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The Qualified Debate On the Eligibility of The Presidency

Overview

I was assigned this project in my tenth grade US History class with the intention of conducting a website using multiple essays about any chosen topic. I decided to conduct my research on the current and possible qualifications to be president of the United States. My first essay was on my initial interest in this topic, then I researched the historical background of my topic and finally, I looked at the current day problem relating to my topic. I have also made a short video explaining possible solutions the government can implicate and what every citizen can contribute to elect a qualified US president. I hope you enjoy my project and feel free to click the link after the three sections to read the full essay.

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Personal Interest

The President is the most important job and should be fulfilled by a qualified man or women. However looking at the requirements for the job I start to wonder who is truly qualified for the position, and more importantly who should not be allowed to run. I would like to discuss the existing and non-existing qualifications to be the President in my paper.

I became interested in this topic during the election of our current President, Donald Trump, because his prior job was in business. This made me curious about what prior career a candidate had is qualified to run. The idea of one person running a whole country is a big responsibility that I have always been intrigued by.

My initial research started with the current qualifications in the Constitution Article 2, Section 1 states, “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” (3). Anyone who meets these requirements can run for President therefore there is trust in the citizens to choose a qualified man or women.

In the past we have had Presidents with a questionable amount of experience in politics and government, but recently we have sworn in the President with the least amount of experience. This means we have started to question what knowledge and background is necessary to lead our country. And recent candidates in the 2016 election, such as Ben Carson a neurosurgeon, have ran with little to no political experience (2). Looking at former prior careers, 25 lawyers became Presidents (3). So this jump in job trends shows the overall voters unpredictable choice.

In the past we have had Presidents with a questionable amount of experience in politics and government, but recently we have sworn in the President with the least amount of experience. This means we have started to question what knowledge and background is necessary to lead our country. And recent candidates in the 2016 election, such as Ben Carson a neurosurgeon, have ran with little to no political experience (2). Looking at former prior careers, 25 lawyers became Presidents (3). So this jump in job trends shows the overall voters unpredictable choice.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1CfxzysSZn0vQ6NQoVBAFdTISZKszogfSWiHQ1WQ1mAk/edit

Historical Context

Ever since the first qualifications for president were enforced, the debate between more requirements for presidential candidates or voters has been questioned.  In the beginning, there was a discussion about the age limit for the House of Representatives. George Mason says that, “every man carried with him in his own experience a scale for measuring the deficiency of young politicians; since he would if interrogated be obliged to declare that his political opinions at the age of 21 were too crude and erroneous to merit an influence on public measures” (4).  After the 25 year old age requirement passed for representatives. Age limits have existed for all positions in government and the age is determined by life experience. Another requirement brought up was property qualifications and “that office holders should be wealthy enough to be secure from the temptation to financial corruption, to identify with the fundamental property rights that the government was meant to represent, and to have a substantial economic stake in the communities they represented” (4). Some were against this like Gouverneur Morris who explained, “If qualifications are proper, he would prefer them in the electors rather than the elected” (4). This idea has also been debated. But overall, age requirement is a crucial law to enforce a basic life experience limit. Political experience does not always determine how successful the presidency turns out, “Seemingly, the experience that really counts for heirs apparent is service not just near or around the Oval Office but as its occupant (3). So if prior political experience is not certain to be useful, the citizens are trusted to pick a president with other qualities such as character, communication, goals and leadership.  

If the citizens are trusted with determining their leader, should the qualifications be on the voters? James Madison in Federalist Papers writes, “No qualification of wealth, of birth, of religious faith, or of civil profession is permitted to fetter the judgement or disappoint the inclination of the people” (6). Because everyone can vote and most can run, the goal we should be reaching is educating voters and candidates. Looking at previous races, this lack of education and idea of a qualified candidate, in more than legal terms, has been debated on for a long time. The qualifications are not legal but are experience based. These qualifications can only be determined but the voters who all have different opinions and political experience. In a similar case, our current president’s qualifications have come into question, “Donald Trump is “not qualified” to be president — 58 percent said as much in the latest survey, compared with 42 percent who said Hillary Clinton is unqualified” (6). If more voters were educated on what every candidate will do if elected, voters would be able to make a confident decision on who to elect.

As we are approaching another election in the near future we can reflect on previous elections to decide the best candidate by spreading and supplying more information to all voters.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1tGxZtFcBEnLQRALBGzqUxxYbWdjTJ4VI3Pwe8FpUpuI/edit


Present Day Problem

To ensure qualified voters and candidates in America we need to communicate and teach instead of divide.

The evolution of the qualifications were made to grow with America, however predicting who should be running the country when the future is unpredictable has led some to question the requirements. When the qualifications were first written America was very different. However, the qualifications were made back then and still apply today. Here is an idea of what the qualifications are for, “The Framers wanted to ensure that only a person of good judgment, who was also loyal to his country, could be elected President of the United States. To ensure this, they mandated in the Eligibility Clause of the U.S. Constitution three requirements for the presidency. These focused on a candidate’s age, residency, and citizenship”(3). Everything changes over time and that is why the lack of change in the qualifications for the presidency have not grown into modern-day America. Some believe the requirements have flaws and this problem starts with the law, however, the law can be debated, changed, and added on to. But when a problem with the law grows into a political and social revolution, we can no longer count on the law to fix a country’s problems.

We have divided into political parties and divide into parties in between those parties, these methods have led to two politically clashing Americas where one possibly qualified president is not eligible in everyone’s eyes.  Currently, “No candidate, Republican or Democrat, has received more than 55.2 percent of the popular vote during a presidential primary season without an incumbent president since John Kerry in 2004. Hillary Clinton got that 55.2 percent share in 2016, and she had the benefit of entering the race with stronger support in the polls than any modern candidate”(1). If there is no way to predict who could be president based on the different candidates each year, then how are qualifications supposed to determine a productive and liked president. The answer is not simple,  “Several aspiring Presidents have had lawsuits filed against them alleging that they fail to meet the requirements of the Constitution’s Eligibility Clause”(3). If the qualifications to be Presidents are used to hurt candidates rather than help them it, “forces campaigns to waste valuable time and resources litigating a question to which most voters expect there to be a clear answer. This result is not only confusing to citizens, but it also lowers their confidence in the integrity of the democratic process”(3). In some cases certain qualifications are necessary but in all cases, the qualifications need to reflect the country at the current time period. The president is a voice for the people, so the people should be the best to pick which president is giving them a voice. But not every citizen has or feels like they have a voice in government or politics. Noticing the need for uniting America could start with a more inclusive government and political system. Noticing and changing problems are different two different things. Making change requires everyone to notice the problem so that every citizen has a voice in government. If qualifications are not helping the campaigns, and in fact are hurting them, the voters have a right to know what is happening in these political campaigns. As an organization that is starting to change problems,  “The League of Women Voters of the United States encourages informed and active participation in government works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy”(2). This team of amazing women have found a need for women to learn more information about current government candidates. And organizations like these are helpful, however, they will not be able to fix the problem America faces as a whole.

As Americans grow so should the President, but the Presidents needs to reflect America as one whole united country.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nNeWAww8sUel1Xlnu1jD_bRCGZnMEEaqkmvJTM1dOyY/edit


Solutions Video

Work Cited

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mWFmRQw_frQMsqDliATOiQGn-_IPYK94-A75r3urTDg/edit

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COMMENTS: 1
  1. April 26, 2019 by Lachen Reid

    I agree that education should be a huge piece of voting. I think my school does a good job of teaching students about government and how to be an active member in politics and democracy, but I don’t know how well other schools, such as public schools with poor funding do in this area. This is a great topic, and I am glad I took the time to read your project. Great job!

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