Article 2, Section One, The United States Constitution: 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.
So there you have it. In order to qualify to become the president of the United States of America, this little paragraph of our beloved Constitution spells it out. Is it me or doesn’t it seem a bid odd that the requirements to become the most powerful person in the free world are a bit on the weak side? I mean, I’ve seen job postings for dog-walker that are harder to qualify for.
I have to admit, since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, this subject has been on my mind quite a bit. If you look at who has been elected president throughout history, every one of them have had at least some combination of prior military or government experience. Until now.
Let’s face it, our Founders back in those days were looking at a much different landscape. We had just won a long and bloody war with England, led by the venerable George Washington. It had become clear that Washington would be the first president. He had the stature. He was a national treasure, and they all knew he was the only individual who could lead the new democracy and ensure it’s survival.
In other words, Article 2 was conceived mostly with the idea of Washington at the helm. And, with the ill-conceived Electoral College, the view was that the electors, as they called them, would consist of wise men who would ensure that we would have a fine and qualified person as president. How’s that working out these days?
It just seems as though we should ask a lot more of our prospective presidents. The Founders had no way of knowing what the country would be like in 250 years. The mechanism is in place to amend the Constitution. Of course, in the age of extreme partisanship and rampant distrust of the media, amending it is next to impossible.
But we need to try. There are a lot of ideas out there as to what kind of requirements we should attach to future presidential candidates. But there are some that are so common sense and reasonable it would be hard to argue otherwise.
For instance, is it asking too much for a future president to release at least 10 years of tax returns?
Is it asking too much to require a future president to pass an extensive background check from the FBI, as well as a credit inquiry?
Is it asking too much to require a future president to pass a simple psychiatric examination to demonstrate his or her’s mental fitness for office?
Is it asking too much that a future president to have at least a minimum 2 years of either government or military experience?
Is it asking too much for a future president to have completed at least 4 years of college at an accredited university?
I don’t know. Perhaps I’m way off base here. Experts would certainly weigh in to poke holes in every one of these suggestions. But age and birthplace? That’s it? Is that the best we can do in 2019?
The last time we amended the Constitution was in 1992 and it dealt with Congressional compensation. Before that it was 1971, which changed the legal voting age to 18.
That’s all. Two times in the last 48 years. I get it. The amendment process is long. It’s onerous. It’s meant to be that way. But we’ve done it before. The Founders gave us a process. I hope we haven’t gotten so polarized that it can’t be done in the future. And certainly, the flood of money from corporations and other special interests into our election system adds additional hurdles.
Still, it’s worth it to give it a shot. Donald Trump has changed the office of the presidency forever. I’ve heard pundits say that in the future, we will have to enact legislation in order to “Trump-proof” the office. Legislation can be reversed and changed. A Constitutional Amendment however, puts an exclamation point on it–much harder to reverse–and a permanence that could stand the test of time.
If enacted, we would owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Trump. Thanks to him, we’re finally taking a hard look at who should be able to occupy the office of president of the United States. As a wise person once said, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”