There’s an old saying about not fixing something if it’s not broken.
The founding fathers got it right the first time, but American politics, as usual, managed to screw it up.
It takes 17 million votes in twelve months and millions of dollars of primary campaigning to finally come up with a nominee for president. But the selection of vice-president — a heartbeat away — is left up to one person. There’s something wrong with that.
The chances of a vice-president ascending to the highest office are pretty good. Three of our last seven presidents had first been a vice president. Another four, ran and lost. Thus, the naming of a vice-president is extremely important to the future of Americans.
Candidates will tell us that their vice-presidential running mates are selected purely on the basis of who is most capable to assume the role of president. It’s the right thing to say.
But it’s not true. Vice-presidential nominees are selected for a single purpose: To get the presidential nominee elected. Bolster the ticket. Grab votes. Reach out to ethnic, religious and geographical blocks. It’s certainly not to provide citizens with the next best candidate to serve as president.
Was G. W. H. Bush thinking about the next best choice when he picked Dan Quayle? It was all about youth, good looks and geography. Imagine if the elder Bush had died, and we were left with a president that would have embarrassed us all, democrats and republicans. Was Al Gore the best of choices? Mondale? Spiro Agnew?
In the early days of our government, the vice president was elected via the second highest count of electoral votes. It wasn’t until FDR had a rift with his Vice-President John Nance Garner in 1937, that it changed. Roosevelt took the reins and made his personal selection of Henry Wallace in 1940, thus setting the stage for the system we have today.
In 1952, Adlai Stevenson refused to name a running mate. Rather, he left it up to the convention delegates to choose the number two person. Quite a guy.
Since then, politicians running for the top spot have seized control of who would be a heartbeat away from our next president. And we, the people, have no choice in the matter.
Kennedy chose Lyndon Johnson, who he disliked, not because he was the best. Johnson could deliver votes from the south.
Nixon picked Agnew as payback for political favors, and to garner the northeast.
Al Gore was far from a prominent national figure until Bill Clinton picked his name out of a hat.
Joe Biden and Sarah Palin may each be very competent, but I’m certain that Obama and McCain made their selections for political expediency, not from the heart. If the system served the will of the people, the vice-presidential nominees of today would be Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney, because they each received the second highest number of votes from the electorate.
But…who care about the will of the people.