Alberta Politics
The late American author Kurt Vonnegut with a young John Hickenlooper, the presidential candidate he immortalized in his 1993 bestseller, Timequake (Photo: Twitter).

Guest Post by Olav Rokne: Since all political careers end in trivia, here’s the scoop on America’s would-be presidential candidates

Posted on June 12, 2019, 1:43 am
10 mins

Guest Post by Olav Rokne

British statesman (and repugnant racist) Enoch Powell once famously remarked that all political careers end in failure. While there may be some truth to his observation, I would suggest that it might be even more accurate to say that all political careers eventually become trivia.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 has a pretty good shot at being the answer to a question in a future edition of Trivial Pursuit. So in preparation, here are some less-obvious tidbits of knowledge that would make good trivia questions about the candidates.

Olav Rokne (Photo: Abdul Malik).

Although there are nearly 300 people who have filed their paperwork, I’m limiting this list to just 20 of the candidates who might have raised sufficient money and polled highly enough to qualify to attend the debates. In alphabetical order…

If he becomes the Democratic nominee and defeats President Donald Trump, Michael Bennet would be the first U.S. President born east of Boston. He was born in New Delhi, while his father was working for the U.S. ambassador to India.

If Joe Biden is elected president, he would become only the second vice-president to be elected president after spending time out of office. (The other was Richard Nixon.)

If Cory Booker is elected president, he would be the first who was not born in one of the 50 states. (He was born in Washington, D.C.) He would also be only the third president who was unmarried at the time of his election (the others were James Buchanan who remained a lifelong bachelor, and Grover Cleveland who married while in the White House).

If he is elected, Steve Bullock would only be the 27th lawyer to become president of the United States, and the first person with a law degree to be elected to the office since Barack Obama.

If Pete Buttigieg were elected president, he would be only the second person from Indiana to become president. (The other was Benjamin Harrison.) There have, however, been six vice-presidents from that state, so Mr. Buttgieg might just be on track to be someone’s running mate.

The only former National Park Ranger to be elected president was Gerald Ford, a fact that will remain unchallenged by the current crop of Democratic contenders. (Photo: National Park Service).

Although many presidents have fathered children out of wedlock, Julian Castro would be the first bastard ever elected. Mr. Castro’s parents never married, and he and his brother were primarily raised by his mother and grandmother. He would also be the first president who has a twin brother – his identical twin Joaquin is a current member of the U.S. Congress.

At the towering height of 6 feet, 5 inches, Bill de Blasio would be the tallest U.S. president ever – a full inch taller than even Abraham Lincoln!

If she becomes the Democratic nominee, Tulsi Gabbard would be the first person born south of the equator to be nominated by a major party. She was born in Leloaloa, on the island of Samoa.

If elected president, Kirsten Gillibrand would be only the second U.S. president who was fluent in Mandarin. (The other was Herbert Hoover.)

Born of Quebecois parents, Mike Gravel only spoke French until the age of seven. If elected president, he would be only the second U.S. president who learned English as a second language, the other being Martin Van Buren, who grew up speaking Dutch.

Although many lawyers became president, most practiced corporate law, civil law, or worked in private practice. Kamala Harris would be the first public prosecutor to be president.

Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper appears as a character in a novel by Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse Five, was close friends with Mr. Hickenlooper’s father, and immortalized the younger Hickenlooper in his 1993 bestseller, Timequake.

If elected president, Amy Klobuchar would be the first president born north of the 45th Parallel. At present, the most northerly presidential birthplace is Chester A. Arthur’s hometown of Fairfield, Vermont. Ms. Klobuchar would also be only the second Congregationalist president. (The other was Calvin Coolidge.)

Not only did Herbert Hoover speak fluent Mandarin, so did his wife Lou (pictured in Tientsin, China during the Boxer Rebellion). Kirsten Gillibrand would be the second president who could speak the language. (Photo: Source not identified.)

If he makes it to the White House, Wayne Messam would become only the second president to have been part of an NCAA championship-winning football team. (The other was Gerald Ford, who was part of the 1932 and 1933 University of Michigan championship-winning football squads.)

If elected president, Seth Moulton would be the first member of the U.S. Marines to ascend to the presidency. Numerous presidents over the years have been veterans of the Army (Benjamin Harrison) and the Navy (Jimmy Carter) … but none from the Marines.

Although many presidents have been musically inclined, Beto O’Rourke would be the first person who made his living as a professional musician to ascend to the White House. He would, however, not be the person in the Executive Branch who had the most musical success. America’s 30th vice-president, Charles Dawes, is credited with penning the Tommy Edwards hit “It’s All In The Game,” which topped the pop charts in 1958.

Having spent 16 years in the House of Representatives and 14 in the Senate, Bernie Sanders would have more legislative experience in Washington than any previous president. Only Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford and James Buchanan come within a decade of Sanders’ total time in Congress. As an aside, of all the presidents, Coolidge was elected to the widest variety of offices, having been elected sheriff, mayor, lieutenant governor, state representative, governor, state senator, and vice-president.

If elected president, Eric Swalwell would be the least-wealthy U.S. President since Harry Truman. With $100,000 in assets and $50,000 in student loan debt, Swalwell would join Abraham Lincoln, James Buchanan, James Garfield and Harry Truman as one of the poorest presidents (accounting for inflation) at time of election.

Although many presidents have done some sessional work at colleges, or briefly taught part-time, Elizabeth Warren would be only the third tenured professor to be elected president. The others were Woodrow Wilson and James Garfield (who published a unique and novel proof of the Pythagorean Theorem).

Self-help author and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson would be the first person with a philosophy degree to win the White House, though James Garfield was briefly a philosophy professor at Hiram College prior to his presidency.

If elected president, Andrew Yang would be the fourth-shortest person to be elected, at 5 feet, 7 inches. Among presidents, only James Madison, Martin Van Buren and Benjamin Harrison were shorter.

Of course, it’s arguable whether any of this information is relevant to whether or not any of these people are qualified to lead the United States. But it might help you win a pub trivia quiz one day.

Edmonton resident Olav Rokne knows more about U.S. presidential politics than anyone else I know. He is always welcome to write guest posts here about politics south of the Medicine Line. There’s nothing I can do about the way this WordPress theme makes it look like I wrote Olav’s piece. In reality, I merely facilitated its appearance! DJC

2 Comments to: Guest Post by Olav Rokne: Since all political careers end in trivia, here’s the scoop on America’s would-be presidential candidates

  1. ronmac

    June 12th, 2019

    If Joe Biden is elected president he would be the first president named Joe.

    If Tulsi Gabbard is elected President she would be the first president to sing the Hare Krishna.

  2. David Grant

    June 12th, 2019

    Tulsi Gabbard would not only be the first president to sing the Hare Krishna, she would the first woman of colour which would break down two barriers. She is a mixed bad because she is very hawkish in her foreign policy views but she is opposed to regime changes which is good. All of the candidates have something that would make progressive voters ill, but they all will be better than President Orange!!!!


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