We’re here at YouTube Studios at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio! Last
week, Trump announced his pick for Vice President, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, and like most
of Trump’s decisions, it came with its own controversy. VP’s names appear on a nominee’s
campaign advertisements and on the ballot, and many believe that a nominee’s choice
can make or break their campaign. But, after the dust settles, how much power does a Vice
President really have? What exactly does a VP do?
Well, according to the US Constitution the VP is the first in line to take over the Presidency
should the president die, resign or be removed from office. However this has only happened
9 times, four presidents were assassinated, four died of natural causes, and one resigned.
Additionally, if the president is temporarily incapacitated, for example if he or she is
under anesthesia, the VP becomes the Acting President.
The Constitution also states that the VP must preside over the Senate, although realistically
that just means they are there to break a tie vote. In fact, according to official senate
rules, Vice Presidents are not even allowed to debate or address the governing body. What’s
more, tie breaker votes are relatively rare. Current VP Joe Biden, is one of 12 VPs who
have never cast a such a vote. But although such votes are rare, they can potentially
have huge implications for the country. America’s first Vice President, John Adams, cast 29
tie-breaking votes, more than any other VP in history, through which he determined the
location of the US capitol, protected certain presidential powers and even stopped a war
with Great Britain.
However, VPs do have a number of informal responsibilities, which vary according to
their relationship with the President. Many VP’s have acted as the administration’s
unofficial spokesperson, or as the President’s primary confidant. One of the first to do
this was Walter Mondale, who was reportedly a close advisor to President Jimmy Carter
and an active participant in the day-to-day duties of his administration. Similarly, Former
Vice President Al Gore had a cozy relationship with Bill Clinton, particularly on matters
of foreign policy and the environment.
Perhaps surprisingly, such cooperation is a fairly new phenomenon. Most VP’s who served
before the 1970’s were merely figureheads—standing by just incase they needed to suddenly take
charge. VP’s didn’t give speeches, didn’t meet with foreign leaders or even work with
the President on policy matters. In fact, Presidents didn’t even begin choosing their
VP’s until the 1800s. Before that, whichever candidate finished in second automatically
became VP, even if their views opposed that of the President.
Today, the Vice Presidential appointment is considered one of the most important decisions
a nominee can make in their campaign, as it sends a powerful message about what they can
expect from the administration. Nominees tend to opt for VP’s who have an impressive or
unique resume, or someone that offers different strengths than they do, as a balanced ticket
generally appeals to different types of voters. For controversial nominees like Clinton and
Trump, a widely respected second-in-command might just be their ticket into the oval office.