This is an unusual day for me. Most days, I can find something in the Boston Globe that’s just plain stupid politically, and today’s no exception. But for once, the dumbness isn’t based on their bias, but just plain ignorance.
Today, they ran a column by a former CEO of John Hancock Financial Services. Mr. D’Alesandro thinks we should make the office of the vice-presidency an elected one, independent of the presidency.
Mr. D’Alessandro puts together a few good arguments, but he overlooks some stark political realities. The biggest is in looking at the very nature and role of the vice president.
Go and look at the United States Constitution. The sole duty given to the vice-president is to preside over the Senate — and only vote if there is a tie.
Everything else relegated to the vice president is purely potential. They can assume the powers of the president upon the president’s disability or absence. They become president upon the president’s premature removal. And they have a part to play in declaring the president disabled.
Translation: every single power of the vice president — apart from Capitol Hill — is derived from the good will of the presidency. The president can entrust the veep with all manner of authority and responsibility — and can take it back at whim.
That means that the office of veep is worth, as one of its occupants put it, “a bucket of warm spit.” (Personally, I believe the rumors that reporters cleaned up Mr. Garner’s language, which referred to an entirely different bodily fluid.)
Which makes the compatibility of the president and vice-president absolutely essential if the vice-president is to have anything at all to do.
Perhaps Mr. D’Alessandro’s idea could work, if it was combined with giving the vice-president a bit of authority on his own. But I don’t think so. That would detract from the singular power of the chief executive, and that is an essential part of our government.
So yeah, the office of the vice-presidency is, by and large, an afterthought, an “appendix” of the body politic. But as any good doctor will tell you, you don’t pre-emptively remove it. You wait until it proves a problem. In the meantime, it isn’t causing any real problems — and this “fix” would only make it worse.