Why the US Vice Presidential Debate Matters More Than Ever Before
The 2020 US Vice Presidential debate will take place on 8 October at 6:30 AM IST.
In many ways, a vice president’s most important constitutional duty is simply to stay alive. Beyond , the vice president essentially has no real constitutional duties beyond replacing a deceased or incapacitated president.
Such matters of life or death could not weigh heavier in the upcoming presidential election, which features the oldest candidates of all time — President Donald Trump is 74 and his opponent, Joe Biden, is 77.
With the health of Trump (and Biden, who has so far for COVID) at the forefront, it’s even more vital for Americans and the world to learn more about Vice President Mike Pence and his fellow vice presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris, as they meet in their only debate this week.
How Vice Presidents Differ From Their Presidents
A vice president becoming president outside of an election is by no means a remote possibility. It has happened nine times in US history and includes some of America’s most well-known presidents – Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman and Theodore Roosevelt.
One of the chief reasons these former vice presidents are so well-known is that, on taking office, they diverged in key areas from the presidents they served under, from Johnson’s doubling down on the US presence in Vietnam to Truman’s more confrontational approach to the Soviet Union.
In the case of Andrew Johnson, who became president after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, the divergence was essentially a reversal: the Southern-born Johnson largely sought to obstruct Reconstruction efforts following the end of the Civil War.
Most vice presidents, however, serve their presidents faithfully until it’s their turn to run for the higher office. In modern times, they are often given considerable responsibilities, too.
Dick Cheney came to the office with much more experience in Washington than his running mate, George W Bush, and assumed more duties than most – – vice presidents in modern history, particularly with the administration’s “War on Terror” after the 11 September attacks.
Biden, who also came into office with more Washington experience than his running mate, Barack Obama, was entrusted with specific responsibilities, such as and securing votes in Congress for key legislation like the .
Why the Vice President Debate Matters
This week’s debate will be a rare opportunity for Pence and Harris to show the nation who they are without Trump and Biden in the room — and, potentially, how they differ from their running mates.
Many will be watching to see just how much daylight she allows between herself and Biden. Though Harris and Biden are allies now, she him in the Democratic debates for his close relationships with pro-segregationist US senators and his stance on the bussing of Black students to white schools in the 1970s.
Pence, meanwhile, will likely stick close to the Trump campaign script, despite the fact that he has diverged with Trump on many issues in the past.
Before the two were running mates in 2016, for example, Pence called Trump’s pledge to ban Muslim immigration to America “”. And while Trump railed against illegal immigration, Pence pathways to citizenship for undocumented migrants.
These days, however, Pence is very much a Trump loyalist and fully supportive of the administration’s agenda – even when off the record with journalists. He will no doubt offer a full-throated defence to any attacks Harris makes against the president or their administration’s policies in the debate.
Pence Offers a Predictable Counterpart to Trump
Pence’s role in the Trump administration has less to do with a specific portfolio and is more tied to his personality.
An evangelical Christian and former governor of Indiana, Pence is conventional, predictable and methodical – a helpful counterweight to Trump’s unconventional, unpredictable and instinctual manner.
The in the White House between the president and Democratic lawmakers in 2018 perhaps most clearly illustrated the differences between Pence and Trump. While Trump and the Democrats tried to score points against one another, Pence sat silent and almost motionless, giving the president the limelight.
But Pence’s differences with Trump go beyond just demeanour.
Pence is clearly a politician from an earlier era, but it works for the Trump administration.
Looking Ahead to 2024
Neither Pence nor Harris will likely diverge too far from their running mates on key issues, either, regardless of their personal views.
It’s not hard to understand why they would be so supportive of candidates they have explicitly criticised in the past — both are likely favourites to be their respective party’s nominees for president in 2024. This week’s debate offers a short preview of what might be to come.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.)
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