank among our worst (Buchanan, William Henry Harrison, Hoover).  The simple truth right now is that no amount of experience can truly prepare a person for the presidency.   There are only five people alive today who can honestly say that they’re currently prepared for the needs of the presidency.   Three of them are term-limited and therefore can’t seek the office and the other two are both in their 90s.   

The simple truth is that the American political right doesn’t actually have someone to vote for this year.   If Trump represents anyone, it’s himself (and white supremacists and Nazis).   And that could happen to the left in a future year.  Some might vote for Hillary.  Some might vote for Trump.  Some might vote third party and some might not vote at all.  Is that a consequence of the uneasy coalition that is the modern Republican Party?  Many pundits have been talking about the demise of the party for some time.   Not that I’d expect any party to be absolutely uniform in their views, but the religious and economic conservatives really don’t have enough in common to hold them together, other than saying they’re “not liberal”.  

Would I vote for Sean Penn?  I don’t know.  I voted for Al Gore in 2000 and sent him an email afterwards where I said that he should not take my vote as an approval of his campaign or candidacy.   I just felt that Bush would’ve been a disaster for the country.   

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One response to “What qualifies a person to be president?

  1. Pingback: The Privilege of George H W Bush | Ramblings and Rumblings

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