The United States is a democracy. So let’s stipulate at the outset that anyone who wants to run for president and meets the constitutional requirements should be allowed to take a stab at it. If you can get on the ballot, you have a right to be heard.

Let’s also stipulate that nearly 250 years after the founding of the country, Americans still don’t know exactly how to identify the unusual and indescribable combination of traits that makes for a great president. Voters have elected presidents with broad and deep experience in government who’ve botched the job, while occasionally those with far less experience who seemed perhaps not ready for prime time have performed well. Experience isn’t everything.

That said, we’re disturbed by an apparently growing sense that a successful background in politics and policy is no longer necessary for a presidential candidate — and that merely being really, really rich or famous or dazzlingly articulate or wanting the job badly enough could be sufficient to vault a wannabe into serious contention. The latest candidate to put himself forward with very few traditional credentials is Tom Steyer, a billionaire money manager from northern California who never has been elected to public office or worked in government.

Steyer presented himself as a populist outsider at his announcement, but he is not the only nontraditional candidate.

Marianne Williamson, the self-help writer, and Andrew Yang, a tech evangelist and entrepreneur, were up there on the debate stage a few weeks ago. For a while there was Howard Schultz, the Starbucks gazillionaire. Back in 2012 we had Herman Cain, the pizza guy, and in 2016 Carly Fiorina, the former tech chief executive turned failed Senate candidate. And, of course, there was you know who, who won the race in 2016.

It’s not unprecedented for people, and especially rich people, to seek the presidency, even if they haven’t worked their way up the political ladder. Think of Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. But Donald Trump’s shocking, against-all-expectations victory in 2016 has emboldened all sorts of long shots to think they really might have a chance. Who would’ve thought that the mayor of South Bend, Ind. — a city of about 100,000 people — would jump into the race, or that he would gain any traction?

The theory seems to be that all bets are off, all rules are out the window. Maybe a smidgen of fame, a big personality and deep pockets, along with the marketing savvy to generate a whole lot of free media, are more important to voters than years spent drafting legislation, running a state or immersing oneself in policy.

At the risk of understatement, may we say that this is not a terribly healthy development?

Trump is the first president to take office with neither a background in government nor top-level military experience. And how’s that working out?

Los Angeles Times