This archived article was written by: CJ Evans
When I was new to college and learning who I wanted to spend the rest of my life being, my political science instructor addressed our class on the first day and said, “No one in this room will ever be president.” He looked me right in the eye, as if he knew that the moment he said those words, I resolved to become president at any cost. Immediately after class, I went to the library and began reading everything I could about presidents. My plan was to prove him wrong, become president and rub it in his face for telling me what I could and couldn’t do.
Unfortunately I learned early on that he was right; I would never be president. Not because I couldn’t handle the workload, but because I wasn’t absolutely crazy. The most important lesson I learned in my ill-advised quest to stick it to The Man was that presidency is a job reserved for the most special kind of crazy person, and its ultimately ours, as voters, who caused it all. Our system is broken, dangerous and a bit unsanitary, and all of that is driving away people who would make great presidents (people like me probably). So with election season just a few weeks away, I’d like to tell us what we’re doing completely wrong.
Good or bad, we’re mostly electing lunatics.
An old saying seems to flow freely around this time and it says, “There’s a reason people spend millions of dollars to get a job that only pays in the thousands.” Case in point: from the very start, presidential candidates must be made aware of how detrimental and dangerous the position is, but they’re still just saying “Yep, sign me up!”
Now, I don’t want to say that all presidents are crazy, but that’s only because I want my next paper in political science to make huge waves and don’t want to spoil anything. Even considering running for office takes, above all else, an ego the likes of which you or I will never be able to contemplate. A lot of tough jobs are out there, a lot that we look at and can say even though we know we can’t do it, we understand how some people would be able to do it, at least on some level. We can guess what it would be like to be a cop, a doctor, a firefighter, or any other childhood fantasy job and figure out if you might be able to handle it.
The problem is that the presidency is in another league all of its own. Case in point, the president has a button in his office-house, and if he presses it, the U.S. launches bombs to wherever he wants. I can understand ambition, hard work and even daily suit-wearing, but that’s a level of personal power that I will never be able to intellectualize. I can’t begin to conceive the powers or pressures inherent to being the president, but some think they can.
Why it needs to change: because it’s a very important job that can only attract a specific breed of lunatic.
The type of person who decides to run for president is the type of person who can see how big and impossible the job is, a person who knows his life will be cut short by it, a person who knows that there’s a possibility that just by his/her running, he/she could destroy their spouse and children, and still says “Yes, I can do that!”
It’s a killing job
Of the first 35 presidents, 25 died prematurely. Now I don’t mean they died tragically young like you see in dramatic movies today. I’m saying that there’s an average life span for everyone on the planet and that most presidents, by a crushing majority, died prematurely. Presidents on average, come from high brow backgrounds. This means that every one has access to the best doctors, facilities and medical treatments money can buy, and that stays with them before and after the White House. With everything available to them, you would expect them to live into the above average territory of their life expectancy. Yet 70 percent of them fell below average. Lets put this into greater perspective, if a car factory or doctor’s office boasted those kinds of statistics, where 70 percent of its employees weren’t reaching their life expectancy, it would be shut down in a heartbeat.
The presidency is a killing job. I’m not the first one to call it that and, assuming that at least one person talks about this article with a friend, I won’t be the last. John Steinbeck said, “We give the president more work than a man can do, more responsibility than a man should take, more pressure than a man can bear,” and that doesn’t even take into account the amount of slander and verbal assaults in the media that we expect them to take.
We do this because we want people attracted to the presidency to be the kind of people who can handle the job; we make it the hardest job in the country because we really only want the best of the best, but ultimately there will never be a person who’s up to the job.
The presidency is a job described by former presidents as “demanding and unrelenting” and “overwhelmingly lonely.” It’s a killing job, and we’ve made it that way by giving our presidents the amount of power and responsibility and blame that we have. If you saw a job opening where 70 percent of people died, there’s no way you would take that job, you’d have to be crazy to even want it.
It’s probably impossible to change the system, but I’m trying to tell a crabby, old American government professor to suck it, so I can’t entertain “probably impossible” as an option. I did my job by writing about this, and the rest is up to you. So, when you go into the voting booths this November, vote for … this article, I guess?