2003: Presidential Succession

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Presidential Succession
Ties are broken by whoever was closest to the surface of Europa when they were born.
Title text: Ties are broken by whoever was closest to the surface of Europa when they were born.


The United States presidential line of succession is the order of people who serve as president if the current incumbent president is incapacitated, dies, resigns, or is removed from office. The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 revised the presidential order of succession to its current order. This Act, though never challenged in the courts, may not be constitutional for two reasons. First, the Act names two members of Congress as successors. There are fundamental questions as to whether this violates the principle of Separation of Powers. The second issue is that the Act allows for anyone skipped over for succession to later assume the office if circumstances change to allow them to hold it. This would mean that the person in question could effectively unseat a sitting President, which raises serious constitutional issues.

There are also practical concerns regarding the Act. The line of succession includes all members of the Cabinet in the order that their department was established, with the oldest departments first. No consideration is given to which departments would be most relevant to the Presidency, particularly considering that this type of succession would presumably involve a serious crisis, which the new president would need to be able to address immediately. The Department of Homeland Security is in charge of the security and protection of the United States and its citizens and would probably already be privy to sensitive intelligence and briefings related to national security, but because it is the latest of the Departments to have been established (in 2003), the Secretary of Homeland Security is last in the current Presidential line of succession, behind Secretaries in much less sensitive roles, such as those of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, and Education. Another concern is that, by including members of Congress immediately after the Vice President, there is a serious risk that the simultaneous death of the President and Vice President could cause the Presidency to change to the opposing party, which could lead to serious political instability at the precise moment when the country is facing a national crisis. It even presents the possibility that simultaneous assassinations of the President and Vice President could function as an effective coup, shifting power to their opponents.

Finally, there is the issue that, usually, everyone in the line of succession lives and works in Washington D.C. Hence, a sufficiently destructive attack or natural disaster impacting the city could realistically incapacitate all of them, leaving the USA leaderless at a time of extreme crisis. It is already established practice in the USA that everyone in this line not gather together at once. In cases where most senior government officials gather (such as the State of the Union), at least one member of the line of succession (referred to as the "designated survivor") is secured off-site, and would assume the presidency in the unlikely event that a mass casualty event were to kill or incapacitate everyone else in the line. However, disasters impacting an entire city remain a possibility, and no provision is made for them in current law.

To correct these issues, a think tank known as the Continuity of Government Commission prepared a report recommending a new line of succession, which would not include members of Congress, would reorder the cabinet secretaries so that the most suitable roles would be the first successors, and would include people who do not live or work in Washington DC. The full text of their report can be found here. A short, readable summary, including the report's recommended new line of succession, is here.

The first six members of the commission's list are taken from the current line of succession, though the order is changed; they propose that after this, five new people should be appointed specifically for the purpose of assuming the presidency, if needed. Randall's list begins with these eleven people (combining the five new appointees into #7); afterwards, his list becomes increasingly comical and ridiculous.

Randall's list omits members of Congress, as well as other cabinet positions, in accordance with the report's concerns about constitutionality and qualifications. However, his other additions totally ignore these issues, including people with no apparent qualifications for the office (such as actors, athletes, and competitive eaters) and people who are constitutionally ineligible for the office. The US Constitution requires that the President of the United States must be a natural-born US citizen, at least 35 years of age, and have resided in the US for at least fourteen years. Randall's list includes many people who don't meet these requirements. Most notably, he includes the entire succession to the British crown, almost none of whom meet the requirement of being natural-born citizens of the United States.

It may be expected that many of the athletes, musicians and actors on this list are likely to be ineligible as well. Most professional athletes in the relevant sports are under 35 years old, particularly those at the peak of their careers (when they'd likely win MVP awards), the most popular musicians also tend to be younger than 35, and many who meet these requirements were not born US citizens (and some many not even reside in the US). However, the existing line of succession can also contain ineligible people, who would simply be skipped over for succession. For example, at the comic's publication, Elaine Chao was the Secretary of Transportation and would normally be 14th in line, but because she is a naturalized citizen of the US, rather than native-born (she was born in Taiwan) she would not qualify for the office if the line came to her. The presidential line of succession was first mentioned in 1933: Santa Facts

The title text mentions that ties will be broken by whoever was closest to the surface of Europa when they were born. Europa is a moon of Jupiter and one of the most likely locations in the Solar System for potential habitability. This is likely a parody of systems in which ties are broken by semi-arbitrary rules (such as the older candidate automatically winning a tie) or a randomized ones (such as ties being decided by a coin flip). The position of Europa with respect to Earth at the time of one's birth depends on enough factors that it acts as a pseudo-random tie breaker, albeit a needlessly complicated one.

Order of succession

# Randall's order Current order by the 1947 Act Notes
1 President President Not generally considered part of the line of succession, as incumbents cannot "succeed" to their own post. (This should really be item 0 on the list.)
2 Vice president Vice president This is the same as in the actual line of succession. Succeeding the President is one of the only two roles assigned to the Vice President by the Constitution, the other being presiding over the Senate (including breaking ties), but Vice Presidents are often given additional roles during office.
3 Secretary of State Speaker of the House of Representatives Moved up from 5th position. This is likely a serious suggestion. As mentioned above, the existing Succession Act includes the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate, which presents serious practical and constitutional issues. The Secretary of State is the chief officer responsible for the country's international relations and diplomatic missions, and would be a logical successor, particularly in times of crisis.
4 Secretary of Defense President pro tempore of the Senate Moved up from 7th position. Also likely a serious suggestion. The existing succession places the Secretary of Defense behind the Secretary of the Treasury in succession. If the three preceding officials were simultaneously killed or incapacitated, there would be a high likelihood that the country was under attack, and other powers could easily try to take advantage of any power vacuum. Since the Secretary of Defense is most connected to the nation's military, and most in tune with information regarding potential threats and risks, this would be a logical succession.
5 Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary of State Moved up from 19th position. Again likely a serious suggestion. As with the Secretary of Defense, this officer would likely be closely aligned with the national emergency response infrastructure (including overseeing the Federal Emergency Management Agency), and would be well equipped to deal with a major attack or natural disaster.
6 Attorney General Secretary of the Treasury Moved up from 8th position. Once again, likely a serious suggestion. The Attorney General oversees national law enforcement, and would be in a position to deal with internal chaos that could result from a disaster that impacted the federal government so deeply.
7 Five people who do not live in Washington, D.C., nominated at the start of the President's term and confirmed by the Senate Secretary of Defense Washington, D.C is the capital of the United States, and is where the White House, the President's residence, is located. Presumably this provision covers the case where much of the government, including positions 1–6 here, are killed by a natural disaster or attack in Washington, D.C.

This suggestion establishes no qualifications for these people, but the fact that they'd need to be confirmed by the Senate suggests that they would be chosen to be competent for the role. It is also unclear if an order is determined among these five or if they take up a joint presidency. This suggestion is taken from the Second Report of the Continuity of Government Commission to prevent the danger of the entire line of succession being removed in a single event.

8 Tom Hanks Attorney General Academy Award-winning American actor. This is the first unambiguously unserious suggestion.[citation needed] Tom Hanks is very popular and considered exceptionally likeable by many Americans, but has never served in public office or displayed any particular affinity for politics. The implication is that Mr. Hanks would be easily accepted as a leader, based solely on his personal charm. It should also be noticed that Tom Hanks played Jim Lovell, who served in the navy before becoming an astronaut (Many early astronauts were former military members.), in Apollo 13, a military captain in Saving Private Ryan, a prison officer in The Green Mile, a naval intelligence officer in James B. Donovan, and a member of the House of Representatives in Charlie Wilson's War; if Tom Hanks's appearances in movies counted as real-life experience, then he would be adequately qualified.
9 State Governors, in descending order of state population at last census Secretary of the Interior Also taken from Second Report of the Continuity of Government Commission. At the time of publication, the last United States Census was the 2010 Census. As California is the most populous state, its Governor (Jerry Brown at the time of publication) would have been first in line.

See also the state population rankings and the list of current United States governors. As worded, this criterion would exclude territorial governors (and the Mayor of Washington, D.C.).

10 Anyone who won an Oscar for playing a governor Secretary of Agriculture Oscars, or Academy Awards, are annual film awards awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. At the time of publication, the only Oscar awarded for playing a governor was Broderick Crawford's 1949 Best Actor award for the fictional Willie Stark in All the King's Men (a character based on Huey Long). However, Crawford died in 1986, so would be unable to serve as President.

This may be a reference to the Political career of Arnold Schwarzenegger: a highly-lauded actor who became governor of California, but did not win an Oscar or play a governor before being elected. (As a naturalized citizen, he is also ineligible for the Presidency.) There is also humor in suggesting that playing a governor delivers just as much experience as being a governor. (Something similar was mentioned in the section about Tom Hanks, who played, among other things, a member of the House of Representatives.)

11 Anyone who won a Governor's award for playing someone named Oscar Secretary of Commerce The Governors Awards are an annual award ceremony hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to present lifetime achievement awards within the film industry. As this award is a lifetime achievement award, it does not seem possible that an actor could win this award for simply playing someone named Oscar. Notwithstanding the nature of the award, at the time of publication, no recipient of a Governors Award has played a character named Oscar.

Obviously, the joke is that changing the order of the words from the previous proposal produces something that could actually exist.

12 Kate McKinnon, if available Secretary of Labor Comedic actress famous for being a cast member on Saturday Night Live. She is known for her character work and celebrity impressions. She has recently done impersonations of members of the Trump administration including Spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. She also played Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign and presumably would have played her when she was President had she won; but since Clinton lost, McKinnon has not actually played a President. At the time the comic was released, she was 34 years 5 months old; thus she was not "available" until seven months later. Being available could also refer to not already having an acting commitment, in which case the comic would be humorously implying that fulfilling her acting roles is more important than the country having leadership.
13 Billboard Year-End Hot 100 Singles artists #1 through #10 (for groups, whoever is credited first in name, liner notes, etc) Secretary of Health and Human Services The Billboard Hot 100 is the music industry standard record chart in the United States for singles, published weekly by Billboard magazine. The weekly data is aggregated into a cumulative Billboard Year-End (based on a "year" that ends the third week of November, in order to meet December publication deadlines). At the time of publication, the most recent such list was the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 2017.

Based on that list, the artists considered for the presidential succession would be: Ed Sheeran, Luis Fonsi, Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar, Alex Pall (of The Chainsmokers), Quavoius Keyate Marshall (of Migos), Sam Hunt, Dan Reynolds (of Imagine Dragons), and Post Malone. There are only nine names instead of ten because The Chainsmokers had two of the top 10 singles in 2017. Of these, only Luis Fonsi (40 years old, born in Puerto Rico) was legally eligible for the office; all the others were too young, and Sheeran is additionally from the United Kingdom.

14 The top 5 US astronauts in descending order of total spaceflight time Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Astronauts are highly respected and rigorously selected, but most have little involvement in politics. According to NASA, the top 5 US astronauts by cumulative space time at the time of publication were: Peggy Whitson, Jeff Williams, Scott Kelly (whose brother Mark is a sitting US Senator), Mike Fincke, and Mike Foale. However, it is unclear whether Foale would qualify as a natural-born citizen, as he was born in the United Kingdom to a British father and American mother.
15 Serena Williams (or, if she lost her most recent match, whoever beat her) Secretary of Transportation As of the time of publication, Serena Williams was a top female tennis player. She is arguably the greatest female tennis player of all-time, winning 39 Grand Slam titles, including 23 women's singles titles. At the time of publication Serena Williams did win her most recent match (2018 French Open, third round, on June 2nd), although she withdrew from her next match against Maria Sharapova (which perhaps should count as a loss, especially if she withdrew in order to preserve her place in the line of succession and killed everyone in place ahead of her).

If her most recent defeat was to a non-US player, presumably she would be skipped over in line although this is not explicitly stated (the current succession list skips over anyone who would not normally qualify for not being a natural-born US citizen).

16 The most recent season NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL MVPs Secretary of Energy MVP stands for Most Valuable Player. The 4 listed leagues are the major sports leagues in the United States, the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Hockey League (NHL). We're assuming that Randall meant the regular season MVPs of each league, as each league also awards MVPs for their respective championships (or in the case of the NHL's Conn Smythe Trophy, their entire playoffs).

As of the time of publication, the most recent MVPs for the listed sports were Russell Westbrook (NBA), Tom Brady (NFL), José Altuve and Giancarlo Stanton (MLB has two, one for the American League and one for the National League), and Connor McDavid (NHL). Of these, only Brady would qualify for the list - Altuve and McDavid are Venezuelan and Canadian citizens respectively, and Westbrook (29) and Stanton (28) were too young.

17 Bill Pullman and his descendants by absolute primogeniture Secretary of Education American actor, known for playing President Thomas J. Whitmore in the 1996 film Independence Day.

Absolute primogeniture is a form of succession where the oldest direct descendant regardless of gender receives the title. This is contrasted to Male-preference primogeniture, in which males come before females in the order of the throne, whether the males were born first or not. This may be a reference to the British law Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which changed the order of the throne from male-preference primogeniture to absolute primogeniture. This act allows Princess Charlotte to retain her place in line before Prince Louis.

At the time of publication, Pullman's immediate descendants consisted of three children, with Maesa Pullman being the oldest at age 29. Thus all but Bill Pullman himself were too young for the presidency.

18 The entire line of succession to the British throne Secretary of Veterans Affairs According to the Constitution, only a natural-born citizen of the United States can become President, which means that at least most of the line of succession to the British throne is ineligible. However, it is possible that someone in the line of succession to the British throne either is a dual citizen or is not British (a person from outside of Britain or Ireland can become King; for example, some, including George I, were from what is now Germany).

The first 59 names on the list are here. British Line of Succession on 6 June 2018 shows the list as it was at the comic's publication. American citizens have, at times been on the list, but no natural-born Americans were on the list when the comic was published. However, after this comic was published Archie Mountbatten-Windsor was born on May 6, 2019; he is currently seventh in the line of succession to the British throne and has US citizenship through his mother Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. As with Mark Foale, though, whether that qualifies as natural-born has not be tested (leaving aside his age and the fact that many royals in his position have historically relinquished their birthright US citizenship voluntarily, which he may choose to do once he reaches age 16). In theory, the full British succession list includes several thousand people (living descendants of Sophia of Hanover who are not Roman Catholic or otherwise disqualified), and it is possible that one or more such people would also be eligible to be President of the United States beyond Master Archie. Archie's sister Lillibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor was born in Santa Barbara, California, USA, on June 4, 2021, making her definitively a natural born US citizen, and thus, theoretically eligible to become US president upon turning 35.

The humor here derives from the fact that the United States was established by declaring independence from the United Kingdom, with rejection of the British monarchy being a basic founding principle, and a core principle of US governance. To appoint the British monarchy to the American presidency would contradict the basic goals of American independence. Alternatively, it may reference the recent wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, although she is not in the order of succession. A similar sequence of events was the plotline of the comedy film King Ralph, which saw an American become the British monarch after the death of the royal family.

19 The current champion of the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest Secretary of Homeland Security The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest is an annual American hot dog competitive eating competition sponsored by Nathan's Famous held on July 4th. As of the time of publication, the most recent men's winner was Joey Chestnut and the women's winner was Miki Sudo. At the time of publication, neither was old enough to assume the office.

The comic does not specify whether the men's or women's winner should take office, creating a tie that would be broken by distance from Europa at birth. Had they both been eligible, Sudo would have won by between 0.125 and 2.2 Astronomical units.

20 All other US citizens, chosen by a 29-round single-elimination Jousting tournament None Effective for a population up to 536,870,912 individuals (2^29) which would be enough to cover the entire US population (estimated at around 325 million at time of publication), although additional rounds can be added should the population grow further.

This is probably a reference to the Matter of Britain (e.g., The Sword in the Stone), where, after the death of Uther Pendragon, with no known successor to the throne of Britain (some versions of the legend refer incorrectly to England) for years, it is decided that the winner of a jousting tournament shall be crowned. However, Arthur, the Wart, pulls the Sword from the Stone.

List of specific individuals

Based on the comic's defined criteria for the order of succession, these are the specific individuals in that order, including only people who are otherwise eligible to be the President of United States (35 year old and natural born US citizens who lived in US for last 14 years) as of the date the comic was published.

  1. Donald Trump (President of the United States)
  2. Mike Pence (Vice President of the United States)
  3. Mike Pompeo (United States Secretary of State)
  4. Jim Mattis (United States Secretary of Defense)
  5. Kirstjen Nielsen (United States Secretary of Homeland Security)
  6. Jeff Sessions (United States Attorney General)
    As Donald Trump did not appoint anyone to fill position #7 on Randall's line of succession, Hanks immediately follows after Sessions.
  7. Tom Hanks (Tom Hanks)
  8. Jerry Brown (Governor of California)
  9. Greg Abbott (Governor of Texas)
  10. Andrew Cuomo (Governor of New York)
  11. Rick Scott (Governor of Florida)
  12. Bruce Rauner (Governor of Illinois)
  13. Tom Wolf (Governor of Pennsylvania)
  14. John Kasich (Governor of Ohio)
  15. Rick Snyder (Governor of Michigan)
  16. Nathan Deal (Governor of Georgia)
  17. Roy Cooper (Governor of North Carolina)
  18. Phil Murphy (Governor of New Jersey)
  19. Ralph Northam (Governor of Virginia)
  20. Jay Inslee (Governor of Washington)
  21. Charlie Baker (Governor of Massachusetts)
  22. Eric Holcomb (Governor of Indiana)
  23. Doug Ducey (Governor of Arizona)
  24. Bill Haslam (Governor of Tennessee)
  25. Mike Parson (Governor of Missouri)
  26. Larry Hogan (Governor of Maryland)
  27. Scott Walker (Governor of Wisconsin)
  28. Mark Dayton (Governor of Minnesota)
  29. John Hickenlooper (Governor of Colorado)
  30. Kay Ivey (Governor of Alabama)
  31. Henry McMaster (Governor of South Carolina)
  32. John Bel Edwards (Governor of Louisiana)
  33. Matt Bevin (Governor of Kentucky)
  34. Kate Brown (Governor of Oregon)
    Born in Spain to a member of the US Air Force, should be considered a natural-born citizen until proven otherwise.
  35. Mary Fallin (Governor of Oklahoma)
  36. Dannel Malloy (Governor of Connecticut)
  37. Kim Reynolds (Governor of Iowa)
  38. Phil Bryant (Governor of Mississippi)
  39. Asa Hutchinson (Governor of Arkansas)
  40. Jeff Colyer (Governor of Kansas)
  41. Gary Herbert (Governor of Utah)
  42. Brian Sandoval (Governor of Nevada)
  43. Susana Martinez (Governor of New Mexico)
  44. Jim Justice (Governor of West Virginia)
  45. Pete Ricketts (Governor of Nebraska)
  46. Butch Otter (Governor of Idaho)
  47. David Ige (Governor of Hawaii)
  48. Paul LePage (Governor of Maine)
  49. Chris Sununu (Governor of New Hampshire)
  50. Gina Raimondo (Governor of Rhode Island)
  51. Steve Bullock (Governor of Montana)
  52. John Carney (Governor of Delaware)
  53. Dennis Daugaard (Governor of South Dakota)
  54. Bill Walker (Governor of Alaska)
  55. Doug Burgum (Governor of North Dakota)
  56. Phil Scott (Governor of Vermont)
  57. Matt Mead (Governor of Wyoming)
    Entries 10 and 11 on Randall's list have no eligible living members.
    Kate McKinnon was only 34 years 5 months old at the time the comic was released, making her unavailable.
  58. Luis Fonsi (Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 2017, #2 artist)
    Fonsi is the only eligible individual under the Billboard criterion.
  59. Peggy Whitson (Astronaut, 665 days in space)
  60. Jeff Williams (Astronaut, 534 days in space)
  61. Scott Kelly (Astronaut, 520 days in space)
  62. Mike Fincke (Astronaut, 382 days in space)
  63. Mike Foale (Astronaut, 374 days in space)
    Foale was born in the UK but his mother is an American, and he holds dual citizenship with both countries. It isn't clear legally whether this situation would qualify him as being a "natural-born" citizen as US courts have never definitively ruled on what the term means, so similar to Governor Kate Brown his name is included in the list until further notice.
  64. Serena Williams
    Serena's place on this list assumes that you do not count her withdrawal against Maria Sharapova as a loss; if that counts as a loss, then subsequent entries move up one position (as Sharapova is ineligible).
  65. Tom Brady (NFL MVP)
    The MVPs of all other listed sports leagues are ineligible for the office due to age or nationality.
  66. Bill Pullman (Bill Pullman)
    None of his children are old enough to become President at this time.
  67. Rowan Lascelles (was 59th in line to the throne at the time, born in Britain to an American mother,and appears to live in Britain, so citizenship is questionable)
  68. Sophie Lascelles (was 62nd in line to the throne at the time, born in Britain to an American mother, and appears to live in Britain, so citizenship is questionable)
    This only covers the first 88 people in line to the throne.
  69. everyone else (Jousting tournament)

Based on the comic's defined criteria for the order of succession, these are the specific individuals in that order, including only people who are otherwise eligible to be the President of United States (35 year old and natural born US citizens who lived in US for last 14 years) as of the current date. (Last updated on 11 January 2024)

  1. Joe Biden (President of the United States)
  2. Kamala Harris (Vice President of the United States)
  3. Antony Blinken (United States Secretary of State)
  4. Lloyd Austin (United States Secretary of Defense)
    Current Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas is not eligible due to not being a natural born citizen.
  5. Merrick Garland (United States Attorney General)
    As Joe Biden did not appoint anyone to fill position #7 on Randall's line of succession, Hanks immediately follows after Garland.
  6. Tom Hanks (Tom Hanks)
  7. Gavin Newsom (Governor of California)
  8. Greg Abbott (Governor of Texas)
  9. Ron DeSantis (Governor of Florida)
  10. Kathy Hochul (Governor of New York)
  11. Josh Shapiro (Governor of Pennsylvania)
  12. J. B. Pritzker (Governor of Illinois)
  13. Mike DeWine (Governor of Ohio)
  14. Brian Kemp (Governor of Georgia)
  15. Roy Cooper (Governor of North Carolina)
  16. Gretchen Whitmer (Governor of Michigan)
  17. Phil Murphy (Governor of New Jersey)
  18. Glenn Youngkin (Governor of Virginia)
  19. Jay Inslee (Governor of Washington)
  20. Katie Hobbs (Governor of Arizona)
  21. Maura Healey (Governor of Massachusetts)
  22. Bill Lee (Governor of Tennessee)
  23. Eric Holcomb (Governor of Indiana)
  24. Wes Moore (Governor of Maryland)
  25. Mike Parson (Governor of Missouri)
  26. Tony Evers (Governor of Wisconsin)
  27. Jared Polis (Governor of Colorado)
  28. Tim Walz (Governor of Minnesota)
  29. Henry McMaster (Governor of South Carolina)
  30. Kay Ivey (Governor of Alabama)
  31. Jeff Landry (Governor of Louisiana)
  32. Andy Beshear (Governor of Kentucky)
  33. Tina Kotek (Governor of Oregon)
  34. Kevin Stitt (Governor of Oklahoma)
  35. Ned Lamont (Governor of Connecticut)
  36. Spencer Cox (Governor of Utah)
  37. Kim Reynolds (Governor of Iowa)
  38. Joe Lombardo (Governor of Nevada)
  39. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Governor of Arkansas)
  40. Tate Reeves (Governor of Mississippi)
  41. Laura Kelly (Governor of Kansas)
  42. Michelle Lujan Grisham (Governor of New Mexico)
  43. Jim Pillen (Governor of Nebraska)
  44. Brad Little (Governor of Idaho)
  45. Jim Justice (Governor of West Virginia)
  46. Josh Green (Governor of Hawaii)
  47. Chris Sununu (Governor of New Hampshire)
  48. Janet Mills (Governor of Maine)
  49. Dan McKee (Governor of Rhode Island)
  50. Greg Gianforte (Governor of Montana)
  51. John Carney (Governor of Delaware)
  52. Kristi Noem (Governor of South Dakota)
  53. Doug Burgum (Governor of North Dakota)
  54. Mike Dunleavy (Governor of Alaska)
  55. Phil Scott (Governor of Vermont)
  56. Mark Gordon (Governor of Wyoming)
  57. Kate McKinnon (Kate McKinnon)
    If she is available. Entries 10, 11 and 13 on Randall's list have no eligible living members.
  58. Peggy Whitson (Astronaut, 675 days in space)
  59. Jeff Williams (Astronaut, 534 days in space)
  60. Mark Vande Hei (Astronaut, 523 days in space)
  61. Scott Kelly (Astronaut, 520 days in space)
  62. Shane Kimbrough (Astronaut, 388 days in space)
  63. Bill Pullman (Bill Pullman)
  64. Maesa Pullman (first descendant of Bill Pullman via absolute primogeniture)
    Bill Pullman's other children are not old enough to become President at this time.
    Serena Williams lost the final match of her career against Ajla Tomljanović, who is ineligible due to age and nationality.
    The MVPs of all listed sports leagues are ineligible for the office due to age or nationality.
  65. Rowan Lascelles (currently 68th in line to the throne, born in Britain to an American mother, and appears to live in Britain, so citizenship is questionable)
  66. Tewa Lascelles (currently 69th in line to the throne, born in America, appears to live in US)
  67. Sophie Lascelles (currently 71st in line to the throne, born in Britain to an American mother, and appears to live in Britain, so citizenship is questionable)
    This only covers the first 88 people in line to the throne.
  68. Miki Sudo (Women’s champion of the 2023 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest; listed first due to being closer to Europa at birth)
  69. Joey Chestnut (Men's champion of the 2023 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest)
  70. everyone else (Jousting tournament)
    Assumes that the number of eligible US Citizens does not exceed 536,870,912.


A proposal for a new presidential line of succession
Current politics aside, most experts agree the existing process is flawed. The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 is probably unconstitutional on several counts, and there are many practical issues with the system as well.
(For more, see the surprisingly gripping Second Report of the Continuity of Government Commission, June 2009.)
Proposed line of succession:
  1. President
  2. Vice president
  3. Secretary of State
  4. Secretary of Defense
  5. Secretary of Homeland Security
  6. Attorney General
  7. Five people who do not live in Washington DC, nominated at the start of the president's term and confirmed by the Senate
  8. Tom Hanks
  9. State Governors, in descending order of state population at last census
  10. Anyone who won an Oscar for playing a governor
  11. Anyone who won a Governor's award for playing someone named Oscar
  12. Kate McKinnon, if available
  13. Billboard year-end Hot 100 singles artists #1 through #10 (for groups, whoever is credited first in name, liner notes, etc)
  14. The top 5 US astronauts in descending order of total spaceflight time
  15. Serena Williams (or, if she lost her most recent match, whoever beat her)
  16. The most recent season NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL MVPs
  17. Bull Pullman and his descendants by absolute primogeniture
  18. The entire line of succession to the British throne
  19. The current champion of the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest
  20. All other US citizens, chosen by a 29-round single-elimination Jousting tournament

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Aw, but what about Morgan Freeman? 04:43, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

And Kiefer -designated survivor- Sutherland? 08:24, 6 June 2018 (UTC)
Morgan Freeman> "I do solemnly swear / that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States..." Linker (talk) 12:39, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

Academy awards have been won by actors playing kings / queens - of England, the United Kingdom and Siam - Princes - of Denmark - and Prime Ministers of Great Britain and even the President of the Uniter States / Member of the house of Representatives, but I do not believe it has been won by an actor playing a state govenor. Mind you it is not clear if an actor playing a prison govenor, would count. Arachrah (talk) 11:30, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

Broderick Crawford, actually. I've added him. To the best of my ability to determine, the opposite group (Governors Award recipients who have played characters named Oscar) appears to be an empty set. I'll note that I don't have a really comprehensive filmography for Jean-Claude Carrière, but I consider it fairly unlikely that he ever played a character by that name. Squeamish Ossifrage (talk) 16:08, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

Bill Pullman's eldest daughter Maesa is a film composer with an IMDB page in her own right. Arachrah (talk) 11:30, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

Top 5 US astronauts? I only count three. Who are the other two? 12:15, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

As of September 3, 2017, the 5 US astronauts with the most total time in space are Peggy Whitson (665 days), Jeff Williams (534), Scott Kelly (520), Mike Fincke (382), and Mike Foale (374), according to https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-station-astronaut-record-holders. Michael Lopez-Alegria has the second-most time in space for a single spaceflight (215 days, compared to Scott Kelly, 340). The Dining Logician (talk) 12:59, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

Mike Foale was born in Louth - so ineligible. Michael Lopez-Alegria was born in Spain ditto Arachrah (talk) 15:26, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

Foale was born to an American mother and should hence be a natural-born American. --Ycthiognass (talk) 09:40, 7 June 2018 (UTC)
There is actually legal question about whether someone born on foreign soil to US citizens count as "natural-born" (or whether courts would just say it's a political question and pass the buck to Congress), though I will add Foale back to the list. 14:04, 7 June 2018 (UTC)

The non-US-citizen-being-in-line-for-the-Presidency thing has already been cleared up IRL - several Presidential cabinets have had non-natural-born-US citizens on them (current Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was born in Taiwan; in the past Madeline Albright was born in the then-Czechoslovakia). All the serious succession lists I've ever seen just list them and skip over them. 13:19, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

How do we decide who gets a bye in the jousting tournament? 13:30, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

Random draw, probably. There's no jousting rankings AFAIK to enable any kind of seeding like in tennis. 15:16, 6 June 2018 (UTC) There is a USA chapter of the International Jousting Association. I didn't spend enough time to track down a rankings list, but there are 3 levels of competition, which would be a start in seeding. To further seed I'd suggest using the Europa Tiebreaker. 18:14, 18 June 2018 (UTC)

Anyone with a jousting ranking would not need a bye. Arachrah (talk) 15:26, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

Anyone else think it's interesting that Kate gets a "if available" but Tom Hanks doesn't? 16:23, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

Also, why doesn't Tom Hanks kids get to be in line, like Bill Pulman's? Colin Hanks is old enough. 03:59, 7 June 2018 (UTC)

I assume, but am too lazy to do all the maths, that the person born closest to Europa would be the one closest in time to the point Sun Earth and Jupiter are in line. I found a table of opposition distances here: http://www.ianridpath.com/jupiter.htm Arachrah (talk) 18:26, 6 June 2018 (UTC)That would seem to be the overwhelmingly dominant factor, the only other factors would be which side of the Earth someone is born on (up to 7915miles difference, or about 7 minutes of the Earth's orbit), and Elevation/Altitude,since as of yet no one has been born in space(citation required), this factor is trivial, equivalent to less than 1 second of Earth's orbit. 18:14, 18 June 2018 (UTC)

All of this talk about where people were born is very misleading. The general opinion is that you have to have been a citizen from birth, not born in the U.S. (or a U.S. territory or whatever). Ted Cruz was born in Canada, but he would have been eligible had he won the nomination and the election. See http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2015/mar/26/ted-cruz-born-canada-eligible-run-president-update/ for discussion. —TobyBartels (talk) 20:56, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

  • Yes, Kate Brown (governor of Oregon) should be restored to Randall's line of succession, because she was born in Spain while her father was serving in the U.S. Air Force. Presumably she's a U.S. citizen by birth and thus eligible for the presidency. -- 22:44, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

I read #7 being that we would have 5 people as co-president. 03:59, 7 June 2018 (UTC)

Would that also hold for other entries where multiple people are listed (e.g., multiple league MVPs meet the criteria)? Also, there is the "ties broken by born closest to Europa" title text. 13:31, 7 June 2018 (UTC)

For the 'List of Specific Individuals', should it be maintained by who currently holds those positions, or left as who held them when the comic was posted? 12:14, 7 June 2018 (UTC)

If you want to come back and update the line as things change in the weeks, months, and years ahead, you're welcome to do so. If you do, I would recommend that both lists (the one accurate as of comic publishing and the one "updated") be maintained, perhaps as one table for fun comparison (adding blank spots as necessary if a current spot falls out of eligibility or a new one becomes eligible for whatever reason. 13:29, 7 June 2018 (UTC)

Tom Hanks is probably a reference to the June 4 Last Week Tonight episode, see http://time.com/5298479/john-oliver-last-week-tonight-guardianship/ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Oh! Question regarding Serena Williams - does it count if her latest match was in a doubles tournament? She pretty much always teams up with sister Venus in doubles. 14:52, 7 June 2018 (UTC)

Anyone else curious about the apostrophe in "Governor's award"? The current notes imply that it is simply a mistake in "Governors Awards" (the Academy Awards similar to the Oscars), but Governor's awards (i.e., an award by a state Governor) for other areas are quite common (e.g. Clemson University Governor's Award for Excellence in Science and Pennsylvania's Governor's Award for the Arts). Rearranging Oscar and governor from the preceding criterion certainly makes sense, but wild speculation is always more fun... (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

1933: Santa Facts mentioned Santa being 9th in the presidential line of succession. 08:56, 8 June 2018 (UTC)

To me, #17 (Pullman and his descendants) seems to imply that we'd abolish the 4-year term and be presided by the Pullman clan for as long as there are eligible successors. #18 might imply that too. 20:14, 8 June 2018 (UTC)

Presidential elections are mandated in the Constitution every four years - Bill or any of his descendants, or any qualifying member of the UK royal line of succession, would only serve until the current term ends. (Whether a crisis that knocked so many people ahead of them out of the line would allow a reputable and accepted election is another story.) 15:37, 11 June 2018 (UTC)

I note that if Donald Trump wasn't already holding the office of President, he could only qualify from positions 7 and 20 on Randall's list. And not at all from the actual list. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 01:09, 10 June 2018 (UTC)

He wouldn't have been the only one - Obama's and JFK's previous job title before becoming President was US Senator, and Eisenhower was President of Columbia University. 15:37, 11 June 2018 (UTC)

There are two problems with this explanation: The line of succession applies only when the office of president becomes vacant. If the president is incapacitated, the vice president acts as president. If that office is vacant, or the vice precident is also incapacitated, the US will have to do without a president.

The constitution places no restrictions on who can act as president. The current law of succession stipulates that only those elegible to become president can act as president, the constitution does not. -- 08:30, 10 June 2018 (UTC)

Point 1, the office of President may be vacant but the powers of the Acting President execute the same by whomever the line falls to, and in times of crisis people will nearly certainly just consider them the new President (conflicting claims aside). Point 2 is just false - Article 2 of the Constitution stipulates natural-born citizen at 35 years old and having lived in the US for the last 14 years. Unless you're arguing that "President" and "Acting President" aren't the same? That sure as hell didn't stop John Tyler from refusing to acknowledge anyone who didn't acknowledge him as the new President after William Henry Harrison died a month into his term. 15:17, 11 June 2018 (UTC)
Point2: That is exactly what I am saying. Only the vice president can succeed to the presidency. The others would execute the powers of the president. What would most likely happen is that the acting president would appoint a vice president, who would succeed immediately when approved by congress.-- 07:50, 12 June 2018 (UTC)
Point 1: There would be no acting president. Only the vice president can become acting president when the president is incapacitated. This and the office of president being vacant are covered in entirely separate parts of the constitution. The line of succession applies only in the latter case.
Point 2: That was established in congressional legislation. Only the Vice President can become President when the President is incapcaitated, the rest act using the powers of the president but are not themselves the president.
The Queen

Shouldn't the Queen come before Charles of Windsor? She is 0th in the British succession line. 20:48, 17 June 2018 (UTC)

It would violate Royal Oath. Erkinalp (talk) 13:53, 19 June 2018 (UTC)

Since jousting can be a lethal sport (especially if you don't know what you're doing, or like, not wearing armor), I'm left to wonder if part of the whole single-elimination aspect of the competition, where EVERY American is participating, is basically a strategy to literally eliminate everyone there is to be subject to the government's rule (literally eliminate every citizen so the last one left alive is left to be in charge sort of thing) - Brettpeirce (talk) 18:10, 31 December 2018 (UTC) 07:43, 27 February 2019 (UTC) Foresee a problem with the Billboard Year End chart-toppers: What if a band has anonymous or pseudonymous members and/or deliberately avoids letting one of them assume leadership? What about the MVPs, should the awards not be given prior to the line of succession reaching them?

Updates to List of Individuals

Note that this list is supposed to be as of the date of the comic and should not be updated with changes due to events after that date. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 17:31, 5 January 2019 (UTC)

I challenge the idea that a version of a legend can be "incorrect". Nitpicking (talk) 15:22, 4 April 2023 (UTC)

It's downright factually wrong enough. As a Briton (perhaps, if not a colonial Roman left-over of some kind, the exact details obscured by time and creative reimagining/conflation from the mists of time being several centuries thick by the time he was extensively "chronicled") he was likely a key figure opposing the arriving Anglo-Saxons of his time, so to be king of the later-constituted "England"/land-of-the-Angles (which was not even a practical neologism, during his supposed reign, across his supposed realm) is an inconsistency that can't even be logically explained by mystical happenings like however such a warrior gets to wield a wet woman's weapon. The celtic fringes (leastwise the P-Celtic bits, on this main island of ours) have far more claim to him than those who eventually spread out from Norfolk/Suffolk/etc and nudged/subsumed them into their current pockets, never mind the post-Hastings mix of transplanted vikings who took over that ruling mantle and went on to shape and solidify the current form of the home-nations. 19:21, 4 April 2023 (UTC)