Clinton could be first 'heir apparent' president since George H. W. Bush

Don Zinman
Don Zinman

Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee could be the first "heir apparent" president, and only the sixth in history if she were to defeat Donald Trump in November's general election, according to a political science expert at Grand Valley State University.

An "heir apparent" president, or one who follows a two-term president from the same political party, is quite rare, said Don Zinman, associate professor of political science. An expert on the topic, Zinman recently wrote a book, The Heir Apparent Presidency. 

Often, Zinman said, "heir apparent" presidents can be successful but will struggle to get credit for their achievements, as they seem to appear to just be carrying forward the policies and politics of the president they replaced.

"These few presidents, in the past, had to contend with the consequences of their predecessor's policies while facing a stronger opposition while sitting atop an increasingly weakened party," Zinman said. "Historically, these presidents invariably alternated between three approaches to leadership: continuity, expansion and correction."

The book looks in-depth at presidents James Madison, Martin Van Buren, Ulysses S. Grant (the first genuine Republican to succeed Lincoln), Harry S. Truman and George H. W. Bush. 

These presidents often suffered from diverging from the policies of the presidents before them, while also suffering from the consequences of the policies or changing political climates, Zinman said. 

"It was very rare for any of them to succeed at making substantial change to the politics that they inherited. It is a perilous and often thankless business to follow and lead at the same time," Zinman said. 

Zinman's book is available for purchase via here:

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