April 12, 2024

Does the President Have to be a He?

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Can A Woman Be President

To me, I’d much have preferred that the Constitution spell out whether anyone could be President, or whether it was just men.  I’d really like a Constitutional Amendment to clean things up.

I mean, obviously, the Founders never expected a slave to be President, and I don’t know that I could support the notion that they expected a woman to be President.  But that doesn’t change the plain reading of Article 2, Section 1:

No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States. [emphasis mine]

And if that were it, it’d be a short look into the question, because it clearly says “No person”.  What’s nagging at me is this passage, at the beginning:

The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected, as follows

There are two ways to take these male pronouns:

  1. Formality – Traditional English uses “he” when the gender is unknown and is understood to represent either male or female.
  2. Implication – It should be a man.

It’s our job to figure out which this one is.  How do we do this?  Well, first, let’s see what passages in this section use “he” vs. person:

  • He shall hold his office for the term of four years…
  • And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for…
  • The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President if such number be a majority of the whole number of…
  • No person except a natural-born citizen…
  • …neither shall any person be eligible for that office…
  • In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers
  • The President shall, at stated times, receive for his services
  • …during the period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that period…
  • Before he enters on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation…
  • he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments…
  • He shall have power…
  • He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union
  • he shall judge necessary and expedient
  • he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them

So, in the entire Article 2, He/Him/His is used 14 times, and Person is used 4 times.

Does that help?  Yes and no.  I think that if we’re looking historically, slaves were 2/3 person, women may not have been considered a person, and that goes back to the last discussion.

However, I’m fairly certain that it could be argued (successfully) that the 14th Amendment made women persons:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Of course, I could easily get sucked down the rabbit trail that is the foundation of the IRS and whether people believe that the 14th Amendment was ratified correctly, etc.  Let’s not go there right now.

What would make the answer of “no” to our question stronger would be if there were no other usages of “he” in terms of Representatives and Senators.  Since we have female senators and house members it would at least differentiate the two.  However, in Article 1, Section 2 we find:

  • No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty-five years and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.
  • No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years and been nine years a citizen of the United States and who shall not when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen.
  • The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the office of President of the United States.
  • No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected
  • …shall be a member of either House during his continuance in office.

So, there are some.  The total absence of “his” would have made the point.  That they are there means that this point doesn’t hold as much weight.  Obviously, given our last topic, the Founders didn’t expect a woman in any of these offices.  It’s a modern construct that they are allowed into them.

So, right now, there’s no reason that I can see that there would be any legal problem with a female President– unless there’s a legal problem with a female Speaker of the House, female Senators, and female congressmen– er, congresswomen.

Remember, we started this dialog not to see if it was something culturally acceptable, nor whether a woman should be, but whether a woman could be.  So far, the only thing I’ve got to say that she couldn’t is culturally based in the Founders– which I don’t think holds enough weight to say “no”.

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8 thoughts on “Does the President Have to be a He?

  1. I may be in the minority here and not to betray my own sex, but I believe only men should be in leadership positions. In a whole, people respond more to men than woman, especially in the presidential seat or even pastoring a church.

    Men just seem to gain more respect than women. There are some that are quite strong emotionally and I am sure quite capable, but I, personally, would not vote for a woman. Too many are liberals and fight for abortion, etc.

  2. “Men just seem to gain more respect than women.”

    And therein lies the problem! Why is that the apparent case? And don’t tell me it’s because some women are liberals and fight for abortion. I think the likes of Ann Coulter destroy that idea.

  3. I think you’re probably right that the idea of a woman president was well outside of your country’s founders’ imaginations. But I think the important question isn’t “would the founders have approved?” but rather “should we approve?” After all, if the founding fathers hadn’t intended for the country to change they wouldn’t have been so big on democracy.

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  5. Jake…

    Your response reflects what has become a common, yet extremely serious misunderstanding of our form of government.

    We are NOT a democracy, nor were we founded as one. We are a “Representative Republic” where the governance isn’t by the rule of the majority but by the rule of law…and the ultimate basis of that law IS the Constitution, and to some extent, the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution is to be interpreted as best as possible by the concept of original intent, to include the original intent of the authors of the amendments. Those who have put forth the idea that it is a “living document” have nothing in mind other than circumventing what it requires of our government. Unfortunately they have been successful, for our government has vastly overstepped its bounds, on the part of BOTH parties. A good reason for that happening is how our populace is grossly uneducated about the purpose of our government, how it’s supposed to work, and what it’s Constitutional boundaries are. If the people won’t require it to stay within the rule of law…it won’t.

    So, regardless of the question, it’s never a matter of “would the Founders have approved,” but rather, “Does the Constitution permit it as originally written (to include the amendments)?” The Federalist Papers give tremendous insight into the original thoughts and meanings that the Founders had in mind when they wrote the Constitution. They should be mandatory reading in our schools…oops…how could I have been so foolish as to think THAT would ever happen in this day and age???!!! If the premise of the question for Miss Teen South Carolina was true, 20% of all Americans can’t find the USA on a map! How would they ever put together the brain power to read the prose of someone like Madison?

    It’s a good thing that my hope isn’t in any particular government, but in the Son of the One and Only Most High God…for in Him is the only sure foundation for one’s future.

    Get Serious Blog
    HomeDiscipling Dad

  6. Musicguy, I am huge fan of Ann Coulter! However, how many more outspoken, Christian women have you heard of? Ann Coulter is highly respected in the Christian community, but she is ridiculed by politicians on both sides for her very far-right-wing propaganda.

    Well-said, Charley.

  7. My take on the whole “respect” thing is that it’s mostly cultural and biological.

    Cultural in the sense that it has been the traditional order of things for 8,000+ years.
    Biological in the sense that I rarely see men naturally wanting to follow a woman as many times as I’ve seen a woman wanting to follow a man. Maybe it’s not biology, maybe it’s emotional response. In any case, we’re both different and both have strengths and weaknesses. On the whole– generally speaking– when people look for a leader to portray strength they look for a man.

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