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The Vice Presidency: So Much More Than It Once Was

The role of the vice president has come a long way since Adams complained of its uselessness.

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“I am Vice President. In this I am nothing, but I may be everything” – John Adams

The role of the vice preside is the second-highest position of the executive branch and the first in the presidential line of succession. If the president of the U.S. can’t perform his or her duties, it’s up to the vice president to take over. The vice president is also part of the legislative branch as the president of the Senate, and holds power to cast tie-breaking votes when needed. Interestingly enough, the legislative power of the vice president is greater than the power granted as a member of the executive branch.

John Adams, the first vice president of the United States of America, is known for his hatred of the vice presidency. He called it the “most insignificant office” invented. But the role of the vice president has changed a lot over the years. Nowadays, most presidential candidates pick their seconds in command to attract support outside of their main political base. President Obama wanted Joe Biden because he was a long-time Democrat who would be reassuring to voters who were worried about Obama’s youth and inexperience. Obama’s opponent John McCain hoped to win over both women and traditional Republican voters by requesting Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

More recently, President Trump picked Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, in an attempt to rally mainstream conservatives to his campaign and also secure the vote of evangelical Christians. As another example, many see Joe Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris as an attempt to contrast his elderly, moderate appeal with her youthful, progressive image. While vice presidents have become more important for their strategic value to presidential campaigns, their duties do not end there. For instance, Trump appointed Mike Pence as head of the Coronavirus response team.

Dick Cheney, vice president to President Bush from 2001 to 2009, is considered the most powerful vice president in American history. In a way, Cheney had many of the responsibilities of the White House Chief of Staff. He had the power to control any outside information that might influence the president as well as make executive decisions on his own.

The role of the vice president has changed immensely since its creation. Once viewed as a dull, unimportant job, the vice president has been granted more and more power and responsibility.

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Jose Backer, General Assignment Reporter, is a graduate of St. Michael's College and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Political Science. Born and raised in Southern California, he currently resides in the Pasadena area.

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