Let’s Return to Electing Governors as President

A friend who moved here from abroad in 2009 recently told me he’s disliked each of the presidents during his dozen years in America. It’s an interesting claim, and I thought about it more.

In 2008, Americans elected a radical first-term senator who’d spent most of his career as an irrelevant state legislator. He had no leadership experience, no foreign policy experience, nor any record in business or the military. He was mainly chosen because he was (half) black, and thus offered us a vision of “post-racial“ America. By the end of eight years of Barack Obama, we instead had a massive escalation of racial division, from which we still haven’t recovered.

In 2016, Americans elected a celebrity and political outsider of questionable character who had spent the previous decade hosting a reality television show. He was chosen mostly because he was a famous business mogul who said he’d “drain the swamp” and ran against an unlikable, entitled opponent with a dubious legacy. His campaign centered around a promise to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border. By the end of four years of Donald Trump, some fencing had been erected at key portions, but no full border-length wall was completed. The swamp was not drained.

In 2020, Americans elected as president a lifelong politician nearing age 80 who had failed in his run for the Oval Office twice before. He was chosen in significant part because he had spent four decades as a senator and eight years as vice president, and he had built a reputation for allegedly making deals and understanding Senate nuance. He also was not Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump, his final two opponents. But a year into Joe Biden’s presidency, he’s made the most catastrophic military blunder of our lifetimes, the southern border remains a sieve, China and Russia are empowered, and his legislative centerpiece went down in flames because he could not persuade members of his own party.

Related: White House’s COVID Messaging is Cruel and Dehumanizing

Also, he’s unpersuasively lecturing Americans about a health crisis he promised to end.

Pre 9/11, Americans frequently elected governors to the presidency: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Franklin Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, William McKinley, Grover Cleveland, and Rutherford Hayes, just to name a few.

The men on that list may have been imperfect, but most of them were quite successful and got re-elected.

Maybe in three years, we should allow someone with political executive leadership experience a chance to run the country again.

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