Yes, I am aware that November 2016 has long passed, but what would have to happen for Bernie to assume the presidency while Donald Trump is still president? I'm aware of a line of succession (president, vice president, Cabinet members), but what's the line of succession after that (for Bernie to win?)?

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    The line of succession to the US presidency is extremely easy to find online. Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 9:42
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    Realistically, only by winning the next presidential election. Since he did very well on a ticket much further to the left of the usual political centre that's quite possible. Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 12:36
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    With this one weird trick Bernie can still win. Hillary hates it! Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 17:23
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    @MoziburUllah: I like Bernie, but he's going to be 79 years old on Election Day 2020. His age might count against him next time, even more so than in 2016 -- assuming that he even wants another try. Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 9:44
  • @royal Canadian bandit: yeah, I'd forgotten that, so maybe not so realistic; perhaps, someone younger in the Democratic Party might be inspired to go where Bernies already gone. Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 10:44

1 Answer 1


This is absurd. It will never happen. That said, Bernie Sanders would have to do one of

  1. Get appointed Vice President. This requires the VP slot to be vacated (by death, impeachment, resignation, etc.) and for someone to pick Bernie for it. Then the President has to leave.

  2. Get appointed to the cabinet. Then everyone ahead of him has to vacate.

  3. Get chosen as President pro tempore of the Senate. This typically goes to the longest tenured Senator of the majority party. It seems unlikely that Bernie would be accepted as a Republican, so the Democrats would have to take back the Senate.

    This is possible but unlikely in 2018, as so few Republicans are up for election and only one in a Democratic state. The Democrats need three. They might be better off hoping for resignations or deaths.

    After all that, Bernie still needs the President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House to vacate without being replaced. Also requires that the Democrats choose him and not someone who was actually elected as a Democrat. Technically, Bernie is still an independent.

  4. Leave the Senate and go back to the House of Representatives by either election or appointment. Be elected as Speaker of the House (similar problems as the Senate, although the House Democrats have a better chance at a majority after the 2018 elections). Requires the President and Vice President to vacate the office without replacement.

All of these choices are ridiculous. They each require multiple, weird things to happen. The most likely scenario might be a nuclear bomb in Washington, D.C. where Bernie happens to be out of town where everyone in the regular line of succession is there. Even that still requires him to be chosen as the President pro tempore of the Senate prior to a Speaker of the House being chosen. Or prior to the nuclear bomb--it's at least possible for 2019.

Bernie is not in the current line of succession. There's no succession after the cabinet. So he first has to get into it. Then everyone ahead of him needs to get out of the way at the same time. Neither of those things is at all likely. He's not really in line to join the line of succession. And we've never had more than one succession (by the Vice President) in a presidency. None of the later slots has ever reached the presidency by succession.

It is far more likely that he's elected president in 2020.

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    @Irregardless Not in current law. He would still have to be put in the line of succession. The new Senate could select him as President pro tempore of the Senate prior to the House selecting a Speaker of the House. In the interim, there is no more line of succession. As the last Senator, he wouldn't be able to appoint himself President pro tempore of the Senate. He would need a quorum of fifty-one Senators.
    – Brythan
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 3:33
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    See also: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Designated_survivor Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 13:58
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    A 2018 mid-term backlash result with Bernie being chosen as the Speaker of the House (Speaker does not have to be a member of the House, it can be anyone, apparently) would be about the only way to insert him near the top of the line of succession. Still wildly implausible, but that would be about the only way, legally, and less implausible than him getting appointed near the top by Trump or Pence. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 15:18
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    @user4012 - Trump was not a "lifelong Democrat'. Like with just about every other position possible, his history has him all over the board, depending on which way the wind was blowing on any particular day. Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 15:20
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    @user4012 - Trump - Republican 1987 - 1999, Independent 1999-2001, Democrat 2001 - 2009, Republican 2009-2011, No party (Independent) 12/2011 - 4/2012, Republican 2012 - Present. 19 years Republican, 2.25 years Independent, 8 years Democrat. Hardly "lifelong Democrat." Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 15:48

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