I think neither Vice President Mike Pence (R-Indiana); nor U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-California), knows American history.
Harris and Pence both want to be president, yet history shows the vice presidency is a lousy path to the Oval Office. In fact, Americans have elected only one sitting vice president; George H. W. Bush (R-Texas), president in the past 184 years.
Bush I won reelection in 1988, because of his association with one of the most popular presidents Ronald Reagan (R-California). Before the first Bush, you need to go back to Martin Van Buren (D-New York) in 1836 to find another sitting vice president who won the presidential election.
Vice Presidents Cannot Win
Similarly to Bush, Van Buren won election through association with a popular president, Andrew Jackson (D-Tennessee). Notably, both Bush and Van Buren lost their reelection bids.
Several vice presidents became chief executive between 1836 and 1988. However, those men only ascended to the top after a president died in office.
Additionally, voters have elected just one former vice president; Richard M. Nixon (R-California), president in the past 164 years. Interestingly, Nixon lost his first presidential bid in 1960 but came back to make two successful runs in 1968 and 1972. However, many pundits think former Vice President Joe Biden (D-Delaware) could repeat Nixon’s accomplishment in 2020.
Nor does being Vice President guarantee a person fame, fortune, or influence. Does anybody know where Vice President Dan Quayle (R-Indiana) is or what he is doing these days?
Today, Quayle is best remembered for a debate line about President John F. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and a silly attack on the sitcom Murphy Brown. Yet Quayle was a national figure when he served as George H. W. Bush’s vice president.
Hence, it is easy to see why legend claims Vice President John Nance Garner (D-Texas) compared his office to a “pitcher of warm piss.” Cactus Jack Gardner; Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (D-New York), 1932 and 1936 running mate, faded into obscurity after FDR dumped him in 1940.
So Why Do Harris and Pence want to be Vice President?
History offers one rationale for Pence and Harris’s vice presidential ambitions. American voters sometimes reward former vice presidents who succeed a dead running mate with a second term.
In the 20th Century four presidents; William McKinley (R-Ohio), Warren G. Harding (R-Ohio), Franklin D. Roosevelt (D-New York), and John F. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) died in office. Voters elected all four of their successors to second terms.
For instance, Theodore Roosevelt (R-New York) won reelection by a landslide in 1904. Calvin Coolidge (R-Massachusetts) also won reelection by a landslide in 1924. Notably, Harry S. Truman (D-Missouri) won a surprise victory by a comfortable margin in 1948. Finally, Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas) won reelection with one the largest margins in American history in 1964.
Moreover, historians consider Teddy Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, and Johnson four of the most successful presidents in our nation’s history. Additionally, Truman and Theodore Roosevelt regularly appear on the list of America’s greatest presidents. Teddy’s face even graces the monument at Mount Rushmore.
Here’s Why Harris and Pence want to be Vice President
My guess is that Harris and Pence want to be vice president because of their running mates’ ages.
Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Delaware) is 78 years old and in visibly declining health. President Donald J. Trump (R-Florida) is 74 and is suffering from a serious illness, the often fatal coronavirus. In fact, both Trump and Biden could claim the title of America’s oldest president.
Therefore, there is a good possibility that whoever wins the 2020 presidential election will die in office. Notably, the average expectancy for an American male is 78.54 years. Biden will turn 78 on 20 November 2020. Trump will turn 78 on 14 June 2024.
Thus the odds are Trump, or Biden, will die within the next four years. However, Trump comes from a long-lived family. Trump’s dad Fred Trump lived to 93 and his mother Mary Anne Macleod Trump lived to 88.
The Next Vice President could Be President
Thus, the next Vice President has a good chance of becoming president. There is a strong possibility either Trump or Biden could die in office. Remember, the presidency is a high-stress job that taxes young and healthy people. Trump and Biden are both in poor health and in their seventies.
There is also a strong possibility that ill health will force either Trump or Biden out of office. To explain, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution enables the cabinet to remove the president and replace him or her with the vice president to office if he or she becomes incapacitated.
In addition, I think will be impossible to hide the president’s ill health in today’s media saturated environment. Thus, Pence or Harris could become president anytime.
Just imagine the hysteria if President Trump tweets out “I’m resigning at 2 p.m. today.” My guess is some Trump supporters will riot because they will assume the Deep State has removed their Glorious Leader in a coup.
Why Kamala Harris Dropped out
I think the possibility of an early presidential death is the only reason Kamala Harris is on the ticket.
Remember, Harris was one of the strongest candidates in the Democratic presidential primary, yet she unexpectedly dropped out in December 2019. That cleared the way for Biden’s primary victory by removing the only credible African American candidate from the race.
I have to wonder, did Biden promise Kamala the vice presidency then. I also have to wonder if Harris has seen Biden’s medical records.
Why Pence is Sticking Around
Likewise, Pence could stay as vice president because he has seen President Trump’s medical records.
In addition, Pence works at the White House each day. Therefore, Pence knows what Trump’s true physical and mental conditions are. Pence sees the real Trump every day, not the makeup covered; and possibly drugged, person we see on Fox News and at campaign rallies.
I suspect Pence thinks Trump will either be dead or incapable of serving as president soon. Either way, Pence will take office as President.
Moreover, I think Trump’s death is the only credible way for Pence to become president. I do not think Pence could survive the first round of the Republican presidential primary.
However, Trump’s death will put Pence in an awkward position. I think many Trump supporters will blame Pence for Trump’s death. Assassination and coup conspiracy theories will fly the second Trump dies or resigns and keep growing.
On the other hand, Pence thinks he can become the next Teddy Roosevelt and savior of the Republican Party by succeeding Trump. Hence, Pence stays.
Do Vice Presidents have an Electoral Advantage?
I suspect Harris and Pence are counting on the historic electoral advantage vice presidents who succeeded dead presidents had in the 20th Century.
However, voters’ fondness for vice presidential successors could be a 20th Century phenomenon and we are in the 21st Century. Notably, vice presidents who took the place of a deceased running mate enjoyed no electoral advantages in the 19th Century.
In the 19th Century four vice presidents Jon Taylor (W-Virginia), Millard Fillmore (W-New York), Andrew Johnson (D-Tennessee), and Chester Arthur (R-New York) succeeded dead presidents. None of those men won their party’s nomination or competed in the general election. Fillmore came in a distant third running on the American Party; or Know Nothing, ticket in the 1856 presidential race.
Additionally, Theodore Roosevelt failed in his 1912 bid for the Republican presidential nomination and lost his 1912 third party presidential run. However, some historians think Teddy was a favorite for the 1920 Republican nomination at the time of his death in 1919. Notably, the 1920 Republican nominee the lackluster Warren G. Harding (R-Ohio) won in a landslide thanks to Woodrow Wilson’s (D-New Jersey) dreadful second term.
Thus, vice presidents’ electoral advantage is a questionable phenomenon. I think the advantage was a product of 20th Century Americans’ strong faith in institutions. Most polls show that faith is dead. I suspect modern Americans are more apt to blame a vice president for a popular predecessor’s death rather than embrace the successor.
In the final analysis, I have a low opinion of Mike Pence and Kamala Harris. Both politicians are making a dangerous bet on an old man’s health frail health. Hopefully, fate will reward both boot-licking opportunists with nothing for cynical subservience.