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Regarding Vice Presidents 
Mark A. Goldman

                                                                     Dated: 9/3/08


The latest flap over John McCain’s selection of a running mate raises an issue that should be of concern to all citizens but is almost never brought up in polite company. The issue is this: the framers never in their wildest dreams ever considered that a Vice President should unilaterally be selected by a Presidential candidate and automatically come into office on his or her coattails. In fact, the Constitution says that on election day, the President and Vice President should be voted for on separate ballots.

“The Electors shall… …name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate…” …Amendment 12

In other words, the President and Vice-President were conceived to handle two separate administrative functions. The Vice President was never supposed to be an assistant president, nor were they supposed to come into office as a duo, partnership, or team.

The job of the VP includes the responsibility of taking over the President’s duties when the President is unable to act. And if the Vice President can’t act, then it’s the Speaker of the House who assumes that responsibility.

This design and intent is, in itself, further evidence that the Framers considered Congress and not the President to be the main governing body. The President is supposed to be the executive administrator of the laws that Congress puts in place. The Vice President was specifically given the job of President of the Senate. That was in the days when the Senate was actually a functioning body where individual representatives came together to debate issues and arrive at legislation for the good of the people. In that context, the Vice President held a key position because the Senate was where the action was and as President of the Senate he was in the middle of that action. Of course, that’s when Senators actually talked to one another and ironed things out amongst themselves, each taking personal responsibility for their own research, opinions and actions.

Nowadays, there is almost no debate and the Senate floor is mostly empty even when the Senate is in session because most of the Senators are out raising money for their next election, leaving it to their staff or the staff at party headquarters to tell them what to think and how to vote when they eventually show up at work. Apparently most Senators are too busy for something so mundane as reading and understanding the legislation they sign or the implications of what lobbyists have decided to put into that proposed legislation before it comes up for vote.

Having a President choose a running mate is about as undemocratic as you can get, given that there is a relatively high probability that any sitting Vice President will eventually become President. In essence, instead of the People choosing the next President, you have one person exerting overwhelming power and influence over the process, which in effect is playing Russian roulette with democracy, because Presidential candidates have a penchant for choosing running mates who otherwise would never be considered qualified if they had to run for such a high office on their own merit. Originally, it was the runner up in the race for President who automatically became Vice President, which tells you how far away we are now from what the framers originally had in mind.

Of course the framers didn’t anticipate how casually citizens and elected officials would honor their responsibilities and how much power representatives would abdicate in favor of lobbyists, corporations, and political parties.  Perhaps the current arrangement wouldn't be so dangerous if office holders weren't so casual about their awesome responsibilities.

It should be clear by now to any observer, that we have not, through experience, perfected the system by which we govern ourselves according to what is best for society as a whole and our posterity. Money should play no role in influencing elected officials on what to think or how to legislate. But you can't get elected without such large sums of money and that means very few of the people who are able to get elected are willing to change things for the better, even though plenty of lip service is paid in the worship of that elusive mirage. When you think about it, it’s kind of interesting and strange how that works.

A smaller government wouldn't be better and government will never be smaller than it is. Why? Because WE are the government. Every decision affecting our lives will get made no matter how many people are on the government payroll. What we should be asking ourselves, is who is going to make the critical decisions facing our nation and how much character and wisdom will the people who make those decisions have... and whose interest will they be serving when they make them.

This brings us full circle back to the Republican convention where we can begin to see what happens when Constitutional principles are constantly being eroded.  In fact, I can now report that the Constitution that was written to protect citizens from autocratic government, apparently no longer functions as intended.  

The current administration, which received from a Democratically controlled congress, unfettered authority to tap the phones and search the email of US citizens, has now used those powers to intimidate citizens out of exercising their first amendment rights.  

Teams of police were sent to raid homes, confiscate computers, and manhandle citizens when it was suspected that the folks staying there were thinking about legally and non-violently protesting at the convention.  What would they be protesting about:  the erosion of our Constitutional rights and the rule of law.  In truth, freedom will whither and die wherever there is no privacy or protection from government corruption and excess.

At the convention itself, reporters, such as Amy Goodman from Democracy Now!, were arrested with press pass in hand simply for showing up... not to protest, but to report on what was happening.  

This loss of freedom, and perhaps the loss of our Constitution itself, might actually be attributable to the ability of presidential candidates being able to unilaterally choose their vice-presidential running mates rather than have vice-presidential candidates compete for that office on same terms required of any other candidate for elective office.

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