Since the beginning of the Republic there have been just three required qualifications to become President of the United States: be a natural-born citizen, be at least 35 years of age, and be a resident of the United States for at least 14 years. That’s it- for a job that is arguably the most difficult job in the world. It is time to drastically increase the necessary qualifications for this job.
Over the last 231 years American society has changed so much that it would now be unrecognizable to the Founding Fathers. Our population has increased from 4 million to 325 million, our economy has become enormous, our democracy has broadened and deepened, our tools and technology have become amazingly sophisticated, and our role in the world has shifted from isolated backwater to the most powerful country in the world. There has been a huge increase in complexity, and the job of President is incredibly more complicated.
The President has the following key role: chief executive officer of the federal government, which includes being commander-in-chief of the American military. The federal government is a large, multi—layered, multi-functional bureaucracy with over two million employees. the current job qualification listed in Article II of the Constitution are not in line with the current job responsibilities. No board of directors or trustees would hire a CEO simply based on age, citizenship and residency; that would be a dereliction of their duty as board members.
The O-net is a job analysis website maintained by the Department of Labor. It contains specific qualifications for thousands of occupations, including chief executive officer. The site lists the specific abilities, skills and experiences needed to be an effective CEO. When large organizations hire a CEO they assess these attributes in the potential candidates. Candidates must provide verifiable documentation detailing their previous work experiences, education and training. Their abilities and skills are assessed. They are tested in various ways, sometimes including intelligence testing. And, given the number of high-consequence decisions the President must make, a basic level of intelligence should be required.
In addition to meeting the specific qualifications for CEO, candidates for President should be assessed in other ways. Given the enormous stress of the job, candidates should have good physical and psychological health. Although the job of President is not a physical labor job, research has demonstrated that body health affects brain health. Psychological health has many facets, several of which are particularly important to the Presidency. Candidates should not be psychotic, psychopaths, highly narcissistic or paranoid. We don’t want presidents who are crazed wannabe dictators believing in their absolute personal superiority, who view anyone who disagrees with them as despicable enemies.
In comparison to the typical CEO vetting process the way we select a President of the United States is a pathetic joke. Right now anyone who meets the three Constitutional qualifications can run for President. After meeting the three qualifications basically all a candidate needs to do a win a popularity contest. If the American people seriously considered the policies, positions, and executive qualifications, of the candidates before voting, they would essentially be performing the function of a board of directors. But research shows that most people vote on the basis of irrelevant superficialities, such as how physically attractive a candidate is. Therefore the serious vetting of candidate executive qualifications needs to be done before they declare their candidacy. If they fail to meet the qualifications, they will not be allowed to run. The specific selection of qualifications and the vetting process could be done by a board of leadership and management experts from across the political spectrum, appointed by the Supreme Court.
None of the additional qualifications would preclude any nonviolent or nondictatorial political philosophies or positions. Candidates from across the political spectrum would be screened according to the additional qualifications. Two potential benefits could occur because of this vetting process. One, voter confidence in the qualifications and character of the candidates might rise, increasing voter turnout. Two, presidential performance might improve. Of course neither of these benefits are guaranteed, but clearly we need to do something.