Why don't US presidents run in other elections after their term ends?

  • As an example, Barack Obama is quite young (15 years younger than his successor) and was extremely popular. So why doesn't he run for a seat in the Senate? This would theoretically allow him to become the Speaker of the Senate and therefore the third most important man in the US government, unrestricted by any term limits. Even as an ordinary Senator he would have considerable clout and would be able to confront Donald Trump face-to-face on a monthly basis.

    Likewise George W. Bush, Clinton and George Bush Senior never attempted to participate in public elections after leaving their position, despite being far from senile. What is the reason behind this?

    @BradleyWilson Clinton was in a similar situation (controversial Republic president, Republic majority in Congress, still young) and didn't participate in any elections in the end

    Seems reasonable, I'd be interested to read the answers to such a query.

    Note, this also happens elsewhere, the last 4 sitting Prime Ministers to lose an election have all left politics in the days afterwards. As the PM is drawn from the House of Reps in Australia, 3 of these ex-PMs had to explicitly resign their seat (1 lost the election and their own seat). Term limits and the need to take the seat from someone in your own party likely are NOT the answer.

    A quibble, but the US Senate does not have a Speaker.

    @Deolater And the equivalent position (President of the Senate) is held automatically by the Vice President of the U.S. It's the Speaker of the _House_ who is arguably the third (or really probably second) most powerful. Also, the most powerful position in the Senate is probably Majority Party Leader, rather than Speaker/President. And Barack Obama couldn't currently become either Speaker of the House or Majority Party Leader in the Senate without changing parties because his party is presently the minority party in both houses of Congress (and likely to lose even more Senate seats in 2018.)

    _Officially_ I believe the President Pro Tem is more prestigious than majority leader, but practically that's not the case. Obama is unlikely to be able to get that office either. I wonder what his odds of getting minority leader would be.

    @Deolater the president *pro tempore* is traditionally the most senior senator in the majority party, seniority being determined by length of continuous service in the senate. Absent a change in this tradition, which has been observed since 1890 and continuously since 1949, Obama would have to be in the senate for decades before becoming president *pro tempore*.

  • Machavity

    Machavity Correct answer

    4 years ago

    There's several reasons

    1. Courtesy to a colleague - Generally speaking, former Presidents generally refrain from current political commentary. This tends to extend to politics in general, lest they step on their successor's toes in any way

      Bush, however, in his limited public appearances has stayed mute about his successor, maintaining a custom among former presidents that dates back decades. While not all presidents have adhered to the practice, it has created a mostly amicable brotherhood of former presidents. "George W. Bush is a traditionalist," CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen said. "I think he holds to an old-fashioned standard that the presidency is one of the world's greatest fraternities and its members don't criticize each other." After leaving the White House, Bush made it clear that he was finished with the public stage. Although he has been more public since his presidential library opened in April, Bush has maintained that he will not criticize Obama.

    2. Political machines don't last forever. Clinton, for instance, was unable to rebuild the Obama coalition.

    3. Local politics differ greatly from national politics. Bradley Wilson linked this article in a comment, which advocates Obama running for his local House seat, while trying to "nationalize" the 2018 midterms. While I think he could easily win the seat, it's important to note that he failed to successfully campaign for a Democratic House after 2008. It's not clear that he could succeed now, where he has not in the last 4 elections. You would have to sway a LOT of districts to make this happen.

    4. If a former President did win a local political office, would he be happy in a far lesser role? It's harder to go backwards from the top

    5. It'd be pretty embarrassing for the ex-President if they *lost*.

    6. Former presidents have a lot of opportunities that weren't available to them before. They can open a presidential library, give paid speeches, or direct philanthropic work. Many of these opportunities are more fulfilling (charity) or more rewarding ($) than public office.

    Are these reasons or ex post facto justifications?

    I wouldn't be surprised if most or all of them are just plain exhausted to their bones, also.

    @ToddWilcox numerous dictators stay in power for many more decades beyond Obama's 8 years, so it's probably doable

    @JonathanReez On the other hand, dictators don't have to worry about pesky detractors and balance of power between branches. They can just execute people who disagree with them.

    7. They're literally too tired. Obama before and after. He's only 55. 8 years of Presidency *really* ages you. All of them look a lot worse for wear by the end of it. (@ToddWilcox Got some images to support you. ;) )

    Ex-Presidents do not need public office to get attention in the media. The only reason to run for Governor, Senator, House member, etc. is if the former President really wanted and enjoyed that job *for its own sake*. Obama, for instance, spent only four years in the Senate and there's no indication he particularly missed being there.

    @JonathanReez: Dictators can also loot the public treasury at will, making for a sweet, fat life style. Who wouldn't want to stay in power like that?

    @jpmc26 - those photos are perfectly fine. If anything, it's amazing how little he has aged in 8 years.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM