“The man with the best job in the country is the vice-president. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, ‘How is the president?'” – Will Rogers
In the carnival atmosphere, amid all the bluster and mud-slinging that defines the presidential race, nobody has paid much attention to the two candidates for vice-president, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. So it is not surprising that tonight’s vice-presidential debate rather snuck up on us and some are not even aware who the two men are. I have written of both (At Long Last — Hillary Decides! & Idiot Of The Week – Mike Pence ), and I see no reason to repeat what I already said, but I thought it worth taking a glance at what we might expect to see in tonight’s debate.
I saw a clip on CNN this morning where a reporter stopped people on the street and showed them pictures of each candidate. I was amazed by the number of people who did not recognize either one! But then, many do not consider the office of vice-president to be particularly important, and this year Donald Trump has been such a spectacle, a media hog, that he has consumed most of the air time, leaving little for anybody else, even his own running mate.
What is the role of VP and how is he/she elected?
Under the original terms of the Constitution, the person receiving the greatest number of votes would be president, while the individual who received the next largest number of votes became vice president. This changed with the ratification of the 12th amendment in 1804, but just think about this: what if the original terms were still in effect today? We could see a President Clinton and Vice-President Trump!!! I cringe, shudder and laugh at that prospect! Today, though the Constitution says that the president and vice president are chosen separately, in practice they are chosen together, making the vice-president ‘indirectly’ elected.
The only role actually assigned to the vice-president by the Constitution is President of the Senate, in which the vice president has two primary duties: to cast a vote in the event of a Senate deadlock and to preside over and certify the official vote count of the U.S. Electoral College. However, in practice, the role of vice-president may vary widely, depending on the relationship of a specific president and vice-president. Typically, the vice-president will act as drafter and spokesperson for the administration’s policies, adviser to the president, and being a symbol of American concern or support. Vice-President Cheney, under President George W. Bush, took much upon himself, withholding critical information from Bush, making decisions without the president’s knowledge, and even refusing to do some things that were asked of him, such as playing a significant role in the recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Other past VPs are barely remembered, if at all.
The role of the next vice-president? Mrs. Clinton has said she chose Mr. Kaine to be a full partner in government. Mr. Trump said he selected the governor in large part to unify the Republican Party, but neither Republican has offered a clear vision for how Mr. Pence would function in government. Both men have experience in government, however in the last few years, Mr. Kaine has remained popular among his constituency, while Mr. Pence has lost his following by his harsh, unrelenting policies against the LGBT community.
What can we expect in tonight’s debate?
Most pundits predict two things:
- That for the most part, the debate will consist mostly of each man supporting and defending his running mate. If it comes down to playing defense, Pence will certainly have the tougher task, especially in light of the past week, a week of unsavory revelations about Mr. Trump and his business practices1.
- Social issues, such as abortion, contraception, gay rights or religious liberty, which have been largely disregarded by the presidential candidates, may be major topics by Pence and Kaine, as both men are deeply religious – Pence is a Christian conservative, while Kaine is a liberal Catholic. Some predict it could cause both to shed their “Mr. Nice Guy” images.
Like others, I have not given as much thought to the two candidates for vice-president as I have the presidential candidates, but that does not mean that they are not important … simply that they are not as flamboyant as at least one of the presidential candidates, and have been more ‘behind the scenes.” I see Mr. Kaine as the stronger of the two. Mr. Pence appears to be in a strange and unenviable position of not sharing many of his running mate’s ideas. In fact, I would go so far as to say the Mikey and Donnie do not even like each other very much! More than once, Pence has been the one to go behind Trump and clean up a mess he left, trying to spin something crude Trump said into something slightly more palatable to the voting public. Pence has also come out in opposition to certain of Trump’s statements. Kaine and Clinton, on the other hand, appear to have a genuine rapport and share the same basic ideology.
Rarely, if ever, has an election been decided because of the popularity or unpopularity of the vice-presidential candidate. But it is important to remember that in the event the president is incapacitated, dies in office, or is impeached, the vice-president is the next in command. I predict that tonight’s debate will be much calmer, and hopefully more substantive than last Monday’s. I happened across a really funny article from the opinion pages of the New York Times that I think you will enjoy … take a look as two writers carry on a pseudo-conversation about the debate.
1 a) The revelation that Trump had a nearly $1 billion loss in 1995, which enabled him to avoid paying federal income taxes in 1995, and likely for the past two decades. b) Trump’s reference to veterans who commit suicide as being “not strong enough” to deal with PTSD. c) The order of the New York Attorney General for Trump Foundation to immediately cease soliciting donations due to lack of proper certification, and the announcement that the foundation will be investigated.