Saturday, June 4, 2016

Rethinking who can be President of the United States

If this election cycle has taught us anything it's that we need to fix the electoral process -- starting with the qualifications necessary to run for and serve as President of the United States.

Per Article Two, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States of America:
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
Clearly, it is time to amend the Constitution (again).

First of all, how many people today were around "at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution"?

Secondly, does it really matter any more where a person was born as long as he -- OR SHE -- is a citizen of the United States and has been a resident within the United States for at least 14 years?

(The correct answer to that question is "no.")

And thirdly, while back in 1787, when most people didn't live past 41, 35 was considered old. Today, with people living into their 80s, not so much. So I say we should raise the minimum age to be president to 40 -- make that 45.

But most importantly, we need to make sure that the person ascending to the highest office of the land is sound in both mind and body -- and able to carry out the duties of President of the United States.

To that end, I propose the following amendment to Section 1 of Article Two of the Constitution, which I call Qualifications to Be President of the United States:

* Must be at least 45 years of age.
* Must be a citizen of the United States and have resided within the United States for at least 14 years.
* Must undergo a complete physical and mental health examination overseen by a board of certified, nonpartisan medical professionals and be considered to be of sound mind and body.
* Must take and pass a four-hour, closed-book examination [similar to the AP exams] covering U.S. History and Government, as well as World History.
* Must produce his or her tax returns for the four years prior to the year of election.

All in favor, say "Aye!"

Of course, even if such qualifications were somehow enacted, you would still get unsavory characters running for president. But at least they would, hopefully, diaqualify the Trumps (and Palins) of the world.


Another David S. said...

Aye. Where do I sign?

J. said...

Should we start a petition?

Anna said...

Aye, aye, cap'n! The test is crucial - any other job has an extensive job description as well as a list of required qualifications. Why should the most important office in the land (some would say the world) not have the same?

larissa said...

Aye - a petition
A resume and a test
Yes - sign me up please

Betty Cracker said...

Aye. At the very least, aspirants to the U.S. presidency should be able to pass the citizenship test we ask immigrants to pass.

J. said...

Agreed, @Betty. Though I hold people who want to hold high office to a higher standard, or would like to.

J. said...

Agreed, @Betty. Though I hold people who want to hold high office to a higher standard, or would like to.

Major Major Major Major said...

There are some concerns here though. One, you have the "who administers the test" issue. There are about thirty different ways to game this, and ever since 2000 I'm deeply mistrustful of giving unaccountable institutions any more power than they already have over elections. Even if 'everybody knows' that the test is rigged (which is a tall order in and of itself, look at how many people don't believe in e.g. climate change), welp, it's in the constitution, can't be helped.

Second, the age thing. Life expectancies are a rotten measure of, well, life expectancy. This is just the data I found handy with teh Google. Life expectancy in 1850 at birth was 38.3, but life expectancy for those who made it to adulthood (20) was 60, and for those who made it to 30 it was 64. This is because 'life expectancy' includes infant mortality and fatal childhood diseases. It's like saying the height expectancy at birth was 4'1". So 35 isn't that old. Whether 35 is wise is a different question.

Citizenship requirements I'm fine with changing. We aren't worried about a British usurper coming down the pike any more.

Tax returns are harder to game, but a person will know they're running for president four years in advance most of the time, so they'd probably still be careful about it. Maybe ten years?

J. said...

@Major Major Major Major, as a political scientist by education and as a textbook editor by training, I hear you. But I still believe it is possible to come up with a Civics/U.S. History/World History test that would be objectively fair, or as fair or objective as the Civics test would-be citizens have to pass and the AP History and Government exams my 18-year-old daughter took.

As to the life expectancy thing, I hemmed and hawed about what to write and probably should have chosen my words better as I found the same thing on teh Google. But I still think we should raise the age -- so hopefully the candidates will be that much wiser (in theory).

As for tax returns, I see your point about 10 years, but having just had to produce a mere 2.5 years of tax returns for a lowly mortgage, the thought makes me shudder. Though maybe that's the point.

Dave S. said...

Put me down for Aye on citizenship/residency and up the tax return disclosure to ten years. The most powerful job in the world rates some paperwork.

However, to elaborate on (Major)^4, life expectancy also varies by social class. The Right Sort of People tend to live longer than Those Other People, so the Framers knew what they were doing.

Regarding physical/mental exams, FDR and possibly JFK may have been disqualified on the former, and good luck agreeing on a format for the latter.