WASHINGTON, April 22, 2015 – Now that some of the more well-worn names in politics have announced that they are candidates for president, and more are hinting that they may run if Americans and PACs throw enough money their way, it is time to explore how the race is shaping up.
Some of the most interesting contenders lack the name recognition and money to win, but they are running. It is too early to weigh their chances for victory in 2016, but that has never stopped a candidate in the history of this great and unique nation.
First, we need to look at the characteristics of people who are qualified to run. Our Constitution was drafted to exclude foreigners and youngsters. This eliminates a number of problems. The Founding Fathers realized from the start that we didn’t want our country to be led by someone who just happened to win a national election while on vacation from their native country. Possibly worse, they didn’t want to be ordered around by teenagers or young upstarts.
You must be a natural-born citizen of the United States to be president. If your mom is a natural-born citizen, you are a natural-born citizen. That also means that your dad can get you over the first hurdle to the presidency if he is a legal citizen.
You must also be at least 35 years old, as that is the age at which wisdom flows into the human mind and makes you capable of leading the nation. Last, you must have lived in the country you intend to lead for 14 years.
This further eliminates the threat of teenagers running the country and of the possibility of a virtual presidency from your retreat in a place like Tahiti. There is no restriction on gender, race or religious affiliation, so the Constitution allows the rest of Americans throw their hats into the ring.
It is the task of the voters to pick the right person for the job, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Justin Bieber are disqualified from the start.
Before you decide that running for president is a good thing to put on your resume, or you get the idea that you could win in November 2016, consider the downsides of the position that you will be seeking. There are a few: It’s a temp job that goes for four years, with a possible extension for another four if the people who put you in office think you did a good job.
They also will vote for you again only if they agree with the way you have been running the country. There is the possibility that someone who disagrees with you or an entire group of people anywhere in the world will try to kill you. Most presidents spend most of their worrying time trying to avoid conflict with anyone, which can get in the way of accomplishing anything while you are in office.
Not everyone who runs for president actually believes he or she can win. Aside from political dynasties established from families with the surnames of Kennedy, Bush and Clinton, few candidates have the name-recognition to get past the primaries. Some of those who run do it for other reasons, regardless of their chances of winning. Take, for example, the perennial campaign of a man who calls himself Vermin Supreme.
Mr. Supreme runs a trim campaign. His platform is simple: If he is elected, everyone gets a pony. Never mind that he wears a rubber boot on his head and resembles a leprechaun. He sings jingles and sprinkles fairy dust on his opponents, too.
Vermin Supreme was a legitimate candidate in 2008 and 2012. In 2008, he ran as a Republican and garnered a total of 43 votes in the general election. In 2012, he ran as a Democrat and received 833 votes in the New Hampshire primary to Barack Obama’s 49,080. He intends to run in 2016, presumably as an Independent.
Some candidates running for office are better known for what they are against than for what they support. The Rev. Terry Jones gained notoriety in 2011 for burning the Koran in Gainesville, Fla., before all 15 of the members of his congregation after being warned against such incendiary actions by President Obama and other world leaders. In 2012, he attempted to illustrate his hatred for Islam on a larger scale in a rural park. He was arrested while in the possession of thousands of Korans, soaked in lighter fluid in a barbeque grill in the back of his pickup truck. It is unknown whether the independent presidential candidate intended to ignite the Korans while standing in the back of the truck, but many observers could only hope. He ran for president in 2012, qualifying as a write-in candidate in Indiana. It is unclear whether any Hoosiers voted for him.
Jones has left Gainesville and his congregation. He and his campaign have moved to more fertile surroundings in Bradenton, Fla. He opened a business selling French fries and chicken wings until the mall management discovered that they had leased space to a Koran-burning, hate-mongering anti-Islamist, and he was persuaded to move elsewhere. He recently declared his candidacy for president of the United States in 2016. When asked about his chances of being elected, he announced that it would require “some type of major miracle.” That is one statement with which a majority of voters can agree.
Before you decide to go out in front of the lights and cameras to announce your candidacy, there is a pesky agency called the Federal Election Commission, which requires that you disclose who is financing your campaign for president. Legitimate candidates use other people’s money to attain the highest public office in the land, and we wouldn’t want our homegrown challenger to get elected using the cash of our enemies. If you set up a super PAC to pay for your expenses to plaster your name and message on the internet, TV, radio and print, you can sneak around this requirement.
You will need to obtain many thousands of signatures of registered voters or you will never get on the ballot. This is a requirement. Then there are the election commissions of each of the 50 states to contend with, and the number of signatures you will need varies from state to state. You are required to qualify in every state if you want to run a national campaign, and you won’t win the election unless you do. If you bring in enough money, you may even qualify for federal matching funds and a Secret Service escort.
Some candidates for president of the United States run to win. Others run for the attention it brings, not only to themselves, but to issues with which they strongly support or reject.
If you qualify, you can run too. It only takes massive amounts of money and strong public support to make it to inauguration and to take the oath of office:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
That is the moment when the hard part begins.