Should we abolish the vice-presidency?

I don’t know what the Framers were thinking of when they wrote the office into the Constitution. Perhaps they assumed the VPOTUS would function as the POTUS’ prime minister and second-in-command in the executive branch, but it’s never worked out that way. We need a designated successor in case of a president’s death, incapacity or resignation. We do not need a constitutional officer whose only constitutional functions are to be a national spare tire and cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate. How often are they called on to do the latter anyway? And if there’s no tiebreaker, so what? Let the resolution fail.

I suggest the office be abolished, the VPOTUS’ place in the line of succession to be given to the Secretary of State – the senior post in the Cabinet and arguably the most important. If a president dies in office, it’s better for the successor to be someone who has recent experience in actual, important decisionmaking.

The VP sort of insures the continuity of the party that won the election. His philosophy and policies will continue during the term when the VP takes over. The campaign tests him or her and you have a good idea what to expect.

Making the president’s chosen SoS his successor would have the same result.

Since the VP was initially the guy who lost the election, I assume they were expecting a level of bipartisanship.

I think you could make the case that it did that in the last eight years.

So you’re saying, in the Bush administration, Rice and Powell had recent experience in actual, important decisionmaking, and Dick Cheney didn’t? And Albright and Christopher had experience Gore didn’t?

I don’t see the Secretary of State as a very good choice to replace a President. They’re just different roles. Presidents are career politicians, Secretaries of State tend to be policy professionals and career bureaucrats. It’s a skill set that should overlap but it’s not the same kind of job. Cabinet members also have specialties while the President and VP are supposed to be generalists and decision-makers, which is another significant difference.

Well, you’d just have to get someone else to do the various jobs. At the end of the day it’d be exactly the same, with different names.

It will never work, for the simple reason that no one voted for the Secretary of State. Usually ever - Rice, Powell, Albright, Christopher, Baker - none of them ever stood for elected office before they became Sec. of State. Yes, the Sec. of State is #4 in the succession list, but realistically, if the President, VP, Speaker, & President Pro Tempore are all wiped out simultaneously, we’re into a Battlestar Galactica situation.

IIRC, the Vice Presidency was a matter of expediency. Choosing one along with the President made the election scheme more palatable to the federal convention. The default position was to just have the president of the Senate be the successor. And the Framers weren’t expecting bipartisanship, they were expecting (or at least hoping for) nonpartisanship. Political science hadn’t yet developed to the point where the value of political parties was understood.

I don’t think we should eliminate the VP but rather give him something to do. That’s why I asked over in GQ if it was legal for one to be nominated to a Cabinet post. Or for a more radical solution, I’d propose dividing executive power between the POTUS and VP so that we have a (mostly figurehead) President to serve as head of state for everyone to rally around while the VP serves as head of government and gets his hands dirty with politics.

I don’t see any reason to get rid of the VP even if no change is made to the office. At the very least it’s useful to have the titular 2nd most important person in the country available for diplomatic purposes.

Just my 2sense

Every top official in the Executive Branch is busy with their own portfolio. You need a guy whose first priority is to be there if something happens to the president. The VP gets the same briefings as the president and is pretty much up to speed on the whole panoply of what’s going on in the Branch. He may have other duties assigned, but they’re secondary, unlike any other position in the order of succession, who has their own job to worry about and therefore is not going to be paying attention to what’s going on in completely unrelated departments. Especially since the death or resignation of a president typically is part of or causes some degredation in the social order, it’s important that someone be in charge, immediately, who knows everything about what’s going on in the country.

Also, it’s valuable for the president to have an advisor he cannot fire. Which is not the case for anyone in his Cabinet.


Oh, I think there’s probably some practicality in having a VP as a stand-in for the President. Like a Deputy Secretary of State does for the Secretary of State, or Steven Ballmer to Bill Gates, or Prince Charles to Queen Elizabeth, or Ed Zotti to Cecil Adams.

I’m actually thinking we should go the opposite direction, that there should be a primary campaign for Vice President. I don’t think allowing candidates free reign in picking their own successor, and then sticking the American people with their choice even if it is terrible, is necessarily the greatest thing in the world.

And just imagine if people could vote separately for the Vice President! Would Cheney have been reelected in 2004 if not for the fact that the people weren’t given the choice? We could have seen something like White House with President Bush and Vice President Edwards, or something like that. For fans of divided government, I suppose one could make an argument that it may be a moderating force in hyper-partisan times.

The VP does have a role beyond “national spare tire”, though - most of them are assigned their own portfolios, and get to play at being chief executive of what area the President doesn’t want to bother with or doesn’t understand.

Cheney, for example, has served as the chair of Bush’s “Energy Task Force”, in addition to being the shadowy puppeteer behind the forces of darkness, etc.

Gore was largely responsible for the Clinton Administration’s global warming/enviromental policy initiatives, along with its role in pushing forward IT and related stuff.

Even Mr. Potatoe-Head himself, Dan Quayle, had a portfolio - he chaired the Bush I Admin’s “Council on Competitiveness” and the National Space Council.

Of course, these things could have been handled just as easily by individual appointees, but it gives more weight to the idea that the VP should be ideologically and/or geographically disparate from his premier, since he will actually be “doing stuff”.

Secretary of State is not necessarily a politician. The VP has just run a 2 year campaign. He usually is a pol and knows how to operate in the house and senate. He deals with the public . Those are not necessarily the qualifications of the SOS. If VP were gone the office of SOS would be rethought on a more political line than diplomatic.

I think we did just fine from 1789 to the mid 1960s during those times when there was no VP. I think the problem arose when Johnson became President and that made the next in line some crotchety old bastard that scared the hell out of anyone should he become President.

Read Federalist #10. The Framers had a very good idea of what political parties would do to our political scene. They just didn’t read wholesale surrender of values by what we now call moderates to factional considerations as ‘values’.

It’s probably important to note that the Framers didn’t intend on a President selecting a Vice President,or that succession would necessarily imply political stability. The office ofthe Vice Presidency was to ensure that the man that was next-best as decided by voters was the man who would succeed. It was only the development and monolithic obedience to party whim that caused the need for the 12th Amendment.

Something that’s interesting to me, as I don’t recall this happening before in my lifetime, is an obviously large segment of the voting population focusing on the VP candidates in order to gauge which ticket deserves their vote. This is something that I’ve heard/read quite a bit of outside of news outlets, so I’m inclined to believe it’s actually a major factor this election. Maybe it has been a very large issue in past elections, but I’m not old enough to remember any, and I haven’t read anything that suggests the VP was ever such a deciding factor.

This doesn’t mean that I think all of the apparent momentum in Obama’s favor is due to the population’s fear of Palin becoming the next POTUS should the McCain ticket win, only that it’s definitely a major factor that’s being taken into consideration. In other words, it appears to me that there is a relatively large segment of voters that are voting for the VP candidates, rather than the top of the ticket.

Does anyone else see that might be happening, or am I out of touch?

There’s a strain of old-school conservatives who might’ve favored Obama anyway on fiscal policies, and they didn’t like Palin at all. Here’s one example. (Link originally posted here by SmartAleq.

I can’t edit my post anymore, but I wanted to add that I have also met people that are voting for the McCain ticket solely due to Palin’s nomination (although it has been a disproportionate number, this is possibly due to the social circles I am part of). In rereading my post, it could seem that I am suggesting there has only been movement in one direction (away from the McCain ticket), and that’s not the case.

I think it’s a case of voting against, not for. Biden might be a gaffe machine, but Palin is her generation’s Dan Quayle – a religious-right extremist and an incompetent idiot (as national-level politicians go). The prospect of a President Palin (McCain being so old) has scared some people Obama/Biden’s way.

No, that wouldn’t work, because at the conclusion of The West Wing-universe Democratic President Elect Santos in an act of bi-partisanship nominated his recently defeated republican rival Alan Alda, I mean Arnie Vinnick, to be his Secretary of State. If this was real life, if something happened to D-Santos, R-Vinnick would take over! :wink:

In my experience, it appears that what you’re saying is true, but I have met people that told me they’re voting for the McCain ticket because of the Palin nomination. Even if the numbers for/against are disproportionate (i have no real data to back that up, as I’m only drawing on conversations I’ve had with people, and the cross-section of voters I hang around are largely progressive Dems), the other side of the coin is still present.

Does anyone know of a past election where so much attention was focused on the VPs? I was very young when the Quayle debacle was happening, but I remember the “potatoe” incident being all over the news.

Unfortunately, this suggestion would most likely result in the VP being out-of-the-loop most of the time. A VP’s power is currently limited to only what the president decides to give. Voting Ron Paul (for example) in as VP in the 2004 election would just mean that Bush would ignore him for the remainder of his term, and would bring in Cheney as a high-level advisor. No difference.