So searching around on google I was trying to figure something:

Has there ever been a president that has had zero political experience and zero military time.

It's kind of like being elected president of a software company and not know how to program.

Could this have an impact on the December 19th voting of the electoral college to actually not put Trump in the White House?

  • He would be the first with zero in either, though the next closest might be Reagan. He was a Hollywood actor before he turned political, with his first real office coming when he successfully campaigned to be the governor of California. He served as governor for 8 years before running for President. Nov 10, 2016 at 19:35
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    Why are you assuming software companies are headed by developers? Programming and running a company are two very different skillsets.
    – yannis
    Nov 10, 2016 at 19:38
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    @MoziburUllah - false analogy. You're suggesting I find an X-Ray technician when I need a surgery, for a closer one, after all, they are both in "medicine". Being in a state senate (or being a teacher) has very little to do with holding an executive position.
    – user4012
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:03
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    This question is written with a thinly veiled superior, condescending tone. I suspect the op is seeking to reinforce existing opinions to make himself feel better, else the question would not contain commentary (that the op even refers to in the question; "...my soap box."). Dismissing Trump's obvious executive prowess simply because he lacks military or "government" time is a mistake. The man is successful in the private sector. That kind of success indicates a level of competency most politicians lack. And no, I'm not a Trump fan...let's give him some credit though.
    – acpilot
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:31
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    Fair enough, but I disagree that his management exp counts for nothing. The games involved in building high rises in NY, LV, or anywhere else are tough (my ref: prominent RE lawyers). The guy can make stuff happen. His business by nature must be politics-heavy and he seems to have honed his skills well enough to achieve some impressive accomplishments thus. Yeah, "great negotiator" is rhetoric but he's not a slouch and should not be underestimated...a lot of people did and now they're stunned. That said, campaigning and being president are two different beasts. I'm cautiously optimistic.
    – acpilot
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:43

2 Answers 2


Has there ever been a president that has had zero political experience and zero military time.

Herbert Hoover is the only other president with no elected experience and no military experience. Hoover was Secretary of Commerce (an appointed position) prior to being president.

William Howard Taft is the next closest. He was an elected judge (one three year term in Ohio), but his other posts were all appointed.

Wikipedia has a list of all presidents by previous experience.

This is unlikely to impact the electoral college vote. While Alexander Hamilton may have intended faithless electors, the general thinking now is that voters should decided. It would be astonishing if thirty-seven or more electors were faithless.

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    The problem with "voters deciding" is that Trump didn't win the popular vote Nov 10, 2016 at 20:06
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    @ Jorge Perez Perhaps you have more current information than I have. If so, please share it, but the latest I've heard is that your statement is false, or at least cannot be said to be true. Clinton's "popular vote" lead is less than the remaining outstanding ballots.
    – Michael J.
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:21

How many other presidents have we had before with such a lack of experience?

The question has a big flaw:

You are asking about "experience", yet you seem to define "experience" in a very specific way, and make unwarranted assumptions in a way that is tailored to your goal (making Trump look bad). You assume that "zero political experience and zero military time" is somehow meaningful to fulfilling the Office of the POTUS successfully, without offering any evidence that it is indeed true.

Let's unpack these two things in detail:

  1. First, let's see if having military or "political" experience is required to be a POTUS (or even a good one).

    • Presidents who had no military experience:

      There were several, arguably the first one being #2, John Adams. Followed by John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren, for old-time presidents. Grover Cleveland can be argued to have none. Following a string of former military lasting till Taft, Woodrow Wilson through FDR had no military service, though FDR was Secretary of Navy. In modern times, we have Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and whoever will win 2016 elections (neither Trump nor Clinton served).

      Depending on your political leanings, you can even take your pick of good presidents from the list (FDR/Clinton/Obama if you are left wing, John Adams if you're right wing).

    • Presidents who had no "political" experience.

      Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Herbert Hoover and Dwight D. Eisenhower held no elected office prior to being POTUS. Additionally, Grover Cleveland was a Mayor of Buffalo, NY for less than 1 year and Woodrow Wilson was governor of New Jersey for 2 years.

      Clearly, Eisenhower is an example of a great president, for both left and right wing, among that list (Taylor died too early to know if he'd be a good one but I wasn't able to find any significant criticisms of him).

  2. But, the questioner explicitly asked about BOTH military and political experience!

    Yes, the questioner did (deliberately so, presumably to make Donald Trump look bad as he's the only one who fails this artificially constructed meaningless test).

    However, in doing so, the poster committed a large fallacy (both logical, and political-scientific), in making an unwarranted assumption that the job of the President of the United States requires a generic "political" experience, as opposed to executive experience.

    In reality,

    • In general, "political" experience may not be a good predictor of either electoral success or quality of the President once elected. This was covered in depth on FiveThirtyEight - "Our Worst Presidents Came In With A Lot Of Experience".

    • Separately, the role is called "Chief Executive" (and Presidential branch of power "Executive" power) for a good reason. The job of a President is far more akin to that of a corporate CEO than that of an elected legislator.

    So, in light of that, were there Presidents without executive experience (and especially without either executive OR military experience)?

    • The most recent example of course is Barack Obama. He had zero military and zero executive experience

      This was explored in depth by notable right-wing figures in 2008 election.

      “I think that I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House. Sen. John McCain has a lifetime of experience that he’d bring to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.” - Hillary Clinton, 2008

      (the two links above are to Clinton calling Obama "naive" on foreign policy, and her infamous "3AM" attack ad).

      "He could use a little more experience," he says. "A lot of the people I know say they really like him, but just don't think it's his time yet." - Matt Pearson, Democratic Party chairman in Buena Vista County, Iowa.


      "Obama's inexperience is 'the big question mark' about his candidacy" - Rep. Beth Arsenault, a Democrat elected to New Hampshire Legislature.

    • Moreover, other Presidents were elected with no prior executive political experience (defined at the link as being previously a VP, Governor, Mayor or Cabinet Secretary):

      John F. Kennedy; Dwight Eisenhower; Benjamin Harrison; James A. Garfield; Ulysses S. Grant; Abraham Lincoln; Franklin Pierce; Zachary Taylor; and arguably, George Washington.

      If we exclude high ranking military leadership positions (which can be thought of as executive position in government, in a way), we are left with John F. Kennedy; Benjamin Harrison (iffy - he commanded a brigade despite not being a general); and Abraham Lincoln

  • how can one have presidential experience before being president? Nov 10, 2016 at 19:53
  • @MoziburUllah The political executive in the US is president + cabinet.
    – Philipp
    Nov 10, 2016 at 19:58
  • @MoziburUllah - "executive" doesn't mean "presidential". It means "being an executive" - defined as "a person with senior managerial responsibility in a business organization". Being a President is far more like being a CEO than being a Senator, in some ways; which is exactly why this branch of power is called "Executive".
    – user4012
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:00
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    @Bobson - You are correct. The implied question was "Trump sux, amirite", so I basically wrote "you are wrong" answer, which doesn't lend to greatest quality at all. I added some more details, just so I can legitimately make you happy by adding Lincoln
    – user4012
    Nov 29, 2016 at 4:11
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    @Bobson - sang to the tune of Monty Python: "Every rep is sacred..." :) Anyway, the approval means more than the rep.
    – user4012
    Nov 29, 2016 at 6:29

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