As I have to say every time I do a political post, I don't think very many people care about this stuff. But here at Detritus of Empire it is recognized that there is a real world out there, and on occasion I feel a need to divert from robotics, archaeology and general weirdness.
A few years back I did a post called Help Wanted, President. It maundered around a bit about the general background qualifications of what are considered our more successful Chief Executives and suggested that perhaps there might be a few resume entries that We the People should be looking for.
Now it is four years later and the number of legitimate (which is not the same as serious) Presidential candidates is somewhere around twenty. Oh, and there are some absolutely delightful minor candidates who deserve a little attention another day.
Clearly this is too big a field to deal with on an individual basis. There is an old saying "You can't tell the ponies without a score card". I aim to provide you with one.
I intend this mostly for my UK readership. Our political system here in the Colonies must seem very peculiar. In your system there is always a clearly defined successor waiting in the wings. This nonsense of letting just anybody qualify for the job of Most Powerful Person on Earth must seem quite chaotic and haphazard compared to how you do it; simply a civilized handing over of the keys to Number 10 between leaders of outgoing and incoming Parties is the norm.
Qualifications to be President of the United States of America
Have already been President once. 5 points. Nothing like doing a job to show that you can.
Vice President. Held the office once 3 points. Twice 4 points. In theory, but not always in practice, VPs are being trained for the possibility of taking over.
US Senator. Elected once 2 points. More than once 3 points. First timers don't generally get assigned to the real power committees. And for good or ill, the longer you are in Washington the more connections you make to useful people.
US Congressperson. Elected once 1 point. More than once 2 points. Same rationale. But our Congressional districts are so strangely drawn that it is possible to be a frequently elected office holder that the majority of people even in your home state regard as a loony.
Governor. Elected once 2 points. Elected more than once 3 points. This has traditionally been the training ground for Executive experience in the US. I should really go with 3 and 4 here but to be fair some states are less impressive to run than others. By that I mean no disrespect to tiny states. A bigger issue are states that are atypical (Alaska, Utah, California) or that are political monocultures where you never have to negotiate with other viewpoints (too many examples to list).
Military Experience. 1 point. I used to think it would require a high rank to get a point. But the guy or gal who is Commander in Chief has to consider sending our troops into action. Having once been a grunt would be a solid point in my book.
Significant Business Experience. 1 point. Often maligned but I think unfairly so.
Significant Cabinet Office. 1 point. Setting aside the question of whether they were any good at their job of course.
Other. 1 point. My place to reward those with varied life experience. I prefer being positive when possible. An alternative view would be penalty deductions for various things.
So, here is the current list of Declared and Everybody Knows they are Running candidates ranked by the Experience Points on their resumes. I am ranking by points, and within a point category, alphabetically.
Bobby Jindahl my goodness, multi term Governor and Congressman. Earned his bonus point by being accepted to both Harvard Med and Yale Law. Rhodes Scholar. Currently polling at undetectable levels of support.
James Webb a distinguished military career, later Secretary of the Navy and U.S. Senator. Extra point not for being an author, this listing contains several, but for writing actual readable novels rather than ghost written political works. Level of current support also near zero.
Bernie Sanders here is where red and blue color systems break down. Bernie is an avowed Socialist, so should be RED. But he is running for the Democratic nomination. One point for honestly expressed and apparently heartfelt opinions way out of the mainstream. Also a multi term Congressman and Senator. I understand he has really bad arthritis and that the campaign trail is an ordeal for him. I would award a point for this but my scoring system only allows one bonus point.
Lincoln Chafee I had to give this guy his own color as he has been elected variously as a Republican, Democrat and Indie. One term each as Gov and Senator. Gets the bonus point for studying to be a farrier at Montana State University and spending 7 years shoeing horses! Level of support: he is a trivia question for Politics nerds. And by no means an easy one.
Lindsey Graham many years a Congress critter, but you only get two points for that. At some point diligence morphs into lack of higher ambitions. Senator once and a point for military service. A random selection of American citizens would probably be unable to tell you anything when given this name....not even gender.
John Kasich from Ohio, which is by God the most Middle American of middle American states. Congressman, one time Governor. I hesitate to give him a bonus point for being a top exec at the disaster causing Lehman Brothers brokerage firm. But lets be honest, if one can learn from mistakes one could in theory learn a lot from big ones.
Rick Santorum Another multi term Congressman and Senator. Appears to have little relevance to current political affairs but ran surprisingly well four years ago.
Hillary Clinton OK, halfway down the list we are actually getting to a few individuals with realistic chances of being the nominee. Friends and foes agree that Mrs. Clinton has a lot of experience in the political culture of Washington DC. They differ as to whether that is something to be proud of.
Rick Perry a bit too "Texan" for most Americans, but that's why he kept getting elected Governor of what is more or less a medium sized Nation-State. Also a military pilot.
Rand Paul might be the GOP version of Bernie Sanders. He has lots of ideas that run the spectrum from crazy to visionary. Will never be elected President with that ridiculous poofy hairdo. I reluctantly give him a bonus point for his medical degree. But really now, an ophthalmologist?
Jeb Bush major asset and liability is his last name.
Chris Christie an entertaining fellow, his politics are actually fairly centrist. But more of a novelty candidate really. Think of an energetic Falstaff willing to call his political opposite numbers jackasses. Which undeniably, many of them are.
Ted Cruz one term Senator with a point for actually being editor of the Harvard Law review. I guess that is some kind of accomplishment.
Mike Huckabee not a cartoon character despite the name. Used to be Governor of Arkansas.
Martin O'Malley a fairly average politician whose mini boom in popularity stems entirely from being brave enough to stand in front of a juggernaut. Which is commendable but not quite enough for an extra point.
George Pataki also not a cartoon character.
Scott Walker from my home state, so a pol whose career I have followed. Said to be a very nice man he has political instincts that enable him to trounce his political enemies with regularity. This does not endear him to said enemies.
Marco Rubio youthful one term Senator. I think we tried this recently.
Ben Carson a neurosurgeon.
Carly Fiona another former exec who is said to have crashed a company. Is the "anti-Hillary" and seems to relish the role.
Donald Trump a large angry man with orange hair.
If there is a message here it would be that becoming your party's nominee is not an easy task. If current polling can be believed - and I see little reason to think it should be - there is not much correlation between actual life experience and your chances of one day getting a brief case full of nuclear launch codes.
My opinions of course count. For exactly one vote. And we should never forget that we have had some very good and bad Presidents whose evident qualifications for the job would surprise you.
Consider James Buchanan, generally considered Worst President Ever. He was in Congress multiple times, elected US Senator once, was ambassador to both the United Kingdom and Russia, and - ominously in some eyes - was our last President who had previously been Secretary of State. I make that to be six points and I could in theory give him a bonus point for being nominated as a Supreme Court justice (he declined).
Buchanan slunk from office and was replaced by an under qualified "one pointer" who had served a single undistinguished turn in Congress. I wonder what ever became of that Lincoln chap?