Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What, Exactly, Qualifies Me to Become President?

Being President of the United States is a fairly important job. Clearly running for that office should require some pretty impressive qualifications.

I don't have those. But I'll be running anyway, and here's why:

First of all, I qualify for the position, as far as the Constitution is concerned: I'm a natural-born citizen of the United States (sorry, test tube babies), and I'll be 35 years old as of about one month before the inauguration in January 2021, as per the requirements set forth Article II, Section 1, Clause 5. Oh, and I've never been President before, much less for two terms (22nd Amendment), and I've never committed treason or otherwise seriously rebelled against the United States (14th Amendment, Section 3).

So, in the strictest sense, I qualify to run for President in 2020. But that's not what people are asking when they ask a candidate what qualifies them to become President. What they want is for the candidate to give reasons people should vote for them.

There's no resume that really guarantees a presidency. State governors do well sometimes, but governing a state is vastly different from being the President of the United States. There are some surface-level similarities: influencing the budget, having veto power over state legislation, and executing the laws of the state, for instance.

However, these powers are only similar to what a President faces, in the same way Microsoft Paint is similar to Adobe Photoshop. Working with a Congress that represents people from every corner of this vast, multicultural country is quite different from working with a relatively homogenized state legislature. The impact of your every action as President is magnified to an extreme degree, compared to actions as a governor. Also, governors rarely have much experience with arguably the President's most important jobs: foreign relations and acting as Commander in Chief. Altogether, I think gubernatorial experience provides little assistance with executing the office of the President.

Senators are another popular source of presidential candidates. Compared to state governors, at least they have experience with how the country runs at the national level. By working with other senators from around the country, they have some idea of what the people of this country want.

That said, again, being a senator doesn't really give experience with the duties of the President. The senate can declare war, but they can't run one. They can pass laws, but they can't execute them. The senate shares the burden of running the country with each other and with the House of Representatives. No single Congressman holds the weight of the country on their shoulders, which is exactly as it should be. Senatorial experience isn't nothing, but altogether I think it provides little assistance with executing the office of the President.

And then we have the occasional military candidate; a five-star general like President Eisenhower. These are men who, generally, know how to lead other men. They have foreign and diplomatic experience, which is a very important quality for a President to have. Unfortunately, military experience does not often translate into an understanding of domestic policy. How much experience does a general have working with Congress? Planning a budget? Reviewing legislation? Military experience is great, but altogether I think it provides little assistance with executing the office of the President.

Still, you'd think experience with one of these things would be better than nothing, right? Well, not necessarily. There isn't a lot of proof to back this up, but I don't think a lifetime of politics necessarily generates Presidents that are in touch with the people of the country. It provides familiarity with the system, which is valuable, but being a part of that system also comes with a lot of baggage: allies, enemies, obligations, and an incentive to maintain the status quo. Politics as usual.

An outsider candidate is not necessarily a good thing. A poor choice won't break the system--our checks and balances are too strong for that--but they can drive progress to a standstill by fighting the system too hard and accomplishing nothing. Or they might get into that position and panic as their lack of experience prevents them from being able to accomplish anything.

I'm not running to break our country's system, though. I'm running to strengthen it. I want to rattle our two-party system and introduce the possibility that perhaps two parties do not sufficiently represent our wide and varied country. I want to bring emphasis to the fact that our government has three branches, not one, and that Congress is the branch that should best represent the varied peoples of this country. I want to work closely with Congress and emphasize their importance, even when the things they decide contradict my own preferences for this country's direction. I want to encourage people to vote in congressional elections and make sure they understand that doing so is the best way to see real change at a national level.

I also have ideas about foreign and domestic policy, and there are many things the President can and should do without referring to Congress. However, if there's one thing I'd like as my legacy if I were to become President, it's that I'd like to be the President who made Congress great again. I'd like to reflect the original intentions of the Founding Fathers, making Congress (not the President) the most powerful branch of government, while also reflecting the grace of George Washington, who held the power of a nation in his hand and let it go, leaving everyone else to wonder how he did it.

In the end, I'm not qualified to be President. Nobody is. Nothing prepares you for sitting in the Oval Office. However, knowing this, I will run for the office anyway. Because, in the end, I'm basically as qualified as anyone else.

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