Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Just Saying, We Don't Need a Veep Anymore. Maybe a Senate Consul Would Do.

I came across this article today, and it was on a topic that has pushed my reformist mindset from time to time.

It was about how we go about choosing and voting for Vice Presidents all wrong. From Jeff Stein at Vox.com:

...But the way America chooses its vice presidents seems to give little weight to the gravity of the role. Presidential candidates pick their number two during the heat of a campaign, and the VPs often represent some short-term electoral interest far more than readiness for the job. As was very much the case this year, questions about the VP are far more likely to center on their impact on a swing state or on solidifying a crucial voting bloc than about experience and presidential mettle.

Stein goes into some of the same arguments I have about getting rid of the Vice Presidential pick altogether. He digs into the biggest problem of having a Vice President on the ticket: the Veep is chosen more for political or partisan considerations rather than actual competency. Stein mentions the biggest culprits in our history revolving around this: Andrew Johnson who was chosen to balance Lincoln's desire in 1864 to have a Southerner on the ticket to show a Unionist front (who ended up destroying any chance of a clean Reconstruction and led to 100-plus years of Jim Crow horrors); Sarah Palin who was chosen by McCain to energize support among the Republican faithful (and to try and coax more women voters away from Obama); and Chester A. Arthur who was chosen to bridge a divided Republican party between reformers and pro-Spoils factions (to be fair, Arthur responded to the crisis that brought him to office in 1881 by becoming a competent reformer himself).

As Stein notes: "(The) argument here isn’t just that an unqualified VP could become president despite not enjoying the support of much of the country. It’s that we explicitly look to vice presidents to complement the ideological profiles of the nominees, thereby intentionally inserting confusion into our government that could, potentially, be avoided under a different system."

Stein also points out that the current method of selection - that the President nominates the Vice President with little or no approval from the voters (the conventions are pretty much rubber-stamps now) - is relatively undemocratic.

His suggested reform - to have the President nominate the Vice President similar to a Cabinet position to have the Senate assent and vote - has its own troubling issues (would be impossible to implement if the Senate is held by the opposing party) that would stop it from working.

Vox doesn't seem to have a Comments section - in this day and age, that's not surprising - so I had to hunt down Stein's Twitter account and send him my suggested reform idea his way.

If you'll recall, I point out that the Vice President has a Constitutional role other than being the Backup QB: the Veep is also appointed the "President" of the Senate and serves as its official tie-breaker (due to the even-numbered seating the rules require). Making this position also the underling to the President was a trade-off with the original idea of balancing the winner of the Presidential contest with giving the runner-up a near-equal seat in government. That changed when the Winner/Runner-Up idea conflicted with the rise of parties and the need to run party tickets, and with the creation of the 12th Amendment.

They need to go back to the idea of the Senate leader (The current Vice President) being a separate electoral office. Instead of the Senate President be the runner-up in the Real President election as the Founders originally did - and instead of the current ticket-balancer the seat is now - hold a separate national election for the Senate President seat. To avoid confusion, rename the position as something from the Roman Republic past that our Founders drew inspiration from: call it the Senate Consul seat or something like it.

This way, the parties can run an individual candidate for the White House and an individual candidate for the Senate Consul chair, and not have to muck about with ticket balancing or partisan concerns. Easy and done.

Where the current role of Presidential Succession is filled by the Veep in the 25th Amendment, we can switch in the Senate Consul holder and nothing really changes. The only difference (and problem) is that the Consul could well be from an opposing party than the President's. But we already run that risk with the Second-in-line Speaker of the House, and it can be avoided if the national-level party factions can run successful co-campaigns (that is, if the Consul election is the same cycle as the President's).

There are valid arguments against this move, I know, but I think this is more viable than the current situation we've got now.

It would have avoided the whole damaging mess of Dick Cheney (can you picture him winning a national election on his own terms? Nope). That's all I'm saying.

What do you think, sirs?

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

In that same way of thinking, Richard Nixon appointed the next president when Spiro Agnew resigned. Then that president did incalculable damage to the justice system by pardoning Nixon. Had Ford not pardoned Nixon, and the process of justice played out as intended, perhaps some of Bush's torture regime might have faced the same process.

-Doug in Oakland