Can Anyone Become President Nowadays? Well, Here’s Anyone Who Has!

Can Anyone Become President Nowadays? Well, Here’s Anyone Who Has!


Image Credit: Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign stop at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Photograph/Caption: Matt A. Johnson, Flickr



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It was some years ago that Shawn Hubler, an L.A. Times columnist, stated unequivocally that ANYONE in modern America could become President today.

And “anyone” has. Donald Trump is only the LATEST example–granted, he’s by no means your everyday Joe but as a non-politician, non-lawyer (27 of the 44 proxies have been attorneys), a person who had never before held a public office (neither George Washington nor Dwight Eisenhower did), and a womanizer, he represents a whole lot of “anyone.”

Arguably, having BEEN a lawyer, politician, office holder and faithful husband are good attributes to have in a president. But NOT having them clearly doesn’t disqualify a future presidential candidate, nor does it necessarily greatly affect an elected president’s ultimate legacy.

As one pundit pointed out recently, Donald Trump never really planned to run for president–much less win. Had he, he most likely would never have had to (try to) silence Stormy Daniels. But even now he likely won’t pay politically for his imbroglio.

Wealth, privilege and celebrity obviously help in getting many into the White House–which average Joes generally don’t have as do just anyone. Ronald Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt had them and not incidentally they ultimately had very successful presidencies. Trump, of course, has them but the verdict is still out on how “successful” he will be.

Nothing really disqualifies being a viable presidential candidate unless you are a woman (so far), black (at least until Barack Obama), an atheist, a felon, or someone who’s been in cahoots with a foreign dictator. (We’ll see about the latter, later). White male Protestants who’ve avoided run-ins with the law and served in the military are especially welcome to “apply.”

Once elected, really good (especially great) presidents have the following eight “common leadership qualities” according to historian Jerry Barber:

1. a strong vision for the country’s future
2. an ability to put their own times in the perspective of history
3. effective communication skills
4. the courage to make unpopular decisions
5. crisis management skills
6. character and integrity
7. wise appointments
8. an ability to work with Congress

By these standards/criteria Donald Trump, after halfway through a term, is somewhat lacking (others might argue seriously lacking). Interestingly, his detractors have been both conservative and liberal.

Does Trump have some of the above presidential qualities?

Well, his “vision for the future” (#1)– which is to Make America Great Again (MAGA)–assumes America has lost its greatness, a premise that many feels is ludicrous. America is STILL great militarily, culturally, economically and educationally–no question. The country remains a shining democracy in a world of totalitarianism and religious extremism. That America is losing influence on the global stage to China, and cachet to even much smaller countries like Australia and Canada, IS concerning. But most would agree that America remains ascendant in many areas.

Other categories where Trump’s leadership qualities and skills have come into question are (3), (6), (7) and (8). These bullet points have seriously undermined his presidency. Few admire his blusterous narcissism or his lack of cooperative statesmanship in the company of fellow dignitaries. After dozens of his appointments have gone south–with resignations by senior staff almost daily–he clearly lacks tolerance for others’ views and isn’t good at compromise. Several of his pre-presidential collaborators are facing jail time as felons, showing he lacks good judgment in selecting the company he keeps.

And as far as Trump being able to work with a divided Congress, having lost the House in the midterms will surely make it much more difficult for him to get anything accomplished in the next couple of years.

#4 is a bit of a conundrum. Trump made a decision to put up a large Wall on the border because many Americans felt that illegal immigrants were taking jobs from citizens. But at the same time illegal immigration flows from Mexico were abating–partly because NAFTA was encouraging Mexican employers to hire in their “maquiladoras” (plants along or near the border that supply parts/materials to states-based companies).

Somehow Trump erroneously concluded that keeping Mexicans gainfully employed south of the border was not enough of a disincentive for them to trek northward–and also that such employment threatens the U.S.’s own manufacturing operations. Even many Americans who are in favor of The Wall recognize that it will hardly keep people out who are determined to flee northward. (It is Hondurans and El Salvadorians who really want in, not Mexicans).

And probably NO ONE wants a $5 billion dollar (or more) price tag for an inconsequential wall…

It may seem to some too early to weigh in on whether Trump has been a good president so far. But in February 2018 the American Political Science Association’s Presidents and Executive Politics section, which has developed rating criteria for all 44 Presidents, published its findings. The Association has Republicans, Democrats and Independents among its scholar members so cannot be considered partisan.  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/19/opinion/how-does-trump-stack-up-against-the-best-and-worst-presidents.html

In the study, presidents are rated on a 1-100 scale (100 being the highest level of “greatness”) Over time the numbers do change and presidents move up or down on the list based on how history treats them. For example, Franklin Roosevelt is now considered our third greatest president. (Roosevelt’s rule!) Republican presidents Reagan and Eisenhower are top ten winners.

Until President Trump came along, James Buchanan was scraping the “bottom of the barrel” at Number 44. Buchanan is now Number 43. President Trump languishes at #44 with only 12 points out of 100.

Such a determination is rather stunning at this juncture and surely the numbers WILL change. One might conjecture about how they could change in Trump’s favor before 2021.

Here are some ideas: The Donald could actually get Kim Jong Un to destroy his nukes; he could stabilize his cabinet by being less impulsive; he could find a way to forestall an impending downturn (a challenge to his successes in cutting corporate taxes); he could pay down the national debt; and he could suddenly have a few good things to say about immigrants–who can be credited for (at least early in our history) making America great..

But don’t hold your breath that ANY of these rather desirable things will ever happen.

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