26 September 2016

Screening Candidates

Every previous President of the United States has been a Governor, U.S. Senator, Presidential cabinet member, Vice President (who is also a U.S. Senator and Cabinet member ex officio) or the highest ranking officer in the United States military.

Political parties and the voting public have made these the informal qualifications to serve as President of the United States.  Should similar qualifications, adding perhaps the post of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (which is high up in the line of succession), be formally added to the list in order to spare our nation candidates with no political experience like Donald Trump?

After all, no one who actually won the Presidency under its current constitution (which took effect in 1789) has lacked these qualifications, so it would not have been a huge practical burden on the public. But, it would in a quite straight forward manner remove all sorts of dubious candidates who either have little chance or winning or should have little chance of winning, for consideration.

Essentially, the list would require every candidate for President to be someone whom voters still like after that person won a major statewide office, won the confidence of someone who was previously elected President for a high office, or in the case of a former Speaker of the House, previously won the confidence of the people in a major office for less than an entire state and won the confidence of a majority of representatives from every state?

This sets a serious floor of qualifications on someone leading the nation which greatly reduces the risk that someone unqualified running our nation.

In contrast, several past Presidents and Hillary Clinton would have been disqualified by an anti-nepotism clause that would prohibit family members of past Presidents from holding that office.

At various times and places, there have also been prohibitions on holding high public office for people who have been convicted of felonies, for people who have filed for bankruptcy, for people who do not own any real property, and for people who have previously been removed from office by impeachment or for misconduct.

Section 23 of the Canadian Constitution, for example states that:
The Qualifications of a Senator shall be as follows: 
(1) He shall be of the full age of Thirty Years;
(2) He shall be either a natural-born Subject of the Queen, or a Subject of the Queen naturalized by an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, or of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, or of the Legislature of One of the Provinces of Upper Canada, Lower Canada, Canada, Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick, before the Union, or of the Parliament of Canada after the Union;
(3) He shall be legally or equitably seised as of Freehold for his own Use and Benefit of Lands or Tenements held in Free and Common Socage, or seised or possessed for his own Use and Benefit of Lands or Tenements held in Franc-alleu or in Roture, within the Province for which he is appointed, of the Value of Four thousand Dollars, over and above all Rents, Dues, Debts, Charges, Mortgages, and Incumbrances due or payable out of or charged on or affecting the same;
(4) His Real and Personal Property shall be together worth Four thousand Dollars over and above his Debts and Liabilities;
(5) He shall be resident in the Province for which he is appointed;
(6) In the Case of Quebec he shall have his Real Property Qualification in the Electoral Division for which he is appointed, or shall be resident in that Division.
Of course, a $4,000 net worth and real property wealth requirement in 1867 when that provision was adopted was a lot more meaningful at the time (probably on the order of $80,000-$100,000 Canadian dollars today), than it is now.  Also, it isn't as if the job of Canadian Senator exposed someone to liability, so why have the requirement?  So that they represented people who had "a stake in society" and an incentive to obey its laws?

A Canadian Senator's office becomes vacant if he dies, "he attains the age of seventy-five years", he resigns in writing, or under Section 31 of the Canadian constitution:
(1) If for Two consecutive Sessions of the Parliament he fails to give his Attendance in the Senate;
(2) If he takes an Oath or makes a Declaration or Acknowledgment of Allegiance, Obedience, or Adherence to a Foreign Power, or does an Act whereby he becomes a Subject or Citizen, or entitled to the Rights or Privileges of a Subject or Citizen, of a Foreign Power;
(3) If he is adjudged Bankrupt or Insolvent, or applies for the Benefit of any Law relating to Insolvent Debtors, or becomes a public Defaulter;
(4) If he is attainted of Treason or convicted of Felony or of any infamous Crime;
(5) If he ceases to be qualified in respect of Property or of Residence; provided, that a Senator shall not be deemed to have ceased to be qualified in respect of Residence by reason only of his residing at the Seat of the Government of Canada while holding an Office under that Government requiring his Presence there.
It isn't clear if someone like Donald Trump who has had six corporate bankruptcies for entities that he has run, but not a personal one and not after he might take office, would fall within Section 31(3) above.

Canada vests the authority to make law on comparable topics in its House of Commons, to the Provinces in which an MP is elected.

Is it relevant that the Canadian Senate is essentially Canada's version of the House of Lords, but comprised only of the equivalent of a British Life Lord?

Did you notice that Canada originally required merely that Canadian Senators be British subjects and not that they be Canadian citizens (although this provision is arguably now be spent since no one alive at the time of Union in 1867 is under 75 years of age, depending upon how that somewhat ambiguous sentence is read)?
Marginal note:
Marginal note: 
Should something like any of these qualifications be added to the list of qualifications in the U.S.?

And, while few people would dispute that the President of the United States should be a U.S. Citizen, does it really make sense to retain the constitutional requirement that the President be a "natural born" citizen as opposed to requiring merely that the President have resided in the United States for a certain number of years?

Is there any meaningful reason for excluding someone who is thirty-five years old (the minimum age to serve as President) if the candidate was naturalized as a citizen at the age of one year and lived in the United States at all times after that, but allowing someone who was born in the United States to non-citizen parents who didn't live in the United States until a year or two before running for office, to serve as President of the United States?

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