Vice Presidents and Other Heirs Apparent: The Historical Experience of Experience

By Jones, Charles O. | Presidential Studies Quarterly, September 2008 | Go to article overview

Vice Presidents and Other Heirs Apparent: The Historical Experience of Experience


Jones, Charles O., Presidential Studies Quarterly


Experience has been a dominant issue in the 2008 presidential campaign. In what initially was thought to be an open contest, the range and types of candidate experience varied substantially: sitting and former senators, representatives, and governors, a former mayor, and a first lady. By April, the campaign had narrowed to three candidates: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in a tight race for the Democratic nomination and John McCain having secured the Republican nomination.

The contrast in Washington-based experience among these three is striking. McCain leads in elective service with four years in the House of Representatives and just over 20 years in the Senate. Clinton is in her eighth year in the Senate, Obama in his fourth year.

Experience prior to elective government service in Washington is also identified as relevant for accrediting candidacies. McCain's military background, including his time as a prisoner of war, is judged to be authentication for serving as commander in chief. It was while serving in the Illinois state senate that Obama announced his opposition to the Iraq War, arguably demonstrating his judgment even before election to the U.S. Senate. And Clinton's time as first lady (1993-2001) is relied on as providing superior preparation to be chief executive on "day one"--essentially making her an heir apparent akin to a vice president.

Each of these rationales for candidacy and election has strengths and weaknesses. McCain has length of service, but he has never held a major executive position and would be 72 years old when sworn in. Obama has the freshness of youth but, equally, limited time as a U.S. senator and no elective executive background. Clinton's reliance on heir apparentness intimates familiarity with White House operations but raises questions about a first lady's role and accountability in making decisions.

The stress on experience justifies a review of the historical record. This article treats these questions: Is the 2008 presidential election an open contest? How common are open contests? When have they occurred? What are the types of heirs apparent as candidates? What explains the increase in vice presidents as heirs apparent? Which presidencies have been successful? How might the historical experience of experience apply to 2008? The answers to these questions lead to this conclusion: The experience that appears to count for a successful presidency is that realized in, not near, the Oval Office.

Historical Record of Heirs

One must drop back to 1952 for a race lacking either an incumbent president seeking reelection or a sitting vice president running as an heir apparent candidate. Is the 2008 presidential election an open contest? It has been labeled as such, but Hillary Clinton's version of heir apparentness suggests otherwise. Her time as first lady is said to validate her candidacy to an extent equal to, perhaps even greater than, what has traditionally been set forth by vice presidents. For in the Clinton case, the endorsement of and active campaigning by her ex-president husband bolster her candidacy.

Two historical facets are of interest: (1) the frequency of open contests and (2) the types of heirs apparent.

First, a definition: As understood here, an open contest is one lacking a president seeking reelection, a sitting vice president as a candidate, a candidate who has been endorsed as a successor (as, for example, Theodore Roosevelt's endorsement of William Howard Taft in 1908), or a self-declared heir apparent based on prior White House experience (as with Richard Nixon in 1968).

Open contests, by these criteria, are relatively rare. Just 11, or one-fifth, of the 55 elections since 1789 have lacked an heir apparent, discounting the first election, when George Washington was the presumptive candidate. Nine of these 11 open contests occurred in the nineteenth century, primarily because of the lesser role of the vice president then.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Vice Presidents and Other Heirs Apparent: The Historical Experience of Experience
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.