America’s Vice

I have to admit, as a life-long observer of politics, the so-called “Palin” effect maybe the most interesting development in recent memory. No matter how you feel about the Governor, her running mate or the election in general, you must admit that her inclusion has changed the conversation and the discussion going on in this country.

Consider this: The New York Times just did an article about the protocol when Senator McCain and Palin make physical contact. Should they hug or share an embrace on stage? Who should initiate the hug? There has even been speculation that McCain, who used to introduce Palin first, now introduces his wife Cindy first on the campaign trail for political reasons. The theory being this is the more politically correct. The McCain campaign denies this was a strategic move.

From the introduction and growth of the “hockey mom” demographic to the sudden energizing of the Republican base, her appointment two weeks has changed the entire tone and tenor of the campaign. Suddenly, “lipstick” has become a buzzword and even the Governor’s glasses the must-have fashion item this fall.

On a more serious note, the greatest change her inclusion in the conversation has brought about is a real discussion about the role of one of the most misunderstood offices in this country: the Vice-Presidency. There is a great article in the Washington Post  ( OK, I like to read newspapers and often get ideas from them ) about the bizarre history of the second-highest office in the land.

The inauguration of VP Dick Cheney: The current holder of the strangest position in all of politics. An office that will undergo another evolution in light of this recent campaign … regardless the winner.

The Vice-Presidency, according to one of its office holders, said it wasn’t worth “a warm bucket of spit”. For most of its history, that might be understating it. The man poised to succeed the President in the event of death or illness often has never had the chance. A formal succession hasn’t happened since the assassination of John Kennedy. The founding fathers created a position that was the political equivalent of a back-up quarterback. The guy holding the clipboard,  ready to assume the lead role at a moment’s notice. Over the years, the role of Veep has changed depending on the time, office holder and circumstance. While some have not even resided in Washington during their tenure, current VP Dick Cheney has become the CEO of the Bush administration – the most powerful number two in history.

For the most part, the Veep’s role has been to get the Presidential candidate into office. The person has been chosen because of their appeal in a certain part of the country. The pick of Palin was no different, except there was another added benefit: it was a woman during a campaign season in which Hillary Clinton nearly won the nomination.

While liberals and conservatives are weighing the pros and cons of what will happen should she become President and whether she has experience to hold that spot, history says its a long shot she becomes Commander-In-Chief. Based on Achenbach’s math in the article, one 33% of the Veeps eventually became Presidents. But maybe both sides should consider what she has done already … without becoming vice-president. Suddenly, there is an interest in what she would do and it’s obvious that if her ticket won, she would not suddenly fade into obscurity.

It will be interesting to see whether Palin continues to ride this wave of popularity as the populous gets to know her and her positions better. Win or lose, one thing is true: Palin has made a position that rarely makes a difference come election day matter. In a country where amazing low number of citizens know who Dick Cheney is, its’ quite possible a victory by the GOP in November would result in more people knowing the VP ( Palin ) than the President ( McCain ) changing a position that, for most of its history, has been insignificant.



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