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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.
By Robert Brescia
August 2, 2016
Do you still have a historical notion that U.S. presidents should have a public service background? Do you believe it’s best for America if our presidents have a rigid and predictable career progression from local and state politics to national service as a U.S. senator? After all, many senators suspect they are only one election away from becoming the nation’s chief executive. But has it always been that way? Has our recent experience proven that what we tell children about becoming president one day is not just nice talk after all?
The diverse backgrounds of our presidents are as American as apple pie. Andrew Johnson was a tailor. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer. Abraham Lincoln once chopped rails for fences and Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood movie actor. Our founding fathers were generally farmers who were thrust into service as national leaders. After American independence was secured, King George III asked an American, “What will George Washington do now?” He was told, “I expect he will go back to his farm.” The King commented, in frank admiration, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man on earth.”
One must be 35 years of age, a resident ‘within the United States’ for 14 years, and a ‘natural born citizen.’ It’s interesting to note that we have yet to define and codify what a natural-born citizen is. I believe, however that it will soon be undertaken as a national task rather than let it fester until the 2020 elections.
Money: The unofficial necessities of a presidential run may include having a personal fortune large enough to sustain the costs of marketing oneself through the preparatory stages of an exploratory campaign. Then comes the phenomenal costs of a primary campaign, followed by a final campaign to the general elections.
Popular support (and popular vote): One needs to be the peoples’ favorite to advance through the ranks and eclipse other candidates. Therefore, you have to be a great debater, an accomplished speaker and a ‘have a beer with’ type of personality. We like our candidates to be approachable, full of friendliness and optimism.
Political party support: Choose a party and stick with it. The new grooming ground of presidential candidates is far different from the 20th century. It seems that we have a resurgence of populism as a desirable characteristic of our national leader. We seek someone who we can identify with as a fellow American. Here is basically what we want from our New Americanism president:
If we are a populist nation that disparages aristocratic notions, then we need to bring about changes in the way that we propose and select candidates for our parties to place on the national stage. We don’t want to only choose from people of privilege. We want any and all Americans who are interested in the job to have an equal shot at it.
That’s why the current primary process needs a massive revision so as to allow anyone to compete for the highest office in the land. I don’t have the answers to offer. But I do have many of the questions that we should ask together to get the change process going. The New Americanism demands it.
Author: Bob Brescia serves as the executive director of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute in Odessa, Texas. He has a doctoral degree with distinction in executive leadership from The George Washington University. His experience includes top leadership team roles in education, business, government and defense sectors. Bob’s passion is to speak and write about the New Americanism. Please contact him at [email protected] or Twitter: @Robert_Brescia.