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Vice Presidents Should be More Involved

Since the 1970s, the role of the vice president (VP) has significantly evolved. Vice presidents are much more than a spare president. They are more involved in national and international issues, bringing both initiatives and respected opinions to the White House. Moreover, with the current leading presidential candidates being the oldest in U.S. history, the VP's role becomes more meaningful, serving as a potential successor for an ailing president.

Importance in Presidential Elections

Perhaps the VPs most significant value is a purely electoral one. It is no secret that the running mate represents a significant part of the American electorate that would not otherwise vote for the presidential nominee. Mike Pence represented the American evangelical base, helping Donald Trump get their vote in 2016. Kamala Harris helped Joe Biden win the votes of women and people of color in 2020. This does not mean their running mates are not qualified. They were selected because they had great experience and capacities to become vice president. Their competencies were simply considered as electoral strategies during the nomination process. This nomination process also allows their role to be more than just an electoral symbol.

Increasing Presidential Work

When the vice presidency was founded back in 1787 during the last Constitutional Convention, the main role of the vice president was to replace the president if they passed away. However, the executive branch’s role has evolved, and so should the responsibilities of the vice president. 

The United States holds a much more significant role in global politics than in 1787. The country has a strong military and diplomatic influence in the world that necessitates complex management. The countries are much more connected economically and diplomatically through globalization. The president, as Commander-in-Chief, cannot single-handedly manage such complex issues as the Ukraine war and the Israel-Palestine war while handling national issues. The vice president can be resourceful, especially if they are selected because of their competencies and not strictly because of their electoral value.

We witnessed many increases in the vice presidency role through the decades, starting with Walter Mondale under Jimmy Carter’s presidency, Al Gore under Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney under Bush Jr. and Joe Biden under Obama. 

However, since 2016, the country’s context of polarization has intensified. The vice presidency can be a useful tool for the leader of the executive branch to address that issue. 

Aging Presidents

Most of America’s social issues, such as the strong political divisions in the United States, need a lot of time to resolve. From an electoral perspective, campaigning on social issues is risky and may not bring significant gain to an executive administration.

President Joe Biden, 81 years old, allowed his vice president, Kamala Harris, to work on social issues such as voting rights and immigration. These battles have existed for decades, even centuries and there is a still profound division among Americans on these issues. It is not a four-year term that will completely solve them. 

However, this current term serves as a test for VP Harris to show her presidential capability. Biden, through his first term, has shown some health concerns over time that cast doubts on his ability to govern for the next four years. Such a sad event would also mean Harris would become president. 

The running mate of Donald Trump, 77 years old, may face a similar situation. The average life expectancy in the United States is about 76 and Donald Trump also showed some health concerns that may result in a tragic situation.

To say the least, in the upcoming presidential elections in which the two principal candidates are a septuagenarian and an octogenarian, the vice presidency becomes much more politically valuable. 

Yes, the vice presidency evolved since the 18th century. However, I believe its true potential has yet to be developed. The role is more than just a title to get votes from Americans who otherwise would not vote for the presidential candidate. It is the role of a potential successor to the second or the first oldest president in American history. 

American electors will have many factors to consider at the election: the United States’ involvement in Ukraine and Gaza, Biden's age, Trump's criminal charges, Robert Kennedy Jr.'s independent presidential campaign and many more. The running mate is only another matter to weigh in their decision.

1 Comment

Hi Gabe,

Nice piece, I really like how you pointed the limited view of vice president in the country's early years, and how it contradicts with the responsibilities needed today from a vice president. Especially, considering the early years of the U.S was not a close to a super power and wasn't considered truly one until WW2. That control of resources and influences definitely is pointed out well in your piece. But, I also like how you talked from a modern approach. Vice presidents should be qualified if they are to be selected as vice presidents. Electoral benefits should not outweigh competency and your piece points out nicely without outright arguing it.

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