The power of the vice presidency?


Vice President Mike Pence speaks to members of the media at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, as he leaves Washington for Utah ahead of the vice presidential debate schedule for Oct. 7. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Dave Meredith, The Carroll News

The Vice President of the United States typically does not garner much attention nor does he or she often attract the spotlight. The 2020 election, however, has brought the second-in-command position into national conversations. Millions of Americans will hear from our vice presidential candidates, Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, Oct. 7, when the two go head-to-head in their only debate in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

The constitutional powers and responsibilities of the vice president are quite limited. The vice president is the first person in line to assume the presidency if the sitting president is unable to perform duties, resigns, is removed or dies. The vice president also can act as the tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate. Outside of these powers, the vice presidency only wields whatever influence the incumbent may produce via the bully pulpit. 

Although the role of vice president has evolved throughout American history, how important is this position?

This is a complicated question that has various explanations. Does this mean importance while performing vice presidential duties? Does importance lie in what implications may hold for the years following their supporting role?

Of the 45 United States presidents, 14 had served as the vice president before becoming the commander-in-chief. Nine of those 14 assumed the presidency following the death or resignation of the president. 

President Pence?

Last week, President Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19. Considering both his age and health, many began asking questions about his ability to perform presidential duties and what the White House may look like if Trump’s health seriously deteriorates. Inevitably, attention shifted towards Vice President Mike Pence who must show to the American people that he is ready to step into the Oval Office if the occasion arises. 

As some look beyond the 2020 election, Pence’s name has been atop lists of potential presidential candidates for the next Republican primary contest.

President Harris?

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden looks to become the 15th former vice president to be sworn in as president of the United States. Like Trump, Biden has also raised concerns over his ability to complete a presidential term. If elected, Biden would become the oldest president ever elected at age 77, and his cognitive health has been a topic of discussion throughout the campaign. 

With this in mind, Biden has often referred to his (potential) presidency as a “transition” and has even referred to his presidency as the “Harris-Biden Administration.” Both of which raise eyebrows. This type of language is music to Harris’ ears as a former presidential candidate herself. Harris, like Biden, has spent her professional career climbing the political ladder to the top. 


The vice presidency is a perfect springboard for running for the highest office in the nation. Not only do vice presidents get a behind-the-scenes look into day-to-day operations inside the West Wing, but they also hold credentials that are hard to compete with, especially in a presidential primary. 

The presidency looks very different from what it looked like 100 years ago. The president’s ability to connect with the American people has never been more influential. The scope of the executive branch is ever increasing. With that, the role of the vice president has expanded as well. What was once a mostly symbolic position has now turned into a mouthpiece for the president and, in some cases, a close ally and advisor. 

Pence was added to the Republican presidential ticket in 2016 to help drive out the conservative base. His selection demonstrated to concerned evangelical conservative voters that Trump would uphold their values. 

Harris, on the other hand, was selected to placate the far-left members of the Democratic Party. Harris ranks as the most liberal incumbent United States Senator, as she is further to the left than self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders. 

As Americans begin sending in ballots and getting ready to vote in-person, they are being forced to consider the possibility of a President Pence or President Harris. Do Americans want a staunch conservative or a left-wing radical a heartbeat away from the presidency?

We will find out next month … Hopefully